Mistakes Coaches and Trainers Make 3-29

I’m definitely not perfect.

As a trainer and coach, I can’t possibly tell you how many mistakes I’ve made over the years.

But like most coaches out there, even though I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I continue to learn from them to become better.

The following is going to be an ongoing blog series where I discuss common mistakes that trainers and coaches make on a daily basis.  Maybe they apply to you, and maybe they don’t.

But hopefully even if you aren’t making these mistakes, you’ll take away some tips that will make you a better trainer or coach in the long run.

One of the most common issues I see (especially with young trainers/coaches) is giving too much feedback to their client/athlete.  If they’re coaching the squat, every rep sounds like this.

“Okay get your chest out.  Set your back.  Push the hips back.  Knees out!  Keep going.  Deeper.  Keep your chin tucked.  Keep pushing your knees out!  Chest up.  Tight.  Don’t lose your air.”

The problem herein is that you lose the client.  They feel overwhelmed, like they’re doing everything wrong, and there’s no way they’re going to get it right.

Trust me, I’ve seen this time and again with clients who are getting over coached.

Am I saying not to coach?  To let them do things wrong?

Not at all.

What I am saying is this – at most, your clients can probably handle about two cues from per set – although one is even better.  For instance, make it a goal to find the two most glaring mistakes and really work hard to address them.

If someone’s squat is looking absolutely atrocious, maybe start with two big cues like “Chest up, knees out.”  Remind them of this throughout the set.

At the conclusion of the set, I always like to give one piece of feedback for them to work on during the following set.  It could look something like this:

“Great set.  Next time, try and set your chest even before you start and it will be that much easier to hold that position throughout.”

After they’ve finished up with that exercise for the day, maybe give them one thing to think about for next time.  It could look like this.

“You squats were much better today.  Next time, we’re going to work on sitting back more from the start.  Don’t worry though – they are already looking a lot better!”

While I don’t consider myself a motivator in the “Rah-Rah” sense, I am definitely a motivator when it comes to feedback.  Tell them that they’re doing better, what they did well, so they have something positive to build on from set-to-set and session-to-session.

Let’s start to wrap this up.  As a general rule, with lower-level clients/athletes, not only will they need more instruction up front, but more coaching overall.  They don’t have a great movement foundation, and as such, need more help to develop it.

With high level and elite athletes, it could be as simple as one cue prior to the initiation of the set or rep.

Next time you’re in the gym, try to be short, sweet, and to the point when it comes to your coaching cues.  Not only will your clients appreciate it, but they’ll get a lot more out of it to boot!

Stay strong



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  1. Thanks for the post Mike. The first time I started thinking about this was when Sam Leahey (Thanks Sam!) put up a video on Coach Boyles strengthcoachblog. It was a video of the cook hip lift and rotational squat. That was one of my "ah-ha" moments….way too many cues.
    Thanks again for the post!

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