Home Blog Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 2

Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 2

Written on August 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today marks the second installment of a series that looks at the coaching cues we use to optimize training technique at Cressey Performance.  Here are three more cues we find ourselves using with our athletes all the time.

1. Move the shoulder blade on the rib cage, not the arm on the shoulder blade.

In many cases, as an athlete does a rowing exercise, he’ll flare the rib cage up (lumbar hyperextension/arching of the lower back) and then pull the humerus into extension past the body.  In the process, the scapula (shoulder blade) won’t go where it’s supposed to go; it either won’t move, or it’ll slip into anterior tilt.  In both cases, this creates anterior instability at the shoulder girdle.  And, a quick search for “row” on YouTube yields hundreds of videos of horrible technique.

We’re especially cognizant of coaching rowing variations perfectly because anterior shoulder stability is so important for baseball players because of their increased external rotation (which also creates more anterior instability).  Our goal is to make sure that the elbow is about even with the body in the retracted position, as this will ensure that the ball-on-socket congruency is in place.

2. Pick it up early.

I’m a big fan of manual resistance external rotations at 90 degrees of abduction in the scapular plane. They are the best strength-building exercise for the cuff because they train eccentric control and do so at shoulder level, affording the most carryover to real-world performance in throwers. However, they are also great for improving cuff recruitment at the most vulnerable point in the throwing motion: lay-back. 

When we do a drill like this, I encourage the athlete to “pick it up early.” In other words, I won’t apply downward pressure (eccentric overload) until they apply some external rotation force into my hand.  This not only builds stability in the most important part of the range of motion, but also ensures that I won’t push before an athlete is ready and potentially do more harm than good.

3. Work through the heel.

Watch any complete beginner attempt a lunge, split-squat, or step-up variation, and you’ll usually see a short stride with the front knee way out in front of the toes (assuming adequate ankle mobility).  This happens, in part, because they lack sufficient strength at the hip (gluteus maximus, predominantly) to control the hip flexion, internal rotation, and adduction that’s occurring.  The weight shifts forward so that the quads can take on the deceleration load.

To that end, it’s almost always better to cue athletes to “work through the heel,” as it keeps the weight back so that the posterior chain can decelerate on the way down, or propel for the way back up.  You’ll know you hit the nail on the head when you’ve got a vertical shin.

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22 Responses to “Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 2”

  1. jose Briseño Says:

    How many sets/reps per drill?

  2. Eric Cressey Says:


    To which drill are you referring?

  3. Andrew Says:

    So for the manual resistance ER, where would this be in the program?

    Looking at your off-season manual would this be early/general offseason work?

    I hate assume but I’m thinking you would kill this in-season, right?

    If you could comment on sets/reps for this drill also.

    Any insight appreciated…look forward to the rest of the series. Thanks


  4. Chris Says:

    Eric – I really admire what you are doing for baseball athletes in the MASS area. Can you refer any trainers (like yourself) in the Houston area by any chance? Your help is appreciated. Keep up the good work!

  5. Ted Says:

    How many reps per set of the cuff drill, and how much is “too much” downward pressure?

  6. chris Says:

    With regard to beginners often pushing off their toes with an excessively short stance in lunge position, I’ve seen this countless times and it can be frustrating, probably for the client as much as me, when I cue them repeatedly on pushing from the heel and nothing happens. I guess I would question whether the issue is, as you say, predominantly a lack of strength at the hip. I have found that it is often a lack of mobility in the hip and/or quad on the trailing leg, and that until that is addressed no amount of cueing to “work through the heel” will resolve that. I’d love to get you comment on that. Thanks, Eric

  7. David Says:

    what kind of sets/reps do you do with the Half-Kneeling Manual Resistance External Rotation at 90 degrees?


  8. Jack Says:


    Hey just bought your show and go training manual. I am a basketball player and would really like to improve my vertical jump. I have decent levels of strength that I gained from Max Strength. You think I can get some good vertical gains from show and go program? I gained about 2 inches from 16 weeks of Max Strength and not to mention I loved the program.


  9. Julian Says:

    Hey Eric, thanks for the great info,

    Is there some way to test for gluteal dominance? Some characteristics we can look for? How often do you see this at CP? (ratio)

  10. Shane Says:

    With point 1, is that the same for all rowing exercises?

  11. Eric Cressey Says:



  12. Eric Cressey Says:


    Usually 2-3 sets of six reps.

  13. Eric Cressey Says:


    Gluteal dominance? Not something we’d typically see. Might see short hip external rotators, though.

  14. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Jack,

    I’d recommend doing the 3x/week training program with the sprint/movement training as your supplemental conditioning. This could eventually be replaced by basketball practice/gameplay, and you could use the 2x/week template in-season. Yes, you could definitely see some big improvements in vertical jump, especially if you have a lot of strength to gain.

  15. Eric Cressey Says:


    Six reps/set, usually.

    Each arm is different; you need to match the resistance you create to the strength you feel.

  16. Eric Cressey Says:


    I can count on one hand the number of people who can’t extend the hip to neutral (regardless of whether the knee is flexed or extended), which is really all we’re asking. If you look at Sahrmann’s work, she really does no stretching to improve movement quality; it’s all about building stiffness in the right places. So, while mobility work might transiently make it easier for them to acquire the movement, unless they are truly short in those tissues (not as likely), they’ll likely be able to acquire the position independent of any type of stretching.

    Hope this makes sense.

  17. Eric Cressey Says:

    Chris – Lee Fiocchi (Dynamic Sports Training) and Heidi and Barry Johnson (The Metal Chapter) are all great. Ron Wolforth does an excellent job on the baseball side of things.

  18. Eric Cressey Says:


    We use the manual resistance work for a big portion of the year, but cut back on it a bit in-season because it does tend to elicit more soreness, and because their cuffs are usually already taking a lot of abuse. I might use it right after an outing for a reliever, but definitely not for a starter who throws 110 pitches.

  19. Phil Says:

    Eric with reference to the rowing exercise, I can’t pick from your video what you are advocating. I have huge differences between the functionality of both my scapula and struggle to understand why they are different. Although that may not be something you can correct here, is there any chance you can demonstrate the poor form from different angles and do an audio to describe what to look for. Probably asking too much?

  20. Paul Osting Says:

    Eric: What kind of off-season program would you reccommend for 9 & 10 yr old athletes? I have done some research on Crossfit Kids and they have young kids doing age appropriate deadlifts, cleans, squats, etc. Would you recommend this?



  21. Eric Cressey Says:


    You don’t need a fancy off-season program for 9-10 year-olds. If you want to introduce them to some LIGHT resistance training techniques, that’s fine – as long as it is fun for them. I have a hard time endorsing Crossfit Kids as a whole because a) I haven’t seen it and b) I HAVE seen what some Crossfit teachings look like. If you can’t endorse someone’s work with skeletally mature individuals, it’s impossible to endorse it with those who are skeletally immature.

  22. Ellen Stein Says:

    I have a hard time endorsing Crossfit Kids as a whole because a) I haven’t seen it and b) I HAVE seen what some Crossfit teachings look like. If you can’t endorse someone’s work with skeletally mature individuals, it’s impossible to endorse it with those who are skeletally immature.

    Brilliant Eric…F**ing brilliant…love it!

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