External and internal coaching cues play a pivotal role in the performance of an athlete in training and competition. External cues seem to have greater significance when applied during complex movement patterns, making them great coaching and training mantras for lifters attempting heavier and personal record lifts.
In this article, we will go over seven common cues that coaches and lifters alike can use during training and competition to address common weightlifting faults in the snatch, clean, jerk, squat, and pulls.
Choose Your Cue
It is important to give lifters 1-3 words to focus on when attempting a lift, and to not apply too many cues, which often will lead to an athlete overthinking, which slows down reaction time and power/force output. When choosing the cue that you will/have your lifter recite verbally and mentally, one needs to recognize the common fault(s) and corresponding external cue.
It is important to note that these are broad cues that can be used to address common faults IF the cause matches the cue. Coaches and lifters need to explore the various explanations as to why a lifter is failing at a certain movement first before concluding that a simple cue will do the trick. If and only if the fault, cause, and cue match, should a coach/lifter use the following cues.
“Push Through The Floor”
Fault: Getting pulled forward/falling backwards in the beginning pulls of the snatch and/or clean.
Why It Works: Proper balance throughout the foot during the first and second pull is vital to the success of a snatch and/or clean and jerk. Lack of leg strength in the first pull (quads) and/or poor balance seems to result in either excessive throwing of the barbell or poor elevation of the barbell at the conclusion of the second pull. Although some coaches cue the first and second pull as a heavy “pulling” movement, I find it helpful to think about “driving the legs through the floor”, maintaining proper balance and pressure in the heel and midfoot during the first and second pulls.
“Push Push Push”
Fault: Poor overhead stability in the snatch and jerk.
Why It Works: Few things are worse than failing to stabilize a snatch or jerk overhead before the down signals in weightlifting. Poor stability in the overhead position can be caused by a variety of issues. If a lifter is simply failing to actively press up against the barbell as they move the feet in line following the snatch and/or jerk, this simple and effective cue could be the trick to stabilizing heavy loads overhead.
Fault: Poor front rack position leading to forward collapse in clean.
Why It Works: Poor front rack positioning in a clean can be due to numerous factors, such as poor pulling power, lack of staying balanced in the pull, disconnecting from the barbell in the turnover, or simply slack in the upper back upon the catch. I find this simple cue to be very effective for lifters who have difficulty attaining a solid front rack due to poor timing in the turnover and/or lack of tension in the upper body in the catch.
“Use the Bounce”
Fault: Poor acceleration out of the bottom of a squat.
Why It Works: In lifters who fail to get out of the bottom of a squat, this simple cue may be all that is needed to help them hit depth and explode out of the bottom position. When descending with heavier loads, it is easy to slow the movement down and focus on solely the depth of the movement, only to approach depth and have little to zero ability to reverse direction and apply force. By focusing on the bounce, lifters are able to utilize the stretch reflex of the hips, hamstrings, and quads to explosively rebound out of the bottom of the squat.
“Spread the Floor”
Fault: Knees caving in front and back squats.
Why It Works: Unlike the common cue of “knees out”, this cue places external emphasis on the movement as a whole, allowing a lifter to focus on moving the floor apart, which should help them accomplish the “knees out” objective AND increasing systemic muscle recruitment, rather than focusing on a less effective internal cue such as the knees.
“Punch It Out”
Fault: Collapsing in snatch.
Why It Works: An aggressive third pull and turn over will result in cleaner catches in the overhead position. When the barbell comes crashing down on a lifter in the snatch, this simple cue may be all they need to pattern aggressive and fast elbow extension and a stable overhead rack.
“Dip. Drive. Commit.”
Fault: Lack of aggression in the jerk.
Why It Works: The jerk is a powerful and extremely fast movement that necessitates quick reaction time and confidence. Simplifying the movement of the jerk into the three parts; (1) dip, (2) drive, and (3) commit has helped my lifters stay aggressive under heavier loads. Simply reciting “commit” prior to a jerk will allow a lifter to focus on moving the weight and snapping themselves underneath without hesitation, which often has been at the root of missed lifts and press outs.
It is important to recognize that the above cues can be highly effective for lifters who are mobile and have sound movement and technical patterning. In lifters who lack fundamentals of technique, strength, and/or mobility, coaches should address those issues before jumping to a simple cue to find a solution. One of the best approaches for coaches and lifters for improving overall performance should incorporate technique driven skills, foundation strength movements, and coaching cues and feedback.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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