MBSC Internship with Sam Leahey: Week#1 of 14 Hour Work Days!

Along a similar note to last week’s blog/mini-article/entry/whatever is the notion of knowing how to be a better coach in the real world. Last time I discussed the time management factor. This week another coaching epiphany stirred my thinking. Specifically, prioritizing which coaching cues should be communicated first based on the level of competency or proficiency of the athlete(s) you are coaching. This is one of the many coaching revelations I’ve stumbled on this week.

Coaching Cue Progressions

“If you want to know how to train obese clients, then train one!”

-Mike Boyle

. . . and I say, if you want to know how to coach, then get a group together and coach’em up! While that’s not all there is to it, it’s a great starting point. Typically when you or I think of squatting, jumping, landing, sprinting, or bench press technique, we think in terms of ideal. The picture we have in our heads is flawless and demonstrates perfection. That’s a good thing and something that should always be kept in mind. However, when working with the young and/or inexperienced athlete/client I realize now there needs to be a dichotomy of thought in which you know the ideal yet on the other hand know how to progress to that perfection rather than just throw everything at them at once. I’m finding that this progression should be based on where the person is now and what he or she is showing me at the moment.

                  For example, show the beginner how to pick up and place the bar down with a flat back before you start worrying about using the hook grip for cleans! Extreme example but it gets my point across. The funny thing is, I would walk up on an athlete half way through her front squat set, notice her valgus frontal plane collapse first and immediately want to begin reactive neuromuscular training techniques. Only to look up and find she’s supporting the bar almost entirely with her arm strength instead of racking the bar comfortably on her shoulders during the decent. The bar wasn’t even touching her shoulders! Give her a little bit of “HIIT Coaching” now the next set she’s not all tensed up and wobbling all over the place worrying about the bar in her hands because her elbows are up and the bar is supported nicely on her shoulders. Guess what!?!? The knees went out naturally the next set, viola! I didn’t even have to mention it because she was nice and comfortable and the knees could “relax” during the decent a bit therefore going out automatically. It’s small things like this that make me think of the big picture of coaching. Another example, the very first time I had a group of kids this is how I instructed them on performing the cook hip lift. . .

WAY to much talking

Very quickly I realized that with about 6 coaching cues (and even more with other exercises) people have no clue what to do even though you just explained it thoroughly. The first time every kid in my group just looked at each other waiting to see what the other would do. This was HUGE lesson for me. After noticing they neither had the attention span nor understanding of my coaching cues I called upon one of the big timers here at MBSC, Dan Gableman.


Dan the man. . . he’s kind of “a big deal” at MBSC if you know what I mean.

The long and short of our conversation was this:

–        Keep your coaching cues to a minimum and then build on it every set or two. Try to start off with just 3 and then add more during the set

–        The athletes or clients don’t know what you know so don’t use terms like “engage your core”

–        In a group setting especially, lead by steps, not long dialogues

So with that in mind I re-grouped and attacked it again, stripping everything down to the bare essentials. .  .

MUCH less talking. . .

Guess what? With this coaching cue progression, I didn’t see anyone looking around at each other wondering what to do. They all were easily able to follow along. Most importantly, the final product was a quality Cook hip lift by the end of the set because I progressively gave them coaching cues during the set. Every day I try to find better ways to do things and every day the exact words I use change.

Continuing on, I was working with a group filled with high school athletes and a few college guys who had trained at MBSC once before. I figured they could handle more verbage so I gave it to them. . .

Too Much Talking again: Not good for a group of kids. . .

Of course, as it turned out we still had people stepping all over the place and looking like they just got tripped up or knocked over. So I went to the dummy proof version. . .

REAL simple. . .

And viola again! Everyone did it right! No problems what so ever because it was much easier to follow.

                  I could post videos all day about ways I’ve learned to progress to ideal form and technique in exercises like the rear-foot elevated Squat or trap bar deadlift but I think these basic examples get the  point across, and besides, it’s only week 1!

All in all what I’ve discovered is that at times, and by that I mean most times, I was more worried about their left toenail being externally rotated too much, causing and inefficient force transfer up their deep longitudinal system and into the posterior oblique system, leading to dysfunctional energy leaks up the kinetic chain and thus right earlobe overcompensation. Too bad the kid is only 12 and just needs to know how to correctly pick up and put down a barbell first, HA!

A lot of this may seem simple and common sense but for some reason these things resonate with me. Hopefully it makes you think more about the way you coach too.


Sam Leahey CSCS, CPT


14 Responses to “MBSC Internship with Sam Leahey: Week#1 of 14 Hour Work Days!”

  1. sam i love what you are doing on this blog. im recommending it to alot of my friends to try to get them interested in stength and conditioning

  2. savage.

  3. Another good post Sam!

  4. mboyle1959 Says:

    I like pull-turn shoulders-push. KISS

  5. JaisonNaiker Says:

    That was a great video on the rotational squat, I was having a tough time being too technical with that one. What are some basic cues you use for the chop and lift? I’ve started with “abs tight” and “stay tall” but my clients keep fumbling around with their arms, any ideas?

  6. Thanks for the shout-out Sam, great post, just as Mike said in his response to the first comment, KISS, you are doing the same with coaching and the kids in my groups are responding well to your coaching, keep it up,

    Another great post!

  7. mboyle1959 Says:

    Depends on the exercise. For pushups we need a really tight core. For squats and deadlifts we need a tight anterior wall and a tight upper/ lower back. The cues are simple “abs tight” “back tight”. KISS. Keep It Simple Stu_ _ _.

  8. Sam,

    As a young coach myself still learning the art of how to get people to move efficiently, this post resonates with me so much more than you can imagine.

    One thing I always have a tough time with is getting people to understand how to keep their back flat during pushups, squats, RDLs etc. What cues do you use to make this as easy as possible for them to understand?

    Thanks and keep up the great posts!

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