Coaching Cues Comment Contest

Coach Joe Kenn

As you guys can tell, things have been a bit slow around here.  Sorry about that – things have been a little bit more hectic than usual lately 🙂

To get things cranked back up, I figured I’d run a little contest.  Here’s what I’d like for you guys to do.

Everyone who reads this blog is interested in moving and/or feeling better.  Whether you coach 1,000 clients/athletes or only yourself, we all need a bigger coaching and cuing “toolbox” to improve our movement and function.

To help all of us take our performance to the next level, I’d love to hear what coaching cues you guys use with your clients, athletes, or even yourself.  Give me a quick write-up in the “Comments” section below as to what coaching cues you use, and how they help people move better.

So again, here’s what I need, preferably in this order:

1 – The Exercise you’re coaching.

2 – What you’re trying to “fix.”

3 – The cue that you use to get them out of the faulty movement pattern/alignment, and into a better position.

Leave these below and one (or more!) lucky winners will receive some free RTS swag!

Thanks everyone!



PS – I’ll even give an example below to get us started!


Leave Comment

  1. Exercise: Front Squats to Box
    Issue: Neutral Spine, Rocking, flexion
    Cue: Really love to use the cue with myself, pretend someone has a rope around your waist pulling you back kinda like a lasso, when starting the squat. This reminds me whenI start the exercise to really pushing those hips back and keeping a nice, neutral spine. When getting close to the box I use the cue, 'sitting on broken glass'. I love this one because it reminds me not to slam down on the box or rock back which induces more flexion.
    -Sit Back
    -Broken Glass

  2. Exercise: RDL
    Issue: Flexing of the spine and lack of hip hinge
    Cue: when i come across this problem, which is quite often with my beginners, i will either use a wall or a mat and have the client stand about a foot or so away from the wall. At this point i cue them to push thier hips back trying to touch their butt to the wall. mostly with this cueing i can get a person to stop flexing the spine and start bending from the hips.
    I may run into a problem where the client still wants to have a rounding in the t-spine. if this is the case i cue chest up and shoulders pulled back throughout the entire movement.

  3. Exercise: Arch in bench press
    Issue: Trainees only extending the lumbar spine often resulting in lumbar cramps or pain.
    Cue: To get the trainee to extend their thoracic spine (even when thoracic extension mobility is not great) cue "chest up into the chin not up into the ceiling".

  4. Exercise – Any row
    Issue – Rounded back, shoulders, overall poor posture
    Cues – depending on whats actually needed
    – Big, proud chest
    – Chin to throat
    – Draw in and stay tight – pull belly button up and to the spine.
    – Shoulders back and down – physically touch between the shoulder blades and say \”Pinch here\” and/or \”I want to see that shirt wrinkle\”

  5. i work with youth athletes, specifically basketball. when training athlete stance and movements i use the term "load to explode" meaning that our bodies have to coil properly in order to accelerate.
    it works with shooting, defense, and most other athletic positions.

  6. When working on front squats, take a deep nasal breath, hold it on the way down, then come up, not by pushing with the legs, but by pushing the elbows towards the ceiling, exhaling all the way. This always seems to keep the weight on the heels and the torso upright.

  7. Exercise – Hip Extension Exercises
    Issue – Failure to drive hips through at the top of the movement
    Cue – Near the top of the movement, I'll say "Trap the fart," which signals active squeezing of the glutes as well as awareness of abdominal tension. It's a real-world example even the newest trainee can quickly identify and implement. I do make sure to mention it a few times during the demonstration and unloaded warm-ups so any humorous effects are dissipated.

  8. 1. Plyometric Box Jumps
    2. Landing stiff-legged, not engaging glutes/hams
    3. I give the cue "land like a ninja!" to encourage a soft landing in an athletic stance
    Thanks to the coaches who entered… I've learned a ton already

  9. Exercise- any exercise that involves supine thoracic extension or overhead movements
    Issue- allowing the rib cage to bow out or expand
    Cue- In order to get the client to engage the abdominal muscles and correct I tell them close their rib cage; imagine knitting your ribs together. In addition to helping them correct the movement, it gives a great image of what the muscles should be doing.

  10. 1.Deadlift
    2.rounded back and shoulders
    3.stick your chest out and your ass out and keep your shoulders back…. think silverback gorilla!!!!!!!

