Cueing Is Key


What We Say MATTERS!

If you think that just yelling out a bunch of different cues in really helping your clients, then you are in for a rude awakening. If you really want to get the most from your clients and have them finally master the exercises you prescribe then this post is a must read for you.

Have you ever had a client that it seems no matter what you say, they just can’t seem to get it. Come on, you know who I’m talking about, but for this post let’s just call him “Pat”. Every week Pat comes in, and every week it seems like Pat’s never done a push up in his life.

His hips are too high…

He bobs his head up and down likes he’s (well I’ll just let that one be)…

When he gets tired he let’s his hips sag…

ARGHHHH!!! Pat……have you not heard a word I’ve said over the last 4 weeks! is what you want to say. But maybe it’s not Pat’s fault. Maybe it’s the cues you’ve been using? Or maybe we just need to understand how one simple tweak can make all the difference in the world.

Categories of Cues

There are basically two categories of cues; Internal Focus Cues and External Focus Cues. And boy oh boy do they make a difference in making your job easier as a coach!

Let’s start by defining what each one is.

Internal Focus is when the primary focus is on the body, for example the muscles, and the associated movement process, like extend you hips.

External Focus is when the primary focus is on the movement outcome, like jump high, and the associated affect on the environment, such as push off the ground.

And out of these 2; giving a cue with an external focus will win every single time!

Is Having an External Focus Really Better?

The reason why using an external focus when cueing will always out perform an internal focus is that we are telling our client how we want them to interact with the environment. They no longer have to think about what to do, they are just going to react. And isn’t that what we want our clients to do, especially if you are working with athletes, whether it’s professionals or our weekend warriors. If our client has to think about how they are going to cut to the right to avoid the defender on the soccer pitch, do you really think he is going to do it in a timely manner?

And let’s be serious, when we tell our clients to extend their hips, how many of them actually know what that means? We all know what that means, but when has our client ever thought “oh I better make sure to extend my hips when I jump over that rail”?

It Feels Good….yeah!

Now I may have dated myself a bit, but if you know who Tony Toni Tone is, you’ll get it. If you don’t you have no idea what you’re missing. Anyways, back to cueing! When you use an external focus you are talking to people in a manner that makes sense. You are talking with words that bring up a picture or a feeling, not turning on their brain to think about what they need to do.

If I were to cue you to change directions and told you to “Drive the ground away” how does that make you feel? As opposed to “Drive off your outside foot”. You instantly know what to do when I tell you to drive the ground away, but when I tell you to drive off your outside foot you have to think, which foot is that and what do I do with it. Try it if you don’t believe me.

External Focus Cueing 101

Know that you see that an external focus cues may be a better option let’s talk about a simple 2 step process to start implementing them into your coaching vocabulary.

1) Do a quick inventory of all the most common cues you use. Spend 10-20 minutes at the end of your day, or even 5-10 minutes between clients if you have a break and write them down.

2) Simply tweak all your internal focus cues to external focus cues.

Common traits of an external focused cue:

  • descriptive words
  • paint a picture in your head
  • metaphors
  • analogy’s
  • think of what the movement outcome is
  • what are you doing to/with the environment

One Last Example

Let’s look at the deadlift and apply some external focus onto our cueing. Here is a video of Chad Wesley Smith pulling a massive load. The last thing he should be doing is thinking of what his muscles should be doing.

External focus cues:

  • Punch
  • Accelerate
  • Snap the hips
  • Drive the bar
  • Push the ground

Not engage your glutes……extend your hips……c’mon bro it’s all you! Especially not “it’s all you”!!!

Now take this and go implement it into your business. Although it’s great to know this, if you don’t do anything with what you’ve just learned, the time it took you to read this was an utter waste of time. Sorry for the harsh words, but knowledge means nothing if it’s not implemented.