How to enhance movement cues in coaching
When I was competing in Olympic Weightlifting, like many others, I went to obsessive levels to find an edge in my performance. I had a meet coming up that I wanted to really crush. I was going to drive to Connecticut and I wanted to be the best on this side of the coast in my weight class.
I sought out a sports psychologist to pick her brain around how I can optimize the mental component of this game.
The reason I was drawn to this was because I knew that there was only so many repetitions my body could perform until i was overdoing it. I had been in overtrained states that were called the "dark zone" at the time. So I tested this several times.
But there was evidence that mentally rehearsing the event fires the same neural pathways and activate the same musculature you would use to perform the physical event.
The benefit of mental rehearsal is you can perform limitless reps if you can sit with your mind. And you can do it without the physical damage.
At the time, this was more novel than it is now. But I believed it and wanted to get her thoughts on how to best leverage this visualization technique.
The first thing was to imagine myself putting on my weightlifting shoes and my wrist tape. That was the trigger for switching into athlete mode. This action can be anything that you consistently do RIGHT before the task you're trying completely.
Next, I had to pick 1-2 words at most to trigger the event I wanted. I don't remember exactly what i chose, but it was something like "Pull Aggressively". And I thought about Donny Shankle's analogy of pulling the head off a lion. This was to help translate speed and control of the bar.
Anyways, what this highlighted was that previously I was thinking of waaaaaay too much. I had like 10 different cues I was trying to improve and focus on all at once.
So enter the mind gym. This is where you overcome whatever blocks you have. I had this fear of getting under the bar for whatever reason. That heavy crushing weight would flash in my mind and I would actually feel the fear or doubt.
Obviously this was something I'm drilling physically when training. But mentally, the goal was to rehearse that event and even welcome the fear.
And you realize...well the bar is going to feel heavy as hell no matter what. So how do I want to adjust and respond? How would I do it as perfectly as I'm wanting to? What would it feel like?
This is where you prime your neural pathway to feel as prepared as possible.
Now the final thing I'll leave you with is the point of view to use in your visualization.
You want to see yourself performing the task from a first person point of view (basically what you see through yoir eyes.
AND you want to focus on a third person view. So how did the lift look from the cameras? How did it look from where my coach would watch me? This was really fun.
Because I used first person to FEEL how smoothly it was gonna go. And then I used third person to SEE how smooth it would look. I would watch a lot of videos of lifters to see what I wanted to shoot for.
And this was the place where I got to experience that.
I went 5/6 on my lifts that meet and set some crazy PRs. But more importantly, I committed to a mental rehearsal for the movement cues I was trying to ingrain.
This is sometimes the most difficult thing to get yourself to sit down and do. But the ROI is well worth it.
Try it out for yourself. It can be as little as 3 minutes, but give yourself a few days of doing this to settle into a nice rhythm.