Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
Billiards and Strength Training: The Art of Cuing
I never thought I’d use the words billiards and strength training in the same article, but the fact is that there is some correlation. Cuing is a tool used in both professions. Using the proper cue in pool allows the ball to travel in its destined path with efficiency and ease. Strength and Conditioning is no different! Cuing is an art/tool that allows ease, understanding and efficiency in the weight room. There are two types of cues that reinforce proper motor programming, verbal and physical. Combined, these cues build technical proficiency without “over coaching” and confusing athletes by speaking a different language. The key to cuing is SIMPLICITY. Below are several of my favorite verbal and physical cues. Some are original; many are “borrowed” from well-respected coaches in the industry.
Verbal: Many days I feel like a broken record, as if I could record my voice, press play and walk out of my facility. The fact is my athletes and clients hear the SAME verbal cues over and over and over. I believe repetition is the foundation of learning. We as coaches need to preach this to our athletes and respective clientele. Here are some of the cues spoken on a daily basis:
- Tall and Thin: I want my athletes tall and thin during dynamic warm-up, and several knee-dominate exercises (ex. Reverse lunge). I simply say “tall and thin from the belly button to shoulder blades.” This reinforces proper hip flexor function and prevents flexion of the lumbar spine.
- No Hula Dancing Hips: During anterior core and core stability progressions, it is imperative that the glutes, pelvis, lumbar spine and core create one functional unit. This eliminates lumbar rotation and excessive extension. I have found this cue to work wonders.
- Short Stop Position: This is not original, so many thanks to Dr. Stuart McGill for this cue. I have found this cue to work extremely well for the middle school/high school athlete. Want locked backs, bent knees and proper hand placement for lateral shuffles? Ask your athletes to get in the “shortstop position”, it will happen within seconds.
- Broken Glass: Front squats are slowly being replaced at my facility with RFESS and single leg squats, but when we do front squat, broken glass is my cue. I want the athletes to imagine broken glass on the box so there is no “plopping” and deactivation of the CNS. No one wants to plop on broken glass.
Physical: In this day and age we need to watch physical contact with our male and female clients. Proper verbal communication prior to the physical cue is imperative. Keep in mind that some physical cues are not appropriate for all genders.
- ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine): This physical cue is not original. Thanks are in order to Coach Boyle. Attending his mentorship program was nothing short of the opportunity of a lifetime. During my time viewing workouts many coaches used the anatomical region of the ASIS to set the hips, and attain proper shoulder position (in front of the bar) for the Hang Clean. I use this cue every day with my athletes.
- Glutes: This is a gender specific cue. I am a hands on coach and when I want glute activation, I make sure that my athletes have it. I use my index and middle fingers to check the activation of the glutes. Failure to fire properly many times means synergistic dominance of the hamstrings. This may lead to a regression in exercise selection.
- Band Progression: Even though there is no physical contact, I believe this is a hands on cue. By simply placing a band above (short lever) or below (long lever) the knees and asking the athlete to “break the band”, we are creating glute, hamstring and adductor activation. This physical cue for a young squatter is a diamond in the ruff.
The key to cuing is SIMPLICITY and ease of understanding. Our goal as coaches is to say the least amount of words to get the maximum amount of technical proficiency in each and every lift. I never thought I’d say that strength training and billiards share a common tool, but after all the best coaches in the industry are “pool sharks”, getting efficiency and ease of effort with each and every rep.
Anthony Donskov, MS, CSCS, PES, is a former collegiate and professional hockey player, founder of Donskov Strength and Conditioning Inc., (www.donskovsc.com) and Head Instructor/Director of Off-Ice Strength and Conditioning for Donskov Hockey Development (www.donskovhockey.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.