Are You Guilty of These 3 Common Coaching Faults?

Late cues, negative coaching methods, and a focus on only one learning style can all impact a group ex participants experience. Check out tips for success.

The old cliché that cueing can “make or break” your group-fitness class continues to ring true—especially when leading choreography. Ultimately, we want to meet the learning needs of ALL of our participants, so they can easily follow us and have a positive experience. Here are three common cueing faults that we can work to improve as group-fitness instructors (GFI) while leading our classes.

Fault #1: Late Cues

Remember, one purpose of cueing is to alert participants that a change is coming, giving them time to process and respond. Late cues may be the most challenge coaching method felt by participants. Cuing highly choreographed classes can be difficult for any new instructor, or even those who have been doing it forever.

If we include the “1” count when counting down—that is “4…3…2…1…Say Your Cue”—we just cued late. This means that we cued the next movement while starting it; if done repeatedly, the end result may be that our participants are going the wrong direction and not doing the same thing as you. For some participants this can be a frustrating experience.

  • Methods for Improvement: If we choose to use the count-down teaching technique, the “1” count is always implied, so it never needs to be stated. We would want to replace the “1” with our next cue: “4…3…2…Say Your Cue.”
    • For example, if we’re leading a Barre Fitness class and have four plies left before starting lunges, we would cue, “4…3…2…Bowler’s Lunge.” Even if a recovery follows a work period, a timely cue will make the transition smoothest: “4…3…2…Release.”
    • Keep our cues to 1-3 words, but if we do need to say more words, we would begin cueing earlier in the count.
    • Be careful not to cue too frequently.
Fault #2: Cueing to Only 1 Learning Style (Such as Visual or Verbal)

Studies have proved that we learn in three general ways: visually, verbally, and kinesthetically. Therefore, as fitness leaders, we need to meet the needs of all types of learners (read more in this article by Leslee Bender).

  • Methods for Improvement: We need to use a combination of BOTH verbal and visual cues in all our class formats. YES, I know that Zumba tells us only to use visual cues, but the little lady in the back of the room is frustrated that she can’t see us; she occasionally needs to hear some cues. And in Cycling, the man with hearing loss is struggling to hear our spoken cues; he would benefit from some hand signals. In both cases, implementing BOTH verbal and visual cues will better meet the needs of all of our participants. Check out these articles for more examples on how we can successfully do this.


Fault #3: Cueing with Negative Language

Correctional cues require participants to process the meaning, process the opposite desired behavior, and then make their bodies respond immediately. Imagine how much effort it takes a new member to process and correctly adjust themselves based on these cues: “Don’t let your knees lock out,” “Don’t let your hips drop,” “Don’t forget to breathe.” It could be overwhelming.

  • Methods for Improvement: To best produce the results we want, it is important that we state our correctional cues in positive terms. This means we are cueing to the solution, not the problem, and eliminates one thinking step for the participant.
    • According to the ACE GFI manual, “Eliminating the ubiquitous word ‘don’t’ from the GFIs vocabulary will help ensure a more positive experience … (and) produces more favorable and immediate results.”
    • For example, instead of saying “Don’t let your chest fall forward” during a squat, we could say, “Lift your chest.” The participant could hear, process, and execute the movements more effectively, which would aide in their overall experience. Other words to avoid during fitness instruction are “should,” “good,” “bad,” and “beginner.” Read the following additional resource for more information on how these words can negatively impact your participants.


We Can All Get Better

Regardless of our years of teaching experience, we can all work on improving our coaching cues. By working on your coaching, participants will be able to easily follow you and return based on your means of encouraging them to be their best!

Are You Guilty of These 3 Common Coaching Faults? 1

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