6 Things You Hear in Class That You Might Not Understand

Whether you’re a pro class attendee or just starting out, you’ve likely heard and understood some of the basic terms: sprint, hold, recover. However, as your journey goes on and you try out new forms of exercise, there’s definitely going to be some new vocabulary you’ll need to add to your playbook! If you’ve heard some new and confusing buzzwords lately, that’s exciting proof that you’re challenging yourself. Here’s a short list of the most common terms and how to get their meanings down to an art.

“This is a compound exercise”

This can be very confusing, especially if you’re not sure which version of the word it refers to. When it comes to exercise, it refers to a movement that involves multiple parts of your body and ranges of motion. For instance, a bicep curl is an isolated exercise. A common compound exercise we all know and love to hate is the classic burpee!

“Square your hips”

This sounds strange for several reasons. Our bodies aren’t shapes, so what does this mean? The term applies to making sure both of your hip bones are in line and facing forward. It’s a cue to remind you to engage both sides of your hips and glutes, usually in a squat or plank position. Think of it as making a square with the floor and wall or mirror in front of you: Your hips and wall make two sides, and having them in perfect alignment makes the other two sides equal too! This will help you work both sides of your body during an exercise, making it more effective while also improving your form.

“Keep your ribs from flaring”

What on earth does this mean? It stems from the concept of keeping your abdominals drawn in. Instructors and trainers are referring to the top of your rib cage. Think of how your rib cage opens up when you inhale or relax your core; this is exactly what they’re referring to! Instead, think of it as a cue to keep your core engaged during movements. The best way to get into this position is to exhale fully and tighten your core. While keeping your core engaged, breathe as you normally would during your workout.


A superset is not a more intense set of exercises, but rather two exercises conducted back to back, designed to ensure maximum fatigue of opposing muscle groups. It is common to think this would be something specific to circuit or HIIT training, however, it goes for any form of workout. You’ll most likely hear it in strength training classes, where workouts are focused on particular areas of the body, or in classes that are shorter in length. You can even try these during your gym time sessions: Pick a push and pull exercise and take your challenges to new heights!

“Bring yourself to a neutral spine position”

Everyone is different structurally, so what does it mean to be neutral? Additionally, if you work at a desk during the day or spend a lot of time hunched over your phone, what’s really neutral may be hard to detect… right now. Here’s what neutral spine really means: Your spine is completely aligned, and its three natural curves are present. You can teach yourself mindfulness of this position by lying on your back and relaxing, taking a deep breath in, then rotating your hips forward toward your belly button. It’s important to know this position to keep yourself injury-free in classes that have high resistance or impact.

“Draw your shoulder blades back”

This is often confused for the shoulder joint. While it’s important to bring your shoulder joints back in good posture, the movement should actually generate from the muscles surrounding your spine and the actual blades of your shoulder. It’s best explained when instructors give an example: Imagine holding a pencil or something small in between your shoulders. Relax your shoulder joints and engage your back muscles for a serious boost in building proper posture!


Mandy Gragg is a New York City-based certified personal trainer and an active fashion and beauty blogger. She shares her fitness, fashion, and skincare tips on her blog Haute Unofficial. Follow her sporty adventure on Instagram for more fitness, beauty, and active fashion inspo.