Cueing: Just One Piece of Semi-Private Training Success – Part 1
Written on July 22, 2010 at 5:00 am, by Eric Cressey
With the boom of semi-private training in recent years, there has also been a boom of questions from fitness professionals on how on Earth it is logistically possible to train several people when they may all come from different backgrounds and have different needs. Back in 2006, I was one of those people – so I can certainly speak from perspective.
I did almost all one-on-one personal training for about a year from the summer of ’05 to the summer of ’06, when I moved to Boston and went out on my own as an independent contractor. When I arrived in Boston, all these questions on how to make it work in the semi-private model were rattling around my head. Admittedly, I entered this model cautiously, doing 50/50 private and semi-private training as I got my feet wet with it.
By July of 2007, when I opened my own facility, every client was involved in the semi-private model and loving it for the affordability, camaraderie, and increased training frequency it afforded. It took time, but I’d learned the ropes. Now, three years in, I’ve taught it to an entire staff, plus the 22 interns we’ve had since we opened our doors.
Looking back, I had been an idiot. I’d spent the overwhelming majority of 2003-2005 in college strength and conditioning settings – watching 18-22 year-old athletes thrive in a semi-private model (in the weight rooms, on the field/court, in the athletic training room, and in their courses and study halls). During my undergraduate years, I’d done an internship in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, where I watched people rehabilitate from near-death experiences – in a semi-private model. Physical therapy? Semi-private model. And, as Alwyn Cosgrove reminded me, his cancer treatments were done in a semi-private format – and he’d beaten Stage 4 cancer twice. There must be something to that.
What was I missing, then?
Very simply, I thought that “cueing” and “coaching” were synonymous.
Basically, “cueing” amounts to knowing what to say, when to say it, and to whom to say it in order to elicit a desired change from a client. Ask anyone who has been successful in this industry, and they’ll tell you that your cues get better as you become more experienced as a coach. It’s why my staff and I can teach a new exercise to a client much faster than an intern can; we’ve built our “cueing thesaurus” to know what to say – and what to say as a modification if the first cue doesn’t get the job done.
No doubt, having a good “cue” arsenal is huge. It’s essential for us in the first 8-12 weeks when we’re intensively teaching new clients technique and getting them ingrained in our system. If done correctly from the get-go, good cueing sets a client up for tremendous future success. If they know what “chest up” means on a deadlift, they’ll get it on a lunge, split-stance cable lift, or medicine ball drill.
And, for me, this speaks volumes for why client retention of those who have been with us for 2-3 months or more is so imperative; they become “students of the game” and are actually easier to coach because they have more experience and a bigger exercise pool from which to draw because a) they’ve learned compound exercises (or derivatives of those exercises) and b) we’ve ironed out a lot of their imbalances. As a cool little story, since the summer of 2007, I’ve been training a kid who is has just finished his freshman year on a scholarship to pitch for a PAC-10 powerhouse. I know his college strength coach now – and he told me that this pitcher is like having an additional strength coach in the weight room. You want clients like that – because it means that you just have to write good programs, crank up the music, and continue to develop the friendships you’ve built with them.
In reality, though, it isn’t always that easy. Cueing is just one piece of the coaching puzzle – and those other factors will be my focus in Part 2.
– Eric Cressey