Minimal Cues for Maximal Results


going through the motions

Strength coaches have a chance to help athletes gain maximal results in their training, depending on their training age and other factors. However, sometimes the overzealous strength coach may try to do too much at once. We’ve all been there; there are so many things that Athlete X needs to “fix” in order to move more cleanly and lift more weight. Give them too many cues at once, though, and they begin to think so much that they may move worse than before; enter “paralysis by analysis.”

The Real “Fix”

The real fix to preventing this problem is by finding one cue; two, at most. These cues should cause a domino effect that causes other technique issues to seemingly correct themselves. Of course, this isn’t really the case. The body’s joints are connected, yes? So, if we give that one perfect cue that will cause a specific joint to move the way you, as the coach, want it to move, we see this domino effect. Make sense? If not, try this example on for size…


You’re coaching a young athlete how to squat. They seem to have it, mostly, except for one glaring error. You notice that the bar is not even; it seems to be slanted, so that the left side is higher than the right. As you scan down the athlete’s body, you notice that the right knee is also caving (valgus collapse). You scan down even further to find that this athlete’s right foot is pronating ever-so-slightly. Now, with one cue, as long as the cue is comprehended well by this athlete, you can fix these technical errors. “Push the knee out,” or “knee out!” This, hopefully, will align the knee and ankle, allowing the foot to remain flat. This should also elevate the right side of the bar, assuming everything has now been aligned properly.

Problem solved! Now, on to save the next athlete! 🙂

Agree, disagree? Let me know how you handle situations like these!

3 thoughts on “Minimal Cues for Maximal Results

  • Yes, that’s pretty much how I handle it. Apart from the first few times they’re learning a new lift, I try to focus on just one thing in each workout. Master this one aspect, then NEXT time we’ll deal with one more thing.

    Even if improving 10 things at once got you to the same point 6 months from now as doing those 10 things in 10-20 separate sessions, I’d still do one at a time, since they walk out feeling a distinct improvement. Whereas if they’re dealing with 10 things, they always feel like crap… even 6 months later when they’re awesome.

    They get better at it step by step, and walk out of each session feeling they’re improving.

    • Great point, Kyle. I’ve always felt the same, too. Always better to keep them feeling confident than discouraged; even on the little things.

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