In over 26 years as an S&C coach, I have at times found kinesthetically-based corrections, in particular, the use of my hands, to be effective in helping to correct movement patterns for kinesthetic learners.
”They say not to use your hands when you correct.”
This was a quotation made by a coach in one of the workshops I teach, about a particular certification organization in North America.
What a shame, was my initial reaction. However, given the impact, and the importance of, the Safe Sport Movement, it is clear that using touch as a coaching tool needs to be carefully re-evaluated and cautiously used if at all.
Furthermore, physical distancing due to the Coronavirus has changed the landscape for S&C coaches by making it impossible to use our hands and increased the need to cue from a distance.
Here is how I attempt to use kinesthetically-based corrections with the athletes and coaches I work with.
1:Touch – by the athlete themselves – Example, “place your right hand on your left biceps as you curl and try to feel your biceps tension at the top end of the movement”
Touch can help direct awareness to a specific muscle group and may increase strength through improved intra- and inter-muscular coordination.(1)
2: Imaginary resistance applied to the body part where I would normally place my fingers.
I first learned about the concept of imagined resistance from a book on eastern philosophy and practices.(2) It is believed that imagined resistance can help the body move more coordinated as a whole.
Over the years, I have learned and experimented with different ways of correcting based on the sources of the error.
I use a straightforward, three step process to determine which muscle(s) needs to be contacted and where the imaginary resistance should be placed.
- I observe a particular element that can be improved.
- I evaluate which muscle(s) that could/should contribute more, to know which muscle(s) to tell the athlete to contact and attempt to self-stimulate through the skin.
- I give guidance for imagined resistance or counterforce (the resistance can be imagined on either side of the body, depending on what makes the most sense to the athlete).
Example – Hip Extension
In this example, I encourage athlete visualization with self-contact.
- Observation – The athlete’s hip extension is not complete and lacks power in the 2nd pull of a Power Clean.
- Touch – Between sets athlete contacts (e.g., slaps) gluteus maximus muscles for up to 30 seconds.
- Imagined resistance – “Imagine that there is a chain wrapped around your pelvis and anchored behind you. Your goal is to break the chain as you complete the 2nd pull.”
In a study by Porter and colleagues, they indicate that external cues are efficient to improve performance in a long jump.(3) In contrast, another study indicates that an internal focus can increase activation of specific muscles.(4)
I am experimenting with another type of visualization with the use of hands to enhance the contraction of specific muscles. In this case, Step 2 and Step 3 from the example above would be modified in the following way.
Step 2:Touch – Athlete rubs or slaps gluteus maximus muscles for up to 30 seconds. Then they poke a finger into the gluteus maximus muscle and contracts the muscle to push the finger out. The athlete is instructed to remember the feeling.
Step 3:The effect can be enhanced by asking the athlete to contract the glutes with the intent of imagining the effort required to bounce a ball off of them.
In any case, I constantly refine cues based on the feedback I receive from the athlete. If I find that a particular cue works well, I always write it down in my files.
In many cases, I learn more with respect to this aspect of our work from the less talented athletes, who may not get the movement immediately.
During online training and physical distancing we can’t use our hands to correct. We also need to be mindful of cuing without contact to ensure a Safe Sport environment. However, we can still use kinesthetically-based suggestions. Personally, I see great benefits from a combination of muscle contact combined with strategic suggestions for placement of imaginary resistance.
Karsten Jensen, MSc, www.yestostrength.com
- Rothenberg B, Rothenberg O. Touch Training for Strength. Human Kinetics, 1995. “Why does SST work?” Chapter 2, page 22.
2. Ananda L, Ananda M. The Pathfinder Teachings. Muni Publications. 2009. Imagined Resistance., page 95.
3. Porter JM, Ostrowski EJ, Nolan RP, Wu WFW. Standing Long-Jump Performance is enhanced when using an external focus of attention. Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(7): 1746-1750.
4. Snyder BJ, Leech JR. Voluntary Increase In Latissimus Dorsi Muscle Activity During The Lat Pull-Down Following Expert Instruction. Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research. 2009. 23(8): 2204-2209.