Monday, March 28, 2011

Become a Better Coach: Learn to See

Today, I want to discuss something that I am very passionate about - coaching.  I want to preface this post by saying that I know I do not yet have the refined eyes that Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, and other great coaches have.  However, I do work as a coach full-time with clients 6 days a week, and I have been fortunate to observe and be watched by Mike and Bill while coaching.  I believe this has definitely fast tracked my ability to see movement and compensations.  
Most coaches and trainers know that it is very important to know how to execute and explain the proper performance of lifts but equally important is the understanding of where the movement should be coming from and the ability to see if this is occurring. 

Many blogs out there have great information about training programs, exercises, assessment information, etc., but even if you know how to do all of those things very well, you may still get someone injured or fail to get them the results that they want if you cannot effectively coach them in their execution of the exercises.  And no... I am not just talking about getting them in the right positions.  Even if they are in the right position and the movement looks correct they may still be compensating or using the wrong muscles.

 Definitely not the best position

For example, in a future post I plan to discuss the compensations seen during exercises aimed at training the scapular retractors.  In another, I will look at the difference between movement at the hip versus movement from the low back during exercises such as RDLs, pull-throughs, etc.  We know that these faulty patterns can occur, but we must be able to see them if we want our clients and athletes to get the benefits of the exercise and to not get injured.

Now before you think I am a form nazi (which I can be at times), I do understand that you cannot fix everything at once.  I also understand that if someone is going for a max lift, then their form may not be spot on.  However, it is still important to see the compensations and where the form is breaking down.  This will allow you to fix the weak link for the person who is going for max strength, as well as program more efficiently for the client who is new and for whom you are not able to fix everything at once.    

I have struggled for a while to determine my aim for this blog, but I think I now have an idea.  I have decided that a large portion of my blog is going to be dedicated to helping you become a better coach through improving your eyes to proper movement.  Like I said above, there are a lot of great blogs on other topics such as programming, fat loss, strength, assessments, etc., but there are very few, if any, that go into detail on coaching cues and seeing proper movement mechanics.
I will still cover these other topics, but my overall goal is to help you become a better coach for yourself and/or for others.  
If there are exercises or movements that you feel you have trouble executing or coaching, let me know and I will try to cover what I look for and how I cue people.

Have a great week everyone!


  1. Great stuff Zach! As a newer coach myself, this is something I am trying to learn as well. I actually had a similar conversation with someone last week regarding glute ham raises and how two people can look virtually identical while performing the movment but one can be doing it correctly and generating force from the hamstrings, glutes, and hips while the other can compensate using lumbar hyperextension. I guess the same applies to almost any exercise.

    Anyway, keep up the good work my man!

  2. Yep, Zach-the-form-nazi-Moore is definitely qualified to write about coaching cues and seeing form. I've lifted under his coaching for over a year - he nails it.

  3. Great stuff Zach! I'm hanging out for the article on compensations for scapular retraction.

  4. @Ben- Yes, glute ham raises are often butchered by most people. I would say most people use their back way too much or keep their hips flexed. Your blog post on the topic was very good.

    @Ken- Thanks man!

    @Boris-Thanks! Hopefully, I will have it out soon. I plan to do a series of posts on different compensations (there are a lot!).

  5. Can't wait to hear the future blogs. As a trainer entering the field at a facility similar to IFAST, cant wait to hear some of the topics.

  6. Great stuff Zach. Is there an email I can write to you at? I didn't find contact information listed anywhere. Thanks!

  7. @hbsfer- Thanks! Yes, you can contact me at

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