Home Blog Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 5

Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 5

Written on March 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm, by Eric Cressey

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

1. Move the hands in or out to improve your deadlift technique.

When you're learning how to deadlift, understanding hand positioning is really important - but each deadlift variation is unique in terms of what you have to do with your grip.  Check out this video to understand why:

2. Squat between your legs instead of over them.

In the past, I've spoken at length about how stance width impacts where the knees go.  Move the feet out too wide, and the knees have no place to go but in.  Bring them in closer, and it's much easier to get the knees out.  Check out this video for more details:

So, for many folks, bringing the feet in can really help - particularly with the deadlift.  However, squats can be a bit trickier, as the stance coming in can lead to a lot more forward lean and individuals not positioning the torso correctly. Individuals will squat as if they are trying to touch the belly to the quads.  There are, in fact, some accomplished lifters who do this, but their bellies are very big, and the Average Joe isn't fat enough to pull this mechanical advantage off! Most folks wind up turning this approach into a really ugly good morning.

This is why I like the cue of telling folks to squat between the legs instead of over the top of them.  Some people grasp it a lot better than "spread the floor" or "knees out."  They can also understand positionally if you show them a bad set-up followed by a good set-up, like this classic photo (notice how the knees around outside the torso from the rear view):

Source: DaveDraper.com

3. Pretend your biceps is a rotisserie chicken.

This is, without a doubt, the strangest cue I've given.  However, it works.

When we're doing our (shoulder) external rotation variations, we want to make sure the humeral head (ball) is centered in the glenoid fossa (socket), as that is the primary functional of the rotator cuff.  This cue gets the job done:

Looking for more detailed coaching tutorials like this?  Check out Elite Training Mentorship, an extensive online education program that features my staff in-services, exercise demonstrations, and articles - as well as the contributions of several other accomplished fitness professionals.

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18 Responses to “Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 5”

  1. Anthony Says:

    Hey Eric,
    Way off topic here but I wanted to know if you are familiar with training switch hitters. I’m a switch hitter and was wondering if you make any specific adjustments. I was thinking maybe more single leg strength and plyos to make sure both sides are balanced. Any ideas are appreciated. Thanks.

  2. abdii Says:

    What about the scapula in external rotations ? Should they be retracted, protracted or ?


  3. Linda Lewis Says:

    I can’t tell you how much your videos are appreciated. Form is everything and sometimes gets lost in the details.

    It may also be helpful to introduce exercises to help initiate the big lifts for problematic body types. Long torso, long legs, long arms. Tips for these individuals.

    Thank You so much. I am a 48 year old 100 lb weight loss success story turned trainer. At some point I will sign on for programming help but currently Im taking the Precision Nurtition Class.

    Thanks again,

    Linda Lewis

  4. Mike Bittinger Says:

    Thanks for all the great information day in and day out. Made some great points once again.

  5. James Battiston Says:

    Great tips, as a tall lifter (6’7″) I have problems at times with my stance width and getting into a low enough position.

    Also enjoyed the guy who walks in during the rotator cuff video and tries their best to stay out of the shot

  6. Eric Cressey Says:


    The scapula should be slightly upwardly rotated, but snug to the rib cage.

  7. Eric Cressey Says:


    Switch hitters are far more balanced in the first place! Shouldn’t need many specific modifications. Just assess each athlete individually and plan according to what you find.

  8. Brian Seelos Says:

    The chicken cue is great. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve seen guys in the gym trying to do these with way too much weight and jacking up the movement. Great stuff Eric.

  9. Frankie D Says:

    Great cue Eric . rotisserie chix sadly is the only way I “get it”!!Hey any thoughts on a quality functional trainer /cable system w/o the $$$ KEISER??

    Frank D

  10. Shane Says:

    Good quality post Eric with take hmes i can use right away. You are the MAN!!!!!

  11. James Cipriani Says:

    That last cue is super simple to grasp and smart. And I think it just made me hungry.

  12. Eric Cressey Says:


    We use Paramount and have been pleased with it.

  13. Steve.B Says:

    Thank’s Eric for taking the time/effort to add these video’s in as a visual learner helps alot.

  14. Drew Says:

    Do you find that high school athletes take way too wide of a stance when squatting? It seems to lead to excessive lumbar extension. I have changed them to a more narrow stance and told them to wedge thier torso/hips between thier legs via Dan John. Charlie used the term “dial the floor out” which seems to be near the same thing as spread the floor. My kids aren’t happy with the weight reduction but the quality is there.

  15. Matt Carlson Says:

    After over 20 years of living with a serious illness, I beat it (for the moment) and though not a heavy weight lifter (I\’m a tennis teacher @ player – among other things) and wanted to let you know that you\’re blog/videos are really helpful.
    Complementary work-outs or core exercises, weights, the ensemble of the stuff you share are terrific and beneficial to
    tennis players.
    Thanks again and keep up the good work.
    Matt aka Elledge

  16. Andy Says:

    Hey Eric,
    Love the “Coaching Cues” instalments and the “Quick and easy ways” instalments as well. Any chance you could add a section to your website dedicated to these posts? Or perhaps set up specific tags for them? They so frequently contain a ton of great information it would be awesome to have an easier way to go back and review those posts.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  17. Eric Cressey Says:


    That’s a great point. You can access the old ones just by changing the “36” to “35” or “34,” etc. in the URL at the top. We’re thinking about doing a compilation of the “best of” in PDF form.

  18. Eric Cressey Says:


    Agree 100%! No need to get wider for most kids.

  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series