The other day, one of my athletes was working up to some heavy sumo deadlifts and he was having issues. He was falling forward, his hips were coming up first and he was struggling with this weight. I told him to “spread the floor” and his next rep went flying up. I am not some genius and I didn’t event some new cueing style, its a cue he knows, but he wasn’t thinking about it, the weight was heavy and he was just trying to get the weight up. When I gave him that cue it gave him a task to try to perform and boom it clicked.
This experience encouraged me to do some reading on cueing. I read my friend Jordan Syatt’s internal vs. external cueing. Before I read this article I used both types of cues without even thinking about it. I still use both, however I now only use internal cues for certain situations and I have been focusing on using external cues. I know, I am not the first to write about this but I wanted to write about my experience and the results my clients are experiencing with it.
Lets get to what this is all about…
What is Internal Cueing?
Internal cueing is giving a cue in relation to your body. An example would be, “Knees Out” during the squat. Another common one would be “Chest Up.” Internal cues are good for when you are teaching a new exercise, so the athlete learns proper form.
What is External Cueing?
External cueing is giving a cue in relation to the environment. An example would be, “Spread the Floor.” Another common one would be “Heels Through the Floor.”
It has been proven that external cueing gets better results. I also know through my own use that it gets better results because it gives you something to relate to.
How to use it?
Lets use the squat and deadlift. When squatting and deadlifting some very common cues are “knees out” or “chest up.” These are accurate cues, but may not be the most effective. Before you or your athlete goes in for their set, give them an external cue instead, as it will give them an action to perform.
The reason this is so effective is because it gives the athlete a visual and action to perform in the environment that they’re in leading to follow through for the entire movement.
When squatting I use the “separate the floor” cue with my clients, I tell them to imagine there is a crack in the floor that goes right down the middle of their feet. I tell them I want them to separate that crack by spreading the floor.
Another common cue is “chest up” which is an accurate cue but like the knees out, it has you thinking about what you’re doing instead of trying to actively perform a task. Instead of chest up I like to use these two cues, “touch your chest to wall, or “show me the logo on your chest.” I “stole” these cues from multiple people and have had great success with both. Both of these cues give you a task to perform within the environment you are in.
I was listening to The Strength Coach Podcast the other day and they talked about how the farther away from your body you focus, the more success you will have. Just as in sports, if you’re thinking about your mechanics and what your arm or leg is doing your focus is internal and your thoughts are going to be in the wrong place. On the podcast they used golf for their example, that you should be thinking about the break on the green rather than what your body should be doing. Personally, I know myself when I was playing baseball the more I thought about what my arm or leg was doing, the more trouble I got into.
I have seen great results with external cueing and know it makes sense with my athletes. Whether you are a coach, a training partner, or even train by yourself, try using external cues next time you train. I have seen it work and know it will work for you.
If you have any questions please ask!