How to master the tuck

It's a common workout cue that confuses many, but this tweak in position could be the key to a stronger core.

Anyone who’s ever been to a barre classhas likely heard this instruction: Tuck under. Used as a baseline posture position and for repeated small movements, “the tuck” is a signature aspect of the ballet-inspired workouts, not to mention countless strength-training movements you do every day.

But the boons of knowing how to tuck go far beyond proper positioning. Mastering the move could be the ticket to a strong core and stability, not to mention a body worth envying.

How to tuck:
“The first step is to find proper body alignment: your shoulder blades should be stacked over your hips, your abs fully engaged, and your lower back not arched,” says Shalisa Pouw, a senior master trainer at Pure Barre. “After you've achieved perfect alignment, focus on rolling your hips under, contracting your abdominals up and in, and elongating the spine.”

Still, make sure not to over-tuck—you need to have space from which to contract and squeeze your muscles, says Pouw. The position will look different on everyone. But if you're finding yourself so static you literally cannot move? You’re over-tucked, she says.

Why it matters:
If you don’t tuck properly, you more than likely have no resistance to press, squeeze, or lift against, says Pouw. Why that's important: The pressure that being tucked can create makes those exercises work even better. Take seat exercises that target your glutes, for example. You’re usually standing facing the bar with one leg extended backward. When you hold your hips in a tucked position with your core engaged, you create resistance against your own movements, cutting the range of motion in half, says Pouw. “Those opposing forces of tucking your hips under and lifting your leg in a controlled way create the shake and eventually the change in the body.”

Tucking will also lead to killer core strength. Simply being in position ensures your core is engaged, your posture is aligned, and your muscles are activated, Pouw says. “A strong core supports your spine, lengthens your abdominals, connects to and builds stronger legs and glutes, and ensures your body weight is not settling on your joints.” But it also ensures good posture, better breathing technique, and a lower chance of lower back pain, she says. After all, your core is constantly working—every time you stand, walk, lift something, or even breathe.

But beyond the physical, lies the mental—and learning to tuck can help craft a strong mind-body connection. After all, your mental power can make or break your workout. “Your internal connection can help you focus your energy, appreciate your body, and encourage change from within by driving each movement,” says Pouw. “If you release your tuck, you are losing the connection to where you are working.”