3 Cues to Help You Look Better Naked
You find as a coach that you end up repeating yourself…a lot.
And that’s not because your clients/students don’t listen.
“Suzie, I’m going to put you in timeout if you throw that dumbbell again…Suzie put that down now!”
It’s just that there are a few really, REALLY important things that need to be reinforced nearly every session.
This is part of the value of having a coach in the first place. It’s tough to remember all the little details when performing certain movements and a good coach ensures that nothing is missed in the attainment of phenomenal technique.
I find myself spouting the below cues far more than any other, to the point where I just need to say 1 or 2 words and my clients know what I want them to do.
#1: Ribs Down
I’ve mentioned in past blogs about the prevalence of anterior pelvic tilt in both athletic and general populations. In this posture, the ribs are flared and the lower-back tends to sit in excessive extension.
This is not a position from which the core (which I’ll use to encompass the rectus abdominis, obliques, and pelvic floor) can effectively do its job of stabilizing the spine.
Plus, it’s tough to have much of a six-pack look when it appears like your upper abs are trying to make-out with your chest.
Even if you don’t technically have an anterior tilt, it’s still important to control your rib position, particularly when going overhead.
This cue can make the difference between having a core that does its job and that looks great, from a core that places the stress on your low-back and looks weak.
I can’t hammer home this cue enough. I find myself wanting to write about it consistently because I have seen it solve so many issues when it comes to someone feeling their abs do the work and taking stress off the low-back.
I had a client (one who was hypermobile when we started) working through a get-up over the weekend and she mentioned after the first set that she felt it a bit in her lumbar. We got her ribs down on the following set, particularly when she went from half-kneeling to standing, and boom, back pain gone.
Another client mentioned to me the other day that she feels an exercise is useless if it can’t be felt where it is supposed to be felt. And I agree with her.
If you are training to look better (and who isn’t), you need to FEEL what is supposed to be working.
It will typically get to the point where I will just say “ribs” and they will know to pull their ribs down.
And I want to mention that even in someone that tends toward more of a posterior tilt, this cue still works because simply being in a posterior tilt doesn’t mean the core is being properly engaged.
#2: Finish with the glutes
Pulling up right behind the ribs on the most important cues list is the badonkadonk.
I rarely need to assess a new client to know that their hip flexors are probably wound up. By just putting them in half-kneeling and watching them shed tears, it’s easy to see there will need to be work done.
I mention this because the hip flexors form a barrier to unleashing the full potential of the glutes. They are antagonists to the glutes and can prevent the hips from achieving full extension (because they are stuck in flexion).
But stretching and foam rolling the hip flexors are only part of the equation. Even if the hip flexors carry adequate mobility, it can be tough for someone to know how to use their glutes. That’s why proper cueing is important.
Just because you should have the ability to do something does not mean you automatically can!
Let’s take the hip hinge, for example (yay, my favorite, so glad I chose this).
Look at the below 2 photos;
The first one shows the finish of a hinge that does not engage the glutes. You can see the hips are in flexion at the top, as the pelvis is sort of “swayed” forward.
The next photo showcases a proper hip hinge finish. The glutes are squeezed and the hips are extended.
Especially when fatigued, achieving the look of the second type of finish is not easy.
That’s where the cue of “finish with the glutes” comes in. It will effectively remind someone to finish the rep and get the maximum benefit.
Because if the glutes aren’t engaging on a motion like that, it’s purpose goes WAY down.
This is also true when it comes to the kettlebell swing. Squeezing the glutes at the finish takes a lot of effort and toward the end of a hard set, the body will try to find the easiest way to complete the task. And the glutes typically get left out.
This cueing strategy extends to virtually any exercise. I can’t think of a single movement where glute engagement would be counter-productive.
As with the ribs cue, this one will typically progress to just saying “glutes” and that will signal to the client that they need to be engaging them better.
I can’t think of any clever, succinct ways to get clients to use these muscles better. It just needs to be demonstrated what you are looking for and then go from there.
The latissimus dorsi muscles on the sides of your back play a key role in keeping a lot of movements “together”.
They can mean the difference between a sloppy-looking deadlift and a crisp one.
A powerful bench press and a weak one.
Essentially, they are engaged when the shoulders are pulled down and back. But not just straight down and back. They need to be pulled down and back in an arc.
Imagine your lats (and shoulder blades, for that matter) start at the 12 on a clock when they are at rest.
When they are engaged, they pull out and around, with one going clockwise and the other going counter-clockwise.
If that doesn’t really make sense, go ahead and hold your arms out in front of you. Without bending your arms, pretend your are holding a barbell and attempt to bend the bar and break it in half.
That’s your lats.
Anyway, if someone loses that position, all I need to say is “lats” and they know that they need to re-gain that arc.
This really is one of the most powerful deadlift cues, as it will keep the bar on the shins and prevent the back from rounding, as the lats function to extend the low-back.
For bench and overhead press, the lats play the most important role on the eccentric part of the rep, creating a tight “pull” on the way down that will allow for some serious stored potential energy that will result in a blast of kinetic greatness as you press.
I’ve seen a lot of bench presses missed because the lifter lost their lat engagement at the top, resulting in a poor eccentric that decreased their strength for the next rep.
Ribs, glutes, and lats.
Master these 3 cues and you will find that your strength, performance, and looked better nakedness will go through the roof.
I use them every single day ad nauseum and they are responsible for making me seem a lot smarter than I am.
Apply them in your programs, whether you are a trainee or trainer, and see for yourself the results!
Let me know what you think after you use them.
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