  11. here you go Mike, keep up the great work 😉
    Coaching Cues Cheat Sheet
    I have found the following coaching cues to be extremely effective for teaching proper form and technique in a large group setting.
    Instead of softly speaking to one individual, I loudly bark the following commands to an entire station performing that particular movement pattern in order to promote corrections on a grand scale.
    I also credit these coaching cues, in conjunction with our beginner bootcamp prerequisite and our custom Level I, II, and III exercise progressions for all fitness level, for the extremely low incidence of injury in our bootcamp program.
    In addition, please note that it’s best to speak in fragments- in kind of a bullet point style- in order to be able to say as much as possible in as little time as possible.
    Lastly, I think it’s just as important to say what NOT to do as it is to say what to do and that’s why you’ll notice both options under each of the following foundational movement patterns.
    1.) Push-up Variations
    – tight abs, tight glutes, tight elbows
    – maintain straight line from head through heels
    – lead chest to floor with body as one unit
    – DO NOT let hips sag or pike up!
    – DO NOT let elbows sprawl out wide!
    Cheat it Right: Begin in a static and stationary environment with a push-up hold. With your hands just inside shoulder-width apart, perform push-ups on your fists or while holding the handles of a dumbbell or kettlebell placed on the floor. This will force you to keep your elbows tight to your side and best prevent you from going down too low and sacrificing perfect form and technique. This has the added benefit of taking pressure off of the wrists as well.
    2.) 2-Leg Hip Hinge/Stiff-Legged Deadlift (SLDL) Variations
    – chest out, knees flexed, heels loaded
    – hinge back at hips while maintaining flat back
    – push hips forward to full stand squeezing glutes at top
    – DO NOT round lower back!
    – DO NOT squat down!
    Cheat it Right: Use the quad burning test: if you feel your quads burning it means you are squatting down and bending at the knees too much and not hinging back at the hips enough. You want to make yourself feel it in the butt. Lastly, try pulling your toes off the ground throughout the exercise to really feel what it’s like to load your heels.
    3.) 1-Leg Hip Hinge/Stiff-Legged Deadlift (SLDL) Variations
    – chest out, knee flexed, heel loaded
    – hinge back at the hips while maintaining a flat back
    – reach limbs as far away from each other as possible
    – DO NOT round lower back!
    – DO NOT squat down!
    Cheat it Right: Stand about 3-4 feet in front of a wall or post. As you hinge back at your hips and extend your limbs away from each other, let your finger tips graze the wall to help provide more stability during the exercise. As your balance improves, eliminate the finger tip assistance.
    4.) Rowing Variations
    – initiate by pulling shoulder blades down and back
    – drive elbows tight past ribcage until hands reach armpit level
    – hold for a count and lower in control
    – DO NOT shrug your shoulders!
    – DO NOT flex your wrists!
    Cheat it Right: Perform rows with a neutral grip with the palms facing each other. This best reinforces the concept of keeping your elbows tight to rib cage and pulling the shoulders down and back to prevent unwanted shrugging.
    5.) Squat Variations
    – eyes up, chest out, knees out
    – sit back and down until front thighs parallel to floor
    – load outer heels to activate glutes
    – DO NOT look down!
    – DO NOT come forward on toes or let knees cave in!
    Cheat it Right: Place a chair or bench under your butt so it really forces you to sit down and back and adequately load your outer heels. Goblet squats work well for teaching you how to sit down and back and load your heels since holding a weight in the front of your body provides excellent counterbalance so you don’t fall back. In addition, performing TRX assisted squats will help you unload your bodyweight to best achieve a deep squat position. Lastly, place a mini band around your knees to force your hip abductors to push outwards against the band further activating your glutes.
    6.) Sagittal Plane Lunge Variations
    – step front leg way out in front of body
    – stay tall up top and load the front heel
    – drop hips until back knee grazes floor
    – DO NOT come onto toes!
    – DO NOT let knee drive past ankle!
    Cheat it Right: Begin in a static and stationary environment with the split squat. Place your front foot in direct contact with a wall to prevent your front knee from driving forward past your toes. If the front knee touches the wall, that means you need to drop at the hips more and do a better job of loading the heel.
    7.) Frontal/Transverse Plane Lunge Variations
    – keep toes pointing directly ahead
    – stay tall up top and load the heel of lead leg and keep trail leg straight
    – push hips back and down until thigh of lead leg is parallel to floor
    – DO NOT come onto toes!
    – DO NOT let knee drive past ankle!
    Cheat it Right: Begin in a static and stationary environment with the lateral/rotational squat. Place your lead leg’s foot in direct contact with a wall to really teach you how to sit down and back into the heel of your lead leg while keeping your toes pointing directly ahead.
    8.) Front Pillar Variations
    – tight abs, tight glutes
    – maintain straight line from head through heels
    – keep hips and shoulder square throughout
    – DO NOT let hips sag or pike up!
    – DO NOT let pelvis rotate!
    Cheat it Right: Begin in a static and stationary environment with a front pillar hold. Place a dowel, foam roller, or broomstick on your back so it’s in line with your spine. Optimal alignment is achieved when the object simultaneously makes contact with your head, upper/mid back, and butt.
    9.) Side Pillar Variations
    – raise hips as high as possible with chest out and glutes tight
    – maintain straight line from head through heels
    – lean back against imaginary wall
    – DO NOT round forward!
    – DO NOT let head drop!
    Cheat it Right: Perform side pillars against a wall. This provides great feedback because optimal positioning is achieved when the head, upper/mid-back, and butt all simultaneously make contact with the wall.
    10.) 2-Leg and 1-Leg Hip Extension Variations
    – drive through the heel(s)
    – keep abs tight
    – use butt to raise hips to form straight line from head through knees
    – DO NOT hyperextend lower back!
    – DO NOT let toes touch floor!
    Cheat it Right: Pull your toes towards your shins and place all of your weight on the back of your heels. This helps relax the often tight and overactive calves and hamstrings in addition to preventing cramping in these areas. Furthermore, loading the heels promotes maximum glute activation.

