What I mean when I say what I say.

It’s my job to try to get people to move in ways that may be totally alien to them.  Or to help them get their heads round some concept they are totally unfamiliar with.  Or to remind them of something quickly and easily at a moments notice.

So here are a few of the coaching cues and catchphrases I find myself using, and (hopefully) what I mean by them…

Difficult but do-able.

When asked “how hard/heavy/fast should I be exercising?” I answer with this.  Without actual experience with the person (and my trusty pen and paper), I can’t give people an actual number for what level/weight etc they should be using.  Afterall, some people are stronger, weaker or more injured than others.  Instead, I tell them it should be “Difficult But Do-able.”  Basically, this mean:

  • If it is so heavy/hard they can not actually do the prescribed routine correctly, it’s too difficult.  Make it lighter/easier.
  • If it is not difficult to complete, then it is too easy.  Make it heavier/harder.

This is a rough and ready question you can ask yourself each training session.  The nice thing about it, is that it takes our improving abilities into account, and also if we are simply having a shitty/good day today.

Tits Out and Bum Out.

One of my common instructions when teaching the deadlift and weighted swing.  The usual common mistakes are to round the back and not hinge at the hips.  So if we stick the tits and bums out, we usually end up having a flat back.  Perfect!

The setup is king.

I often use this at the start of a difficult/challenging/heavy move.  Take a few seconds to set your body up correctly.  If you are set up right, you are half way to success.  If you don’t start right, it probably won’t end right.

Go through your checklist.

Another way of getting people to set themselves up well before a move.  The checklist is the top 2 or 3 bulletpoints to make sure our setup is correct before we start.  For example, before a deadlift it is often “close enough to the bar, bum out, tits out.”  This is a blatant rip off of the classic “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” checklist from driving.

Hump the bar.

I was told this when I learned the deadlift.  It is to make sure we fully lockout the hips at the top of the deadlift.  The phrase has since migrated into various other exercises that require a hip lockout, such as the walking lunge.

SupermanChest out like Superman.

This image is to remind us to stop slouching and sit/stand tall…like Superman…chest out and shoulders back.

Pain is bad, hard work is good.

I got sick of people going “no pain, no gain!” to me…I think it is one of the most stupid sayings in a long time.

Pain is your body telling us there is something wrong, or a risk of injury.  Personally, I have no interest in getting injured or broken.

Luckily we don’t feel pain when we work hard.  Pain is when we go “owch”…usually in a joint somewhere (eg shoulder, elbow, knee etc).  

So next time, ask youself:

“Am I in pain, or am i just working hard?”

If the answer is “I am in pain”, then stop and change something.  If the answer is “I am just working hard”…well done!  That’s what we are here for!  Crack on!

Ronda Rousey and her GamefacePut your gameface on.

Shut up.  Stop messing about.  Get serious.  

Simple as that.

Everything works at first…until it stops working.

This is in response to people who tell me they have been following the same training or eating plan for ages.  It worked first, but they aren’t getting results any more.  This is because the body adapts.  This is how things usually pan out:

  • We try something new.
  • We are naturally a bit crap at things we haven’t done before/in a long time.
  • We gain experience, our body adapts and we get good enough to do the task.
  • We stop improving because we don’t need to improve…after all, things are good enough!

The trick is to not get caught up in the hype of the latest new fad (how many “latest ground breaking exercise/diets” have you seen come and go over the years???).  Because absolutely everything and anything will cause adaptations if it’s brand new.  Of course it will…it’s new!

We should be more interested in the things that can be scaled up and down to ensure long term, continued improvements.

We get good at what we actually do.

Experience and the human body are awesome things.  We adapt and improve at the things we actually do.  But we got to be careful or we end up doing (and gettig good at) some unintended things.

Far too often we end up half learning a move/activity and then doing it more.  Classic examples include doing a crappy half pressup, then doing hundreds and hundreds of them.  Or jogging very very slowly for hours and hours.

This means we get loads of experience at doing crappy things very slowly!  In other words, 

“We become very good at being crap and slow”.

Instead, we should concentrate on getting loads of experience at doing things with strength, speed and good form/technique.  In other words,

“We become very good at being strong, fast and moving well.”

Less is more.

Another way of saying the previous phrase.  Instead of doing loads and loads of “stuff” for the sake of doing “stuff”, do a few things that will have a big, positive impact on you, and do them well.

I use this when trying to convince people they can get a better, more effective training session in half the time.


I’ll add more to this list as time goes on.  Let me know if you hear me trotting out some catch phrases I haven’t listed yet.