Cues are a great tool in helping fix or improve any exercise or movement pattern. The best part with cues is that there are so many different options that can all be beneficial at some point. Each person is slightly different as to which cues will have the greatest impact on them.
These various cues can be internal or external. For example: in a hang clean an internal cue might be to extend the hips and an external cue might be to jump as high as you can. Internal cues refer to something within the body while external cues refer to something outside of the body or reference some sort of visualization movement.
With most of the people I coach, I find that external cues have a greater impact because they can better understand and apply the movement to a concept that they are already familiar with. Asking someone to abduct their femur might sound like a foreign language to them and thus the cue is useless. Asking them to think about driving their knees towards the walls on either side of them might make a bit more sense and have a more positive impact on the movement pattern.
The key here is understanding when to use cues in your own training. I find cues can become overwhelming and it is easy to start thinking about 100 different cues for one movement. Now that I’m thinking about 100 different things, I’ve lost focus on the task at hand. For example, when going for a maximal effort squat it can be easy to think about so many things: back tight, head back into the bar, knees out, screw your feet into the ground, brace into your belt, etc. For me, I know that if I think about all of those during a heavy squat, I will most likely miss the squat because I’m losing focus on the actual task at hand – squat down and stand back up.
As a coach it is so easy to throw out a million cues a day at the athletes I get to work with. However, I need to remember two things: 1. How would I perform if I was thinking about a bunch of different cues and ideas all at once? 2. Often athletes can feel when a movement is not perfect and can autoregulate themselves. The next rep is usually significantly better because they felt what went wrong. Further, week 1 of a new exercise usually will have some hiccups and not look the best. However, without any cueing or corrections the following week when they come back to that same exercise their motor pattern is usually naturally better because the body remembers what to do and how it feels. Week 1 with an athlete my cues are usually very simple to make sure they are not going to hurt themselves doing the movement. Week 2 and on can be more of a time to use more cues to refine the pattern as needed.
My overall point here is that cues can be super helpful to fix and refine any movement pattern. However, do not drown yourself in too many as it will be easy to lose sight of the original task at hand. Stay focused on your overall goal and use cues to help without losing sight of the end goal.