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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Art of Cuing

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Panel Discussion: The Art of Cuing

One of the most important skills a personal trainer must acquire is great communication. Our clients are not born knowing how to perform the exercises in their routines. What are some of your favorite cues… All cues for any exercise are welcome.

Moderated by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

Curing Prone Ball Trapezius Activation

This Panel Discussion was originally posted on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/brent.brookbush - on March, 4th 2011

Troy M. Anderson, March 4 at 6:46pm: This is a really good topic -- simply changing the verbiage of a cue can mean all the difference from 1 client to the next - Best one I have heard recently is during the kettle-bell snatch to prevent the dread 'whack wrist' is to 'point the fingers to the ceiling' very simple

Aaron Varcasio, March 4 at 6:49pm When teaching the squat: weight in heels, but back, chest up.

Also, when running, drive the ball of your foot down and then pull your hamstring to your glutes. When you want to go faster lean forward instead of literally moving your feet and legs faster.

Shawn Fears, March 4 at 7:47pm: big chest! big butt! now lock it down(tighten up core) I do these simple cues for squat, Dead Lift, Cleans, Snatches, and most standing exercises including K-Bell stuff. works like a charm for creating a solid postural alignment.

Brent Brookbush, March 4 at 8:11pm: That's great… Big chest generally cues scapular retraction, correcting protraction and thoracic kyphosis, "big butt" cues glute activation and combined with a "tight" core corrects an anterior pelvic tilt. Some of the most common dysfunctions can be corrected and then proper movement reinforced with simple cues… Once again, great stuff.

Shawn Fears, March 4 at 10:09pm: Everybody understands these cues with little demonstration..now try and tell somebody to retract their scapula lol it normally doesn't go so smoothly.

Its best to program in simple single word cues early on so when a correction is needed during a lift it is an automatic response without having a client process a sentence under the stress of lifting. I even have to tell this to myself before a lift just to get into the right mindset for a big lift.

Truth be told I can't take credit for them though, cues like these were drilled into me as a competitive junior O-Lifter and then again when I got USAW Certified.

Mikal Payne, March 6 at 7:09am: I use the KISS technique. Also Show, tell, and touch.

Brent Brookbush, March 6 at 11:45am: Just make sure if your "KISS" ing and "touch" ing your asking permission :-)

Mikal Payne, March 6 at 7:39pm LOL, Ask, oh sure take all the fun out of it, geez.

Brent Brookbush, March 7 at 12:42pm: Alright panel, do you think cues are "exercise specific", "dysfunction specific", or different for everyone?

Michael Consalo, March 7 at 1:48pm: I seem to use "tight core" and ""shoulders back" the most to correct posture during exercise and try to keep it simple… I have had people definitely get frustrated when you tell them too much and they just stop and look at me like I’m crazy…lol…it took me a while to use physical cues by letting them know I'm gonna touch them and then gently pointing out specifics…that helps a lot too!

Shawn Fears, March 7 at 2:05pm: My cues are no matter the dysfunction or person. Have to be careful at first with females telling them big chest though lol.

Mabel J. Robles, March 7 at 6:28pm: I think it depends on the individual. As Shawn stated, a male trainer may need to be a bit more tactful when working with a female client. "Big butt!" and/or "Big chest!" are probably not appropriate for some female clients. This is where knowing your client can help with choosing the best ways to cue them during a training session.

Mikal Payne, March 7 at 9:48pm Really, that’s kind-of common sense I don't know of anyone who designs a program without the client in mind, cues and exercise choices, machine or free weights, a combination of both.

Mabel J. Robles, March 8 at 10:43am Mikal, you'd be surprised at the lack of common sense I've seen in some trainers who are new to the field. And that is why we have wonderful panel discussions such as this one.

Brent Brookbush, March 8 at 11:18am: I have to agree with Mabel. We have a long way to go before the practices of trainers will match the education that is provided by organizations like NASM and my own B2C Fitness. Cueing is one of those skills that has been poorly defined and is often based in a near "religious dogma" that has little to do with human movement science. For example, the squat is often cued with "do not let your knees pass your toes", "push through your heels", or "keep your back straight"… All of these cues may be appropriate for some, but when you consider that we should place an even load across the whole foot and our tibia and torso should be parallel (often causing the knees to slightly pass the toes)… These cues just don't stack up.

Jeff Young, March 31 at 11:13am without trying to come across as being arrogant, it seems as though you're making an absolute claim when you state that an even load should be placed across the whole foot during squats and that our tibia and torso should be parallel. while i don't disagree with the general concept, i do disagree with stating those things as absolutes. I’ve learned differently from the journal of strength and conditioning research, healthcare providers/practitioners I’ve worked with in the past and currently work with, as well as a 6 time world champion power-lifter i had the opportunity to speak with and a current California state champion power-lifter i talk to regularly.

Brent Brookbush, March 31 at 2:35pm Hey Jeff, The concepts of load across the whole foot with feet, knees, and hips parallel is an ideal not an absolute. There are many cues that play into compensation patterns to allow for the maximal performance available to a less than perfect movement pattern. Power-lifting is a sport not an ideal way to move. We must be careful to separate the two. There are plenty of things I do on the basketball court that place some ridiculous loads on the human movement system while in less than ideal posture…. but that's my sport. The important take away is to train toward ideal mechanics and let your sport train you for your sport… Hope that helps clarify.

Jeff Young, March 31 at 4:47pm Hey Brian, thanks for the response. what I’ve learned along the way through literature, discussions with healthcare professionals (orthopedists and physical therapists), as well as personal experience, is that weight distribution at the foot, bar placement, and torso/shin angle play huge roles in muscle activation patterns. using myself as an example -- a lifetime of playing basketball has left me with chronic patella tendinitis and chronic calcification of the patella tendon. while performing squats, if i allow my shin and torso angle to be equal, thereby allowing my knees to move anteriorly (slightly over the toe), the shear forces on my knees becomes more than i can tolerate, and I would crumple to the ground crying in pain. in my case what is ideal is to keep weight distribution towards my hind foot, use a bar placement low on my traps, which in turn increases the angle of my torso, decreases the angle of my shin, causes my hips to take more of the force/load, increases the involvement of my glutes/hams, and makes my knees extremely happy. as a side note: when i took the advice of one of the power-lifters i mentioned, placed the bar lower on my traps, used a wider stance, decreased my shin angle, and had the weight distribution at my feet naturally move more towards my heels because of those changes, my squat strength increased by 60lbs over the next 2 months and my glutes hypertrophied significantly. I’ve also noticed that my knees feel much better during daily functioning. and while I could go on and on, my view is that we need to take many things into consideration before making a judgment on what is ideal concerning weight distribution at the feet, bar placement, and movement patterns with the squat.

© 2014 Brent Brookbush

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