Coaching Cues

By Ryan Brown | In Crossfit Training | on December 19, 2012

Last week during the Team Juggernaut Facebook Q&A, there was a question about why people say to drive the knees out in the squat. This got me to thinking about coaching cues. My initial answer to him was that maybe that wasn’t a useful cue for him. I tell people all the time to drive their knees out in a squat, but sometimes I will tell people the exact opposite, to dig their big toe into the ground.


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Different athletes will learn the same thing in different ways. Learn how to properly cue your athletes.

Here is another example. I teach tons of beginners to deadlift, and by beginners I mean everyone from kids to 40 year old women who have never seen one before. When I first start to teach them the movement, I will start the bar out all the way up against their shin and cue them to stay back on their heels. I want them to learn to pull with their hamstrings, and to learn what that feels like. Eventually, they will get good at that. If you read the Juggernaut Deadlift Manual, available free with your email subscription to the greatest strength training website on the internet, then you would know that I coach people to use their foot as a tripod in the deadlift, not just to stay back on the heels. Once that person learn to use their hamstrings, I want to move the bar away from their shin a little. Get them to learn to feel the floor with their whole foot now, and that is going to help them get a little quad into the game to get the bar moving off of the floor. I almost intentionally teach things wrong at times in order to get someone to learn a piece of the movement, usually whatever piece they are screwing up, then just go in and add things in once they have learned it.

What if I said it was wrong to drive your knees out in the squat was wrong?

That is the kind of “take a ridiculous stand” statement that usually garners tons of attention on the internet. Obviously, a ton, probably most, people need cue themselves to drive their knees out when they come up in the squat. However, I also have seen multiple times when that cue needed to be dropped and we needed to try and head back to find the big toe. If you are squatting and you are coming up on the lateral edge of your feet, then you are wrong. You need to stop thinking about driving your knees out so much and start trying to find/come back to the center. 

Ryan Brown coaches top level athletes in a variety of disciplines at Darkside Strength & Conditioning/Derby City Crossfit

Ryan Brown coaches top level athletes in a variety of disciplines at Darkside Strength & Conditioning/Derby City Crossfit

Coaching cues are very valuable, but I have found that there are tons of athletes and coaches with tons of different ways to teach the same thing. I work with a large volume of people, and I can tell you that I can tell two different people the same thing and get opposite results, or I can tell two people opposite things and get the same results. Finding what makes enough sense to a person to get them to understand it, and be able to demonstrate it is part science, part art, and part trial & error. So, if you are fishing around for the cues that you need to take your movements to the next level on the internet, it is going to be even more difficult.

The answer:

Take lots of videos and post them to the Juggernaut Facebook page, you can get great advice from some of the best in the world.


Ryan Brown is the head physical preparation coach and owner of Derby City CrossFit / DarkSide Strength in Louisville,Ky. Ryan’s focus is on correcting and perfecting movement/motor patterns to get the most out of his athletes. He has competed in CrossFit, Powerlifting, strongman, and currently Olympic lifting. His clients include; elite level power lifters, national level Olympic lifters, pro MMA fighters, college football players, HS athletes, CrossFitters, old broke people, and pretty much anyone else who wants to do something better.
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