In the words of Chip and Dan Heath, good coaching cues are “made to stick”. They simplify exercises so you can perform them with optimal technique. This allows you to get the most out of each movement, with the lowest risk of injury.

Here are some cues I think you’ll find helpful for three of the major barbell lifts.

1. Barbell Box Squat

Simple cues: 

  • Big air in
  • Full body tension (Charles Poliquin once said, “you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe!”)
  • “Pull” yourself down with your hips
  • “Spread” the floor apart with your feet
  • Put half of your bodyweight onto the bench (pretend the bench is a scale and you want it to read half of your bodyweight)
  • Drive your upper back into the barbell
  • Crack a walnut with your butt cheeks

2. Barbell Bench Press

Simple cues: 

  • Screw your shoulders down into the bench
  • Root your feet down into the floor
  • Big air
  • Full body tension (remember the canoe analogy…tension allows you to express your maximal strength potential)
  • “Pull” the bar down to your chest
  • Push the floor down and away from you (all your power comes from the ground up…like Mike Tyson “sitting down” on his punches before he lands the knockout)
  • Push yourself down into the bench and away from the barbell

3. Barbell RDL

Simple cues: 

  • Big air
  • Squeeze your armpits together (imagine you have an orange underneath your pits and you’re trying to make OJ)
  • Push your hips back and up
  • Pull your chest down
  • Finish with your hips

Bonus: Barbell Hip Thrust 

Simple cues: 

  • Vertical shins
  • Ribs down
  • Double chin
  • Heavy heels


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