Great cueing  > Corrective exercises

As much as finding cool, innovative and flashy exercises to “fix” someone’s faulty movement patterns is attractive and projects that we know what we’re doing as a coach, it’s actually not always the best solution. It might actually be detrimental to our clients’ progress.

For example, if your client’s upper back is weak on the bench press and you give them face pulls as a corrective exercise WITHOUT showing them how to properly retract the shoulder blades and squeeze them hard against the bench, they very well might continue to keep the scapula protracted throughout the face pulls and will only reinforce the faulty movement pattern by adding volume and overall tonnage to it.

It is important to properly analyze an individual’s structure and inherent mechanics. We must have a sharp eye to identify movement that is not optimal and figure out simple ways to make them understand how to correct it with very little, but precise and sharp cueing.

There are three effective types of cueing you can use as a coach / trainer:

VERBAL CUEING: This is the most difficult type of cueing to master as a trainer, and it comes with time. The most simple and effective verbal cue to give to a client is external cueing.

Internal cueing: Internal focus on our own body “Retract the scapula”

External cueing: External focus on something in your environment that’s relevant to your task “Squeeze the bench hard

VISUAL CUEING: Showing your client precisely what it is you want them to do. Avoid unnecessary gestures. You can also break the movement into parts that can later be sequenced together.

KINESTHETIC CUEING: Touch cueing or physical cueing. This is a great way to enhance your clients’ kinesthetic awareness. You physically guide your clients through the desired movement pattern or position.

There were a couple of things that were visibly “off” with Sebastien’s deadlift (left video) and MOST of the mistakes we see were corrected right from his setup position, only with proper cueing.

Here’s what we can see in the demo video on the left:

– Hips were too high / Shoulders were too over the bar
– No intra-abdominal pressure (core belt was loose)
– No tension in the bar prior to pulling
– Shoulders internally rotated, forward & “long”
– Using more lower back than hamstrings & glutes / More of a lumbar extension than hip extension
– Not finishing the rep by fully extending/locking the hips/back and shoulders.

The 2 main things I wanted to fix with Sebastien’s deadlift in this particular session was to get his lats involved in the lift AND for him to finish in a fully extended position at the top by driving his hips forward as hard & fast as possible.

Why focus on lat recruitment while deadlifting?

1- Recruiting the lats properly in the setup ensures shoulder stabilization throughout the lift.

2- Ensures a stable upper back therefore helps in the lockout.

3- Keeps the bar close to your body therefore putting stress of load on the hamstrings and glutes and much less on the lower back, ALSO helping in the lockout.

Here was my coaching approach:

– I told him what I expected from him (Verbal)
– I then filmed his movement so he can see for himself and get instant feedback. (Visual)
– I myself did the movement and showed him how I wanted it done. (Visual)
– I also put my hands on his lats, rotated his arms internally to help him understand the needed lat recruitment. (Kinesthetic)

Here are the verbal cues I gave him:

For his SETUP:

– Pull yourself back in position (align shoulders with bar)
– Pull to click (Pull the slack out of the bar)
– Breathe in / big belly. (Intra/abdominal pressure)
– Bend the bar / Drive your elbows in (Lat contraction) Think external rotation or someone is trying to tickle your armpit and you try to crush their hands..

Here are the verbal cues I gave him


– F**k the bar (Drive the hips forward)
– Stand tall (Fully extend the lockout, hips forward & shoulders back)
– I also told him I was gonna punch him in the stomach on his way up. (Meet hip extension force output with Abdominal force output)

You clearly see the difference in the movement from video on the left with video on the right.

These changes were strictly made with precise and sharp cueing. So before spending time and energy trying to find the BEST corrective exercise to fix certain issues in a movement, make sure you’ve properly analyzed your client’s structures and explored all different cueing methods.

— AB

Alex Babin

Written by Alex Babin

Competitive powerlifter, amateur strongman competitor, powerlifting coach and strength sports avid supporter and enthusiast, Alex Babin has been involved in the strength and conditioning field for 14 years. He owns and runs the #bestgaragegyminthecit…