Functional Training Institute

Coaching Movements & Skills – External Cues

Today we are talking about coaching in particular the impact and power of what we say, because what we say matters as a coach.

In this video of the week we will be discussing Internal and External cueing. Quite often when we are using cues with our clients we are relating it to an internal part of the body. Now as Personal Trainers and Fitness Professionals we are very familiar with the anatomy of the human body however these specific internal anatomical cues wouldn’t resonate as well with our clients as it would us. Further, when we deliver lots of internal cues we begin to compartmentalise a movement. Studies by EXOS & Nick Winkelman have shown that External cuing is the best type of cuing for skill acquisition and retention. External cuing is a set of instructions that relate to the outside of the body, the tool being used, the environment or a metaphor.

Coaching Skills in particular External Cuing is covered extensively in our new Functional Foundations Course accredited with 14 CeC’s, check it out!

Here are 3 Examples of 3 Key movements using 3 Key Functional Training tools;

Battling Rope Waves Cueing

On the Battling Ropes we are going to get our Client Kevin to perform the Waves. An example of an internal cue would be “Pulse up and down on your knees”. A neutral Cue is “Good Job”, which isn’t very beneficial or instructional. If I give an an example of an external cue it will relate to the battling rope or a metaphor such as, “Create fluid waves”.


Things that are prevalent with trainers these days are:

  1. We Cue to much!
  2. Too much emphasis on Internal & Neutral Cues

To convey the correct movement, optimise our clients progression and enable better skill retention we have to incorporate more and more External Cues.

Powerbag Overhead Press Cueing

If I’m going to be giving an internal cue it would sound something like this, “Squeeze your glutes as you press, make sure you keep a firm core and keep it nice and strong”. An example of an external cue would be, “I want you to push that Powerbag upwards, also make sure that bag doesn’t rotate around your wrist”. As you can see here I’m relating the cue to the object itself.

Kettlebell Swing Cueing

An internal cue for the Kettlebell Swing would be, “When doing the Kettlebell Swing I want you to squeeze your glutes as you do”. An external cue would sound a little something like this, “I want you to explode the Kettlebell upwards”. Again, this is relating to the Kettlebell itself which is an external cue.

The studies on External Cues are proven and EXOS and Nick Winkelman have a series of studies on External and Internal Cues as well as Gabriel Wulf’s book on this. They’re Studies prove that External cueing is far more beneficial for your clients than Internal cueing when it comes to skill acquisition and retention.

Comment below on what you think think are some of the best and worst internal and external cues for coaching your clients. The Winner will receive a $50 Course Voucher.




Daniel Henderson

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