Say Little and Carry Big Stick

Posted: March 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

Over a year ago I attended Dan John’s workshop intervention and I can remember him talking about his level 2 kettlebell certification experience. He said that he couldn’t seem to get his kettlebell windmill technique down and a bunch of well-meaning people were saying various cues to try to get him to move better. While he was speaking about this instance, he told us that he got overwhelmed and got what he called “monkey brain” and as a result didn’t figure out the move at that time. Interesting enough, he finally figured out how to do while showering at the hotel afterwards. What happened then? I believe it was simply a classic case of over coaching on the part of the well intentioned assistants.



How often have you been frustrated as a student and or frustrated others just like what happened to Dan John? I know a good coach wants his or her students to move better and realizes the need for proper form as their students train and that is a good thing. But can this be taken too far? Can we over-coach and actually do the opposite of this desire to help? This post will attempt to answer these questions and offer some solutions to this particular issue. In other words, it will teach you to say little and carry a big stick!


First of all in coaching we have to find out the learning styles of our clients. However, on order to do this we must know what they are and then watch how our students respond to our different endeavors to correct their movement patterns.


Once we are aware of these three styles of understanding we can begin to experiment to find out how the person responds to our stimulus and correction. Now the opposite of this endeavor is just to try to keep verbally cueing the person and for you both to end up pissed off, as well as frustrated while also potentially losing that person as a result. So don’t take this lightly, it could hurt you in the long run and make you ineffective to help the very people that you are paid to.

When someone first comes into your center, I hope that you have a good intake form, some form of assessment and finally getting to know their goals. Then as you work with them, you will want to experiment to find out what helps that individual get the move you are teaching. You can do that by trying out verbal cues, visual cues and tactile. Then see what helps them get better at what you are trying to teach them to do. As you see what works, double up on that technique without neglecting the others.



Also you need to realize that most people will not perfectly get a technique the first time that you teach it to them. In fact they may not get it on the fourth session or so-on and you will have to be patient and encouraging as you work with helping them to get better. In addition to being patient you will need to be able to add in drills that help the person feel what it is that you are looking for. If you want the person to hinge deeper don’t just say it, they will have no idea what the heck you are talking about. Instead put them in the position (tactile) show them it (visual) as well as having them do drills that formulate the move. (Wall hinge etc.)

It is your job as an exercise coach to put people in the position of success. If someone can’t get the move or idea that you are trying to share, it is your job to figure out a way to communicate what they need to do in a way that they can understand. We often feel frustrated when our clients don’t follow our advice on nutrition and do their homework. In the same way you can end up frustrating your clients by not working hard enough for them. Remember they are paying you to help them, so you must use every tool that you have to do so. If you don’t want to, you may need to find a new career due to your lack of passion for fitness and concern for others.


As trainers we need to set the bar high in not only our example of fitness and embodying it. We also need to set the bar higher for ourselves, on our knowledge and customer service; as well as your ability and willingness to go the proverbial second mile with your clients to get them the results that they are paying for. Take the time to learn new moves and approaches to fitness and don’t be afraid of change as you do. If you do you will retain your students at a higher rate and be more successful in helping them; In other words. Say little but carry a big stick!



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