No one likes to be called out for making mistakes or having poor form. Embarrass someone once and you may never have another chance to make it up to them. You can convey information in a kind way, or not so kind. Supportive cues and coaching always win out over the alternative. When training or coaching, remember the K-I-N-D acronym:
- N-No More No’s
When training or coaching an entire class, employ the KIND acronym, which helps clients progress using several elements: feeling, movements, and emotions. Trainers and instructors should emphasize what participants should be feeling, and where, and to a certain extent, why. This helps them stay connected, present, and focused on the components of the exercise. Phrases like, “this will help you get off the floor easier,” or “this helps correct posture from too much sitting,” highlights the real-world benefits of the exercise. Participants then apply that knowledge to their everyday lives and try harder because they relate to sitting on the floor playing with their kids or spending too much time hunched at a computer.
Add in anatomy phrases like, “this recruits the stabilizer muscles which are supporting the quads,” or “we are working the opposing muscles to the abdominals to assist with back pain.” Avoid constant scientific phrases, which tend to alienate members who don’t know much about anatomy.
Occasionally, it’s good to teach the correct names of the muscles. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “these dips work the obliques.” And sometimes, it’s nice to go a step further to say, “we are working the obliques, AKA, the dreaded muffin top.” Not only might you get a giggle, but you ensured everyone in the class knows exactly where you are talking about, and now have a visual connection between their body part and the technical term: oblique. This is an example of the “K” (KINESTHETIC) in the kind acronym.
Even if you’re not doing a tactile touch or physical correction, you can paint the sensory picture. Saying, “We’re going to pop up as you jumping on a pogo stick,” gives members a visual picture and sensory reference to the movement they’re about to do. Going further to say, “squeeze the legs together; you should feel like a rocket,” lets them know how the move should feel.
Moving onto the “I,” INSPIRING phrases always win over harsher ones. If your class seems exhausted and isn’t working as hard as you’re used to seeing them, avoid harsh phrasing that’s negative. Saying, “did you all go out drinking last night…what’s wrong with you guys today,” might seem funny, but it’s a less kind way to get the response you want, which is harder working participants. Instead, consider an inspiring phrase like, “it’s time to leave those cares behind and go all out; go for gold now and you’ll feel like a champion when this is over.” You want to be sincere in what you say, so find the phrasing that works for you and your personality, but always speak the silver lining.
No More No’s
The “N” stands for NO more no’s. It’s virtually impossible to avoid the words ‘don’t’ or ‘no’ in classes, but trying in earnest to reduce them is a kinder approach to teaching. If the quickest route to success is, “no buns in the air,” use it. But always think of the cue in the positive, and opt for it more often. “Flat as a board with hands under the shoulders,” is really the same cue, but without the ‘no.’ Here are a few common ‘no’ phrases and positive substitutions:
The No Phrase >>> Positive Phrase
- Don’t let your knees go over your toes >>> Knees behind the toes
- No hunching >>> Shoulders pulled back and around in their pockets
- No turtle-neck push-ups >>> Lead with your chest
- Don’t round your back >>> Hinge from the dips to 90 degrees
- No swinging >>> Glue your elbows to your sides
- No looking at your feet >>> Gaze between your thumbs
The last coaching letter is “D” for DIRECT. Use as few words as possible and be direct. If the class has improper form, cue directly, and quickly, and don’t be afraid to stop them and start over. Using fluffy words, or too many words dilutes the importance of what you need to say. It’s possible to be kind and direct because time is of the essence. Stopping the class to begin at the top of the phrase to do a true 4-count down and 4-count up squat is a totally acceptable way to redirect a group who is rushing through the movement without proper form and ROM. “Let’s start from the top and feel the squat overload our glutes SLOWLY.”
Also, “keep my pace,” is another direct way to get them to slow down. If anyone is performing a movement in a risky way, direct cueing is essential. “Hinge to here and stop with me,” gets to the point a lot quicker than, “If you bend forward more than 90-degrees during your deadlift, you’re putting your back at risk. There are a lot better ways to activate the hamstrings than to bend all the way to the floor.” While all true and helpful, that phrase is too long, especially if there’s a member rounding their back to the floor with heavy dumbbells in hand. That phrase might be better spoken before the move begins, or after class. You could also try, “stick the buns out,” “straight legs with soft knees,” or “break a wall with your hamstrings,” to cue a deadlift in a direct way.
Applying the KIND acronym when offering corrections works the same way in corrections as it does during coaching, though corrections are often more intimate and aren’t always directed to the entire class.
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