This article is brought to you by ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)

Online personal training requires a different set of skills than training in person. One such skill is the ability to effectively cue your clients when you’re not standing next to them at the gym. What does this skill entail and how can you hone it to better help your training clients? Let’s begin with first looking at what it means to cue.

What a Cue Is – the Basics
The technical definition of a cue is “a signal (such as a word, phrase, or bit of stage business) to a performer to begin a specific speech or action.” Translate this into your online personal trainer business and a cue is a word or phrase that prompts your client to engage in a certain movement pattern. Cues can also be used to instruct your client about proper form.
An example of a coaching cue in exercise is, “Now we’re going to do a squat. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging at your side.” This tells your client what position you want them to get into to begin the squat movement.
In a personal trainer role, your coaching cues can influence your clients’ performance. They also impact whether they can learn proper form and technique.
What type of cues can personal training professionals offer that will serve both of these goals? There are a few to consider.
Incorporate Cues for All of the Learning Styles
There are three basic learning styles:
  • Auditory – these people learn by hearing, such as through verbal instruction
  • Kinesthetic – clients in this category learn by doing or actively engaging in the movement
  • Visual – some people learn best by seeing, or by watching you perform the exercise
This is important to keep in mind when cueing because it means that cues that work for one client won’t necessarily work for another. You may have to change the way you deliver the cue to appeal to the learning style of your individual training client.
Sticking with the squat example, auditory learners benefit most from a verbal explanation of proper form. If clients are visual learners, you’ll get better results by showing them what a good squat looks like.
If you’re working one-on-one with online coaching clients, ask them which way they learn best. If they don’t know, try one learning style and see how they respond. If they seem to struggle, switch to another. Once you identify their primary learning method, you’ll know how to reach them best during your coaching sessions. 
When operating an online group fitness class, incorporating all three types of cues enables you to reach all of the attendees. The first time you run through a specific workout, provide verbal cues. The next time, switch to kinesthetic or visual cues. Pay attention to the class to see if one type appears to be more effective than another. This will tell you which ones to use most in future sessions.
As a personal trainer, you may feel more comfortable using certain types of cues. This type may be the way you typically learn best. However, incorporating cues for each type of client increases your ability to reach others more effectively. 
Offer Clear and Simple Verbal Cues
Imagine you are working with a personal trainer and it is your first time doing a specific exercise, like a bridge. Which cue would be easier to follow:
Okay, lie on your posterior side. Next, lift your pelvis region while squeezing your glutes.”
What I’d like you to do is lie on your back and lift your butt into the air, as if you’re pushing your hips toward the ceiling.”
As a fitness professional or certified trainer, you know what you meant by offering the first cue. But a new client likely won’t. They’ll have an easier time following your second command.
Although it may be tempting to use technical jargon while training, keep your verbal cues clear and simple. This enables your clients to know exactly what you’re saying versus spending their coaching sessions trying to decipher what it is you want them to do. 
Use an External Cue vs an Internal Cue
Sometimes clients respond better to external cues. How are these different than internal cues?
An internal cue directs the client’s focus to a specific body part or movement. An external cue is directed more toward something in their environment. External cues also place more emphasis on the outcome of the movement versus the movement itself.
An example of internal cue would be to tell your training client to reach toward the ceiling with their right hand. To inspire this same action with an external cue, you would tell them to push up as if trying to press the ceiling upward. 
Using external cues encourages training clients to think about the outcome of the movement more so than the movement itself. It is also an effective way to get them to use more force.
If One Cue Doesn’t Work, Try a Different Cue
Another cueing tip beneficial to online trainers is to check in with your client or class often. Since you aren’t right there next to them, their feedback is invaluable to the training process. Ask them if they are struggling with a specific exercise or workout. If they are, you may need to try a different cue. 
No two clients are the same. So, even if you’ve always been able to obtain results with a certain cue, that doesn’t mean that it will continue to work with everyone you train.
Being flexible with your cues and willing to change paths mid-session helps you become a better trainer, instructor, and coach. It also enables you to take your online personal training business to higher levels because you know how to get results.
Additional Cueing Tips for Online Trainers
When training, put yourself in the shoes of your clients. Forget about what you’ve learned in your certification or continuing education courses for a moment. Imagine that you know nothing about fitness. What types of cues would help you perform better or with proper form?
Thinking like a beginner encourages you to use cueing techniques that are more likely to work. For example, many people do better when they can relate a specific movement to something they do every day. When doing a deadlift, talk about lifting a basket of laundry. If you’re teaching them about heart rate, explain the difference between how fast their heart beats when they first wake up versus when someone jumps around the corner and scares them.
It also helps to tie your cues back to your client’s fitness goal. Talk about how performing a specific exercise will help them whittle their waist or build the muscle in their arms. Get them to visualize the results they’ll obtain by doing that movement. This reinforces your qualifications as a certified personal trainer. It tells them that you understand how a particular exercise will impact their body.


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