Home Baseball Content Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective: Installment 9

Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective: Installment 9

Written on November 12, 2014 at 7:58 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been nine months since I last posted an update to this coaching cues series, so this post is long overdue! Here are three technique coaching cues you can put into action:

1. "Follow the arm with the eyes."

We'll often see individuals who try to do thoracic mobility drills like the side-lying windmill, but wind up turning them into potentially harmful stretches for the anterior shoulder. Basically, you'll see too much arm movement and not enough upper back movement. One way to increase movement of the upper back is to "drive" it with the eyes, which effectively keeps us in a more neutral neck position. Check out the demonstration video from The High Performance Handbook video library for more details:

2. "Build up tension through the hamstrings over the next five seconds."

I normally don't like internal focus cues, but this would be an exception. I generally use this cue specifically when we have a beginning lifter who is learning to deadlift, but it can also be incorporated with an intermediate lifter who struggles with early knee extension and the hips shooting up too early. Basically, it slows the lifter down, but still encourages him to apply force into the floor.

I'll have the individual set up the starting position, but not initiate the deadlift unless everything is perfect - from the feet up to the head. Then, I'll tell him to gradually build up tension in the hamstrings over the course of five seconds, with the bar slowly breaking the floor at the end of that period of time. It won't lead to great bar speed (something we ultimately want), but that's not of great concern when we're simply trying to optimize technique.

As an important add-on, make sure the athlete has already taken the slack out of the bar before you initiate the hamstrings cues:

3. "Where the arm goes, the shoulder blade goes" - and vice versa.

This is a coaching cue I recently heard physical therapist Eric Schoenberg use at one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships, and I loved it. It simplified something I'd been trying to create with kinesthetic coaching (actually putting an athlete's shoulder blade in the position I wanted).

There are a lot of folks out there still teaching clients and athletes to "lock down" the scapula during rowing exercises, or make the rowing motion segmented into "retract and THEN pull." The truth is that the upper extremity doesn't work like this in the real world; otherwise, we'd all move like robots. Healthy upper extremity action is about smooth, coordinated movements of the scapula on the rib cage (scapulothoracic joint) while the ball and socket (glenohumeral joint) maintain a good congruency, just like a sea lion balancing a ball on his nose.


If you move the ball (humerus) without moving the socket (sea lion) with it, the ball falls off (comes unstable). The same thing can happen if you move the socket without moving the ball. The question then becomes: what active or passive restraints have to pick up the slack for the excessive motion that takes place? It can be the biceps tendon, rotator cuff, labrum, or shoulder capsule.

If we teach people to move the shoulder blade and humerus independently of one another - and load that pattern - we're really just establishing a faulty movement strategy that can't be safely reproduced under higher velocities. You can learn a bit more in this video:

Hopefully you enjoyed these tips and will benefit from applying them in your strength training programs. If you have other exercises you'd like covered, please just let me know in the comments section below.

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11 Responses to “Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective: Installment 9”

  1. Brad Says:

    Great videos! They really helped me understand any information that I couldn’t grab from the text.

  2. Tsatnick@gmail.com Says:

    Eric, why do we want “bar speed” on a heavy deadlift?

  3. William Haywood Says:

    Hey Eric,

    You said teaching the shoulder blade and the humerus independently is a faulty movement pattern. What about the retract to low row exercise you include in the High Performance Handbook pdf?

  4. Dan Says:

    Coach Cressey –

    Great video! Thanks for the information. Regarding “retract then pull” (a cue I often use): I see many clients with overactive upper traps, weak scapular stabilizers, etc. While I agree that coordinated mechanics between the humerus and scapula results in the most effective row, I have often used the retract-first cue as a method to increase neural drive to the rhomboids and mid traps (in the same way I’d use a scap pushup, for example). While the client doesn’t coordinate the humerus/scapula together during the row, I find that there is greater activation of the lats/scap stabilizers at the end of the concentric phase. Do you see any benefit of the retract-first cue for those who lack the neural drive to these areas in the first place?

    Thanks! Big fan, btw

  5. Andre' Says:

    I finally got it with the tightening the hamstrings cue. Hope all is well.

    Thanks Eric

  6. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s a bit of an exception because it happens through such a limited arc of humeral motion. We’re teaching folks to dissociate humeral extension from scapular anterior tilt in order to get “clean” retraction. So, it’s more of an isolate and then integrate exercise. Plus, the scapula moves with the arm eccentrically.

  7. Eric Cressey Says:



  8. William Haywood Says:

    Cool. Thanks Eric

  9. James Says:

    Eric, In relation to ‘retract then pull’, is it reasonable to teach this to newer lifters to get used to the movement when they are trap dominant?
    Regards, James

  10. Eric Cressey Says:


    We might do it for a few reps, but the goal is to get things “synced up” as quickly as possible so that it’s a smoother movement.

  11. James Says:

    Thank you.

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