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

About the Author: 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.

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!