  12. 1 – The Exercise you're coaching.
    Back squatting to a parallel box.
    2 – What you're trying to "fix."
    Initiating the movement from the hips by 'sitting' back. Most quad-dominant, or beginning high school athletes will break at the knees and track them way out over their toes.
    3 – The cue that you use to get them out of the faulty movement pattern/alignment, and into a better position.
    Coach: Have you ever had a car door, or front door that didn't shut all the way?
    Athlete: Yes, a few times.
    Coach: Have you ever shoved it closed by hitting it with your butt?
    Athletes: Yes
    Coach: I want you to do the same thing when you begin to back squat "SHUT THE DOOR WITH YOUR BUTT"
    *Problem Solved*

  13. Exercise: Bench Press
    Fault: Benching like a bodybuilder and lowering the bar to the upper chest
    What the coaching cue is aiming to achieve: an "elbows tucked" position where the lifter touches the bar to the lower chest/sternum area.
    Most of the time people try to coach this by saying "tuck the elbows". But I never liked this and it felt awkard.
    I know tell people to "lower the bar to the lower chest". Now that sounds very very simple. And it is. And it works almost every time. Whereas, the much more popular "tuck your elbows" is open to interpretation and some guys (myself included) just didn't get it.

  14. Exercise: Any lower body exercise
    Issue: Glute activation and eccentric control
    Cues: Begin by having them squeeze their glutes hard by having them imagine that you've just placed a $100 bill between their cheeks and they don't want me to steal it back.
    From here, tell him/her to maintain the squeeze through the eccentric by "fighting their movement down" as they perform the motion, trying to actively slow their eccentric through the glute squeeze.
    Exercise – Pushup/press
    Issue – Poor pec activity/over compensation from delts and/or triceps (yes, you can have pec weakness too 😛 )
    Cue – The client should place his/her hands in front of them, elbows bent and palms together, as if they were praying. Have them squeeze tightly, pushing their palms together.
    As they continue the squeeze, have them slowly extend their elbows, straightening their arms while they continue to push their palms together until their arms are completely straight.
    Perform this as many times as needed until they have a better appreciation/control of their pec tension, and then progress to the press/pushup, attempting to duplicate the same feeling during the exercise itself.

  15. Exercise – Olympic style front squat
    Issue – Can't keep his elbows up or his wrists hurts from the position
    Cue – Stretch the forearms using PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) before doing the lift.
    Doing the PNF stretching on the forearms before front squatting will help immediatly. Just keep stretching the forearms and the body will adapt!
    Math R.

