One Common Coaching Cue Your Clients Will Almost Always Misunderstand (And How to Fix It!)

by Jordan Syatt March 10, 2015

Last week I wrote what has quickly become one of my most popular articles to date, 3 Uncommon Deadlift Tips That Also Happen to Be Highly Effective.

The article was so well received I decided to start this brand new series on coaching cues and tips with the specific intention of making it easier for you and your clients to find the right technique for various exercises as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

Today I’m going to discuss the “hips up” cue we often give our clients during prone, closed chain drills such as push-ups and planks.

While it’s a valid internal focus cue that clearly works with some individuals, any coach worth their salt knows it rarely works with beginners and those who lack kinesthetic awareness.

To reduce your time spent cueing basic positions, below I’ve outlined 2 of my personal favorite cues that work exceptionally well when your clients’ hips and/or lower back are sagging towards the floor. 

Replacing the “Hips Up” Cue

Two “New” Coaching Cues

As I discussed in the video, below I’m going to summarize these two “new” coaching cues and how you can use them with your clients.

1. “Tuck your tail in between your legs.”

sad dogCue your clients to tuck their tail in between their legs like a sad dog. 

Not all clients will grasp this analogy right away so it’s important for you to get on the ground and physically demonstrate what you want them to do. Show them what they’re doing wrong and explain (both physically and verbally) how to tuck your tail in between your legs to get your spine and pelvis in proper alignment.

If that doesn’t work, give this one a shot….

2. “Raise your hips while simultaneously squeezing your butt cheeks together.”

A bit more straight forward than “tuck your tail in between your legs,” the success of this cue is predicated on your clients ability to recruit their glutes on command. 

That being the case, before I even attempt to use this cue I set my clients up in a glute bridge and play around in that position until they truly understand how to squeeze their butt and make it burn from a continuous muscle contraction.

glute bridgeFrom there I’ll bring them back into a plank.

If their hips are still sagging and/or their lower back is still hyperextended, I’ll tell them to slightly raise their hips up while simultaneously squeezing their butt cheeks.

More often than not, the addition of the glute contraction is sufficient to create enough of a posterior pelvic tilt and neutral spinal alignment.

If it doesn’t work, however, try physically lifting your clients hips up to the correct position and then tell them to squeeze their glutes.

If they still can’t hold the position, odds are they aren’t ready for a plank and need a smart regression.

What’s a Smart Plank Regression?

dead bugThe deadbug.

A phenomenal drill to improve anterior core strength, it functions as a great plank regression since the torso draws stability from the floor and the lever arm is more easily adjusted to the clients current ability. 

Video Credit: Eric Cressey

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