The Top Ten Most Overused Coaching Cues

I have had the privilege to be around hundreds of coaches. Iv’e seen weightlifting coached by authentic weightlifters, crossfitters, personal trainers, and sports coaches. We all come with our own set of tools. A coach is really just a communicator. We all have ways to say what we mean. This is just an observation of some things I see and hear. All of these are good intentioned. Very good coaches use each of these. Sometimes I think what coaches say is misunderstood, or culture has changed what it’s supposed to mean.


I understand. I have even used this cue in some rare circumstances. There are a few stubborn folk (like myself) who simply cannot move their feet after the finish. The majority however are jumping through the roof, and wasting valuable time floating. Basic physics tells us that as soon as my feet leave the ground, I can no longer apply force to the barbell. There has to be something to push against. Keeping your feet down as long as you can allows for maximum force. Yes the feet come off the ground, but only as a result of a strong finish, and out of necessity to change foot placement.



Again; I use this cue. In fact it’s one of the things I tell myself before I start to pull. It’s is often misunderstood by lifters to mean shrug up. Often times lifters will hang out too long at the top of their finish because they are adding this extra small movement. The shrug (if we must call it that) should be part of the finish, and most importantly is what cues the lifter to start going down, not continue up. This is another example of a cue that has some value, but has simply gained a new, misunderstood meaning. “there is a shrug, but it’s a shrug under.” -Jon North


“Just a little in front”

OH! Is that all? Thanks. I didn’t feel the bar fall IN FRONT OF ME. This is an example of a cue I hear all the time. I know the bar was in front. I know I looped it. How do I fix it? What did I do wrong to cause that to happen. Stop making observational coaching statements, and start instructing.



I hear this word more than any other word in the gym. So arbitrary. Another example of a cue that has it’s place, but is not always used or understood correctly. In fact, if I could only use one coaching statement ever, this would be part of it. It’s what we call an overcue. What I really mean is use your whole foot. People have such a tendency to land toes first, that if we say “heels” we might get whole foot. The more surface area we use to apply force, the more energy we can transfer to the barbell. Whole foot applies more energy than just the heel. Instead of heels I like to instruct the hips and knees. Pushing from the heels off the floor is actually bad. It gets the shoulders way behind the bar and cuts the tension at the knees. What I often say instead, is push the ground down, or push the knees back. This usually transfers the weight through the whole foot where it belongs. In reference to the catch, it is vital to not land on the toes. I like to cue lifters to address this issue with their hips. Retreating hips back after the finish usually helps.


“You just gotta get under it a little faster”

I KNOW!!!! HOW? This is like telling someone they should just lift more.


“Rip it”

This is in reference to speed off the floor. More often than not, going fast off the floor will put you out of position. Pointless to move fast if it’s in the wrong direction. Some coaches like a fast first pull. I say go as fast as you can, and still maintain proper acceleration and positions.



WHY. I rally don’t understand. I see high level coaches and weightlifters doing this elbows to the ceiling drill, but I have never seen it actually happen during a lift. It’s always back to the wall behind you, never up to the ceiling. Maybe I’m missing something here.

Elbows back 2

Elbows back












“Pop your hip”

Please don’t. I get asked all of the time. “When should I pop my hip?” You shouldn’t. People see these great weightlifters with loud violent bar body contact, and the want to be like that. So they start throwing their hips to the bar. Loop city my friends. Not to mention this can be painful. I teach bar body contact of course. I never teach slam your hips into the bar. This contact is a result of taking the shoulders from in front of the bar, to behind the bar then extending up, not out. Bring the bar to the hips, not the hips to the bar.


Sometimes, yes. The last thing you want to do on the Jerk is to try to push it up. Tight grip on a bar that is in your hands rather than connected to the shoulders is a sure way to use tiny deltoids to try and push a heavy weight. Drive with the legs and push… DOWN. Dave Spitz put it best. “Legs drive the bar, hands drive the body.”

“When the arm bends, the power ends”

REALLY? Says who? I mean I know who said it. Most of you probably don’t and are just repeating something you heard said a bunch of times. Just because you hear it a bunch does not mean you should repeat it. The statement has some application. It is by no means an unequivocal blanket truth, even though it is treated as such. The though behind this is that a bent arm will straighten after the finish, loosing energy. This is true if that’s how its done. An arm that starts bent, and remains bent through the finish actually achieves a higher peak point. There are world records held right now by arm benders. A lot of the guys at Cal Strength, and even Donny Shankle have an arm bend that places the bar in the powerful high hip position. It’s not for everyone, but it’s obviously effective. Stop repeating everything you hear.



This is an addition. Number 11. I can’t believe I did’t put this one to begin with. “the worst thing you can do as a coach is tell a lifter, they did good, when they did bad.” -Glen Pendlay-

Honorable Mentions

“Stay Tight”

“Elbows Up”

“Knees Out”

Thanks for reading guys. Remember to keep asking questions, listen to lots of advise, and seek out different opinions.

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