  16. 1) Squat
    2) Knees cave in, anterior weight shift as they near the bottom position of the squat.
    3) Cue: Spread the floor apart with the feet while using your hip flexors to "pull" yourself down in the bottom position
    1) Push Up
    2) Elbow flare, scapula elevation, improper scapula retraction, lower back drops
    3) Cue: Brace core, squeeze glutes, activate the lats to assist in the brace by attempting to screw the hands into the ground. Pull yourself down toward the floor as if you were doing a row. Keep the lats tight and hands attempting to be screwed into the ground as your transition from the eccentric to concentric.

  17. I Always try to keep it simple:
    No Shoulders for Earings!!! (elevated scapulae)
    Tip from the hips (deadlift variations)
    Dig the heels in and squeeze your butt (concentric phase of squat)

  18. General early training for squats:
    > Place arms across chest
    > Touch elbows to knees
    > Make eye contact throughout
    **Use smith machine as zercher squat if balance is really bad!
    Beginner Pull-ups/Pull-downs
    Go with weak grip (thumb on same side as fingers) and "pull your elbows to the floor."
    I've found that focusing on the elbows limits bicep action for most back exercises and really gets a good squeeze in the lats

  19. Exercise: Back Squat
    Issues: rounding of back, excessive forward lean
    – chest out
    – shoulder blades together
    – wiggle toes to assure weight on heels

  20. Deadlift:
    1) Rounded back – repeat to the trainne; get your butt down and raise your breast.
    2) Start the lowering part with pushing your knees forward.
    3) Not trying to break the barbell with your hands.
    4) Not trying to lift it as fast as possible.
    5) Skipping the deadlift.

  21. Any exercise requiring a neutral spine, from bent over rows, to squats.
    Issue, upper back rounding.
    Imagine a logo on your t-shirt, across your chest, that you want everyone to see.

  22. Just want to say great comments all around. Is this going in your next book/resource because it would be a great tool for many trainers/coaches.
    Exercise: Face Pulls
    Issue: form
    Cues: Begin by standing back from the pulley with your arms extended so there is tension on the cable.
    Holding on to the rope with your palms facing each other, pull the rope towards your forehead by showing your beach muscles.
    I want your core tight, your chest up, and your best Arnold double biceps pose.
    Exercise: Quadruped Birddog
    Issue: not extending hip and/or shoulder
    cues: begin in the tabletop position with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
    Extend your left arm foreward and your opposite leg back.
    I want you to pretend like you are being pulled in a medieval "rack" and reach as far forward and as far back as possible while maintaining balance.
    Take two big belly breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
    *"the rack" analogy works for other corrective extension exercises as well

  23. Performing a lunge.
    Put them on a line.
    Have them lunge while straddling the line and not lunging on the line.
    Prevents knee valgus, which can then become a progression to proper decleration to prevent knee injury.

  24. Back in the early 90's a group of us (Mike Burgener, Steve Kenyon, Rich Tucker and myself) collaberated to develop a system for teaching the Olympic lifts. Our eventual teminologies were founded from the "trigger terms" model of Kevin McNair and Dr. Fred Jones book, Positive Classroom Instruction. The terminology was designed to be systemic in its nature.
    Snatch Performance Terminology:
    Base – correct foot position
    Wiggle – balanced foot position
    Ropes – arm position and function
    Cover – shoulder position
    Push – with the heels
    Angle – back angle, hip/shoulder ascent
    Flex – wrists & lats
    Jump-Shrug – explosive "tall" phase
    Lock – arm lock out & position overhead
    Sit – bottom position with tight torso and correct knee position.
    Hope there is something here you coaches can use.

  25. O-lifts and lack of hip extension

    Cue: The cue thats worked best for me is simply ‘Dickie in the hole’ bit crude maybe but it works

  26. Exercise: Deadlift, Squat, Bent-Over Row…anything that requires core stability for a neutral, non-rounding spine.

    Issue: Back rounding, forward leans, non-activated core.

    Cue: Brace your core and suck it in like you’re trying to put on a pair of pants that just don’t…quite…fit!

    Everyone usually gets a laugh out of this one, since I haven’t had a single person who can’t relate to it!

  27. You’re flexing your spine! I can’t take that. Imagine you have a expensive coin between your butt cheeks. and you’re trying to not lose the coin. You’re back is breaking! I can’t take that.

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