Cueing with Purpose


In an attempt to produce better Coaches and athletes, I created a Cueing with Purpose strategy for my team that provides tips on how to instruct more effectively.

By using this cueing strategy, I have noticed Coaches are more engaged, and athletes have fewer deviations in their movement patterns.

In general, the Coach gives a specific cue for each round, instructs correct form and lists potential deviations. During the set, the Coach scans the group and provides feedback for that cue. It is important the Coach only references the movement cue that was given — unless a deviation puts the athlete at risk. After the set is complete, the Coach provides quick feedback to each athlete if needed. As the athletes recover/change weight, the Coach gives the next cue for the upcoming set and so on.

Here’s an example of Cueing with Purpose:

8×4 Barbell Back Squat 

Set 1  ·  Neutral Spine  ·  Maintain neutral spine position throughout the movement. Brace through the core from shoulders to hips to stabilize and maintain spine positioning.

Set 2  ·  Foot Position  ·  Maintain correct foot positioning during the entire squat pattern. A slight turnout of the feet of about 1 inch should be maintained without compensating or rotating during the full squat.

Set 3  ·  Knee Position and Tracking  ·  Knees should track outward and align with the middle toe during the squat. Activate the glutes to create slight external rotation of the hip.

Set 4  ·  Torso and Shin Angle  ·  At the bottom of the squat, the athlete should have parallel torso and shin angles before returning to the standing position. The athlete initiates the movement by pushing the hips back, then bends the knees to lower into the full depth of the squat.

Set 5  ·  Head Position  ·  The head should be aligned with the neutral spine. When descending/ascending, the athlete must maintain a neutral neck/head position without looking up or down.

Set 6  ·  Breathing and Bracing  ·  Hold the breath at the top of the movement to brace the core. As fatigue starts to set in, the athlete must focus on taking a deep breath and while holding their breath, brace the core as they lower in the squat for midline stability. After approaching the 2/3 point on the ascent of the squat, the athlete can release the breath.

Set 7 and Set 8  ·  Individual Cues  ·  Provide customized cues for each athlete based on the individual performance in the previous sets. Giving each athlete individual attention and significant cues for their own personal development empowers the athlete and decreases overall injury potential.

In summary, when applying cueing strategies, think of these steps to make it effective:

  1. Give one cue per round.
  2. Coach looks for movement deviations corresponding to the cue that was given.
  3. Give corrections on the cue based on the athletes’ performance.
  4. Give personal cues to each athlete based on individual needs.


By PJ Stahl, MA, CSCS is the co-owner and head coach of Lock Box Fitness & Performance Center in Los Angeles, California. PJ is also the creator and director of PROJECT STEEL™, Power Systems Master Coach, Reebok & ReebokONE Elite Ambassador, and the co-owner and founder for FORMfirst. Email him at