Exercise technique correction can be a difficult subject to approach with your clients. Like any type of correction, there is a delicate balance of too much and not enough criticism. In the fitness industry not enough technique correction can be detrimental and result in injury. However, too much criticism can be overwhelming and discouraging to your client. To optimize exercise technique correction, find a good balance that fits you and your client. Keep in mind that your clients may require different types of technique corrections. While some clients may prefer explanations behind the correction, others may want a more cut-and-dry approach. As the coach, it is your job to determine what is best for your client. I recommend weaving communication questions into your evaluation to determine the best delivery method for each client.
Optimizing exercise technique correction is an art. Here are a couple of methods that have helped me to find the perfect delivery and balance.
Keep It Simple
Overcomplicating corrections is a common mistake coaches make. Long-winded explanations and multifaceted corrections are easily overwhelming for a client trying to learn a new exercise. Work with your client on one correction at a time, and always prioritize corrections that prevent injuries. When communicating technique corrections, use simple and direct phrases. If a particular keyword results in improved form, repeat it during the exercise to form an association between correct technique and the keyword. Keywords and phrases could be “core tight,” “knees bent,” or “explode.” These examples are all short, simple, and of course memorable to help the technique correction stick. Keep in mind that if you ever find yourself wanting to make five or more major corrections to an exercise, it may be safer and better for your client to regress to a more suitable exercise. Learning new complex movements such as a deadlift is hard enough for your client. Adding technique corrections simply may not be comprehensible for your client. Try regressing the deadlift to a hip hinge and choose a proper cue such as “hips back” to help relay proper technique to your client.
Part of a coach’s job is to uplift and encourage clients. No matter who your client is, we all need some positivity (especially this year). Even though exercise technique corrections are progressive and helpful, it is essentially criticism. You are telling your client what they are doing wrong and how they can do it better. Repetitive criticism can be discouraging if it is the only thing your client hears from you. To help balance out the criticism, every time you correct, make sure you leave some time for a positive insight. Please do not confuse the yin and yang of coaching comments with sugar coating. As described in Keep It Simple, being direct and simple with technique correction is optimal. There is no need to say “You are doing great, BUT….” This approach may even aggravate your client. Instead, generally focus on keeping the overall trend of the conversation positive.
Prevent Before You Correct
After coaching multiple clients through the same new exercise, you will start to accumulate a master list of common mistakes for that exercise. As a result, your technique corrections may start to get repetitive. To avoid giving the same exercise technique correction multiple times, try adding your technique correction into the exercise instructions. Add in a brief section to your initial speech that includes “common mistakes.” There are three primary benefits to this introductory structure. First, always prevent instead of rehabilitate. Second, this format gets you away from repetitive exercise corrections. Third, if you require additional technique corrections after your client performs the exercise, the corrections will be a familiar review instead of a new concept.
There isn’t a perfect formula for delivering the perfect exercise technique corrections. It is more artistic than mathematical. Just remember to keep the conversation positive, the criticism simple, and prevent instead of correct and you’ll be able to optimize the corrections that you do give.
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