What Makes A Good Coaching Cue?


While scrolling through Facebook I frequently see a post saying something like, “The Top 3 Worst Coaching Cues.” Although I frequently agree with the faults a particular cue can create that the author is pointing out, for these to be bad cues we have to assume that every individual responds to a cue the same way. Looking around, you will see highly effective coaches and others not so much. This means there has to be good and bad cues, right?! First, we have to define what makes an effective cue. I would consider anything that creates the desired change to be effective. 

The perfect cue does not exist! Just like any form of communication, who sends the message and who receives the message has an effect on its understanding. So not only is there not a perfect cue that a coach can give to all athletes, but not all coaches will be effective using a cue that another coach has had success with. What is the difference between the effective coach and the less effective coach? One big difference is the idea of “good” and “bad” cues. An effective coach will find the cues that work best for them with the most amount of people. These will be their go-to cues for a given correction, but when the cue is not effective, they do not blame the athlete, and they quickly attempt to use a different cue to help the athlete understand or feel the movement. Through experience, coaches will find (for them) what works well, what doesn’t work well, and multiple ways of saying the same thing.

I have used many cues with success to include cuing actions that were technically incorrect (it worked for that athlete). That creating a list of them would be ridiculous. There are a few more common cues that I generally stay away from because I have found that when I use them it often creates a different and sometimes worse problem.

“Bar Body Contact!” – I don’t like to cue the result, but instead, I coach what lead to the result. When the brush is missed, I find the lifter missed a position off the floor and cue/correct that position. When a lifter is cued to contact the bar, I often see an attempt to bounce the bar, leading to poor acceleration through the power position and the bar pushed away from the body.

“Shrug!” – I find that this leads to an athlete hanging out to extension and attempting to pull the bar up after extension rather than under to their receiving position. Instead, I most often cue “pull under”. I find the shrug will still happen but in a way that helps the athlete get to a strong receiving position.

“Finish on the Toes!” – Referring to triple extension and can sometimes lead to a better leg drive. I don’t use this since it most often leads to a lifter coming to their toes too soon, affecting their balance and the direction of the bar. It also tends to have a lifter hanging out in extension or attempt to perform a calf raise.

*I don’t use these cues because they don’t work for me. I have seen coaches use these effectively. Find what works for you and abandon what does not.