4 ways to know your exercise professionals communication is on point

And how to reach your health goals quicker by optimising the words and ways you learn movements

1) They Promote Curious Collaboration

A good healthcare professional knows that the person in front of them has AT LEAST 50% of the answers. Collaboration is the only way that we are going to be able to truly tailor a health program and plan to help the person achieve their health purpose!

Staying curious helps spark new ideas and understanding what the people we are trying to help need. Having choice and autonomy is important to allow you to be in control of your health journey.

 Where this can go wrong: “My way or the highway”

Do you ever get the sense that your practitioner has a set of expectations and that you are not fitting in with them? 

Just as everyone on the planet has different DNA or looks different to each other it makes sense that we all have different bodies, understanding and preferences when it comes to our health. Leading on from this, a treatment you have more belief in will have a statistically better chance of working. 

You’ve had experience, you know what works for you, and a good healthcare professional will take this into account! 

If you aren’t given some autonomy and choice in your treatment options (or given the room for “Curious Collaboration”), you aren’t being communicated to effectively.

2. They explain a lot in little words

We’ve all been there. A consult full of jargon, lots of instructions and not a whole lot of understanding.

Effective communication from your healthcare professional requires succinct and easy explanations with key take away points. 

If you’re the person learning (client/patient/participant) I encourage you to speak up if your health or medical expert  is talking in a way you do not understand. Perhaps politely mention “I learn best when there’s one or two things to focus on” or “I learn best when you don’t use big anatomical words”. If they don’t change, then you can always find a practitioner who is open to change or follows this less is best principle.

Where this can go wrong: Too many words

Remember the very first time you did something new. Perhaps you were learning to drive? Was there excitement? Some nervousness? Flat out terror and anxiety? Whatever the case may be, you were about to experience something new and start your journey on a learning curve of being a proficient – a driver in this example.

Can you remember who your instructor was in the passenger seat? 

They likely fell somewhere between a zen master who was calm, relaxed and gave you simple instructions to follow or the highly caring, but overbearing parent of quick fire comments in an intense tone of voice mentioning things along the lines of “watch where you’re going”,  “check your mirrors”, “slow down”, “did you remember your school bag”, “concentrate”, “focus on the road ahead, but don’t forget to check the car behind you and scan for pedestrians on the sidewalk”. 

Ok, I may have made the last one up but hopefully you get my point. Which scenario is going to help you learn to drive the best? Calm zen master or caring but overbearing parent?

Now imagine we substitute driving for learning a new movement, skill or exercise (all will be used interchangeably in this blog). The same logic applies when it comes to your practitioner (driving instructor) who is trying to help you overcome a health concern or improve on a skill…less is best. Paralysis via analysis is never the answer. 

3. They focus instructions on the result

When we, practitioners, are teaching movements our goal is that the person we are helpful becomes skilled at that movement – which then helps them to do what they need to do from day to day. Becoming skilled at a movement means that the movement pattern has become automatic requiring little brain power. At the start of learning a movement brain power is high and skill is relatively low – the person is already using their brain power to learn. Adding a bunch of instructions ON TOP of this while the person is learning the movement will only delay progress.

As with the “less is best” principle, your movement professional should use terminology and pointers you understand. For example, one of the most perfect examples for teaching a deadlift is simply “see this weight on the floor, I want you to grab it and lift it up”.

Where this goes wrong: Instructions focussed on the process

Ever overheard someone teaching a deadlift…”bend your knees”, “bend your hips”, “straight back”, “weight on your heels”, “brace your core”! Although all these things I’ve just listed may happen during the process of completing a deadlift movement – listing them all off as instructions only adds more confusion and slows down the learning process as you now have a list of “rules” to abide by.

4) They focus instructions externally on the outside of the body

To continue on from focusing on the result, a simple way to do this is to focus instructions and consequently your attention to things external and outside your body, known as external cues.

An example would be to focus on pushing the handle away from your body, nothing more and nothing less. This instruction allows you to learn and “figure it out”. Once you have completed the exercise, you can then use curious collaboration with your practitioner if there needs to be any changes to get a desired result.

Other external cues may involve other senses like making as little sound as possible while sitting into your chair for a sit to stand exercise. By involving multiple senses your body will be able to remember the movement more easily.

What does “focus on the smoothness, pushing, pulling, lifting the handle, mat, t-shirt, socks, waistband” have in common? You guessed it. They are all external cues outside of the body. 

You can even use mental imagery (or your imagination). Let’s say you don’t have a belt on but I mention to you that, from a standing position, I’d like you to imagine you have a laser pointing straight out of your belt buckle and I need you to smoothly draw a line with the laser vertically up and down the wall in front of you? Give yourself a minute to try this. How’d you go? If you got some movement and drew a line, CONGRATULATIONS you just did a pelvic tilt movement without having to think of your pelvis, glutes, core, hip joints, transverse abdominis etc.

Note: Naming body parts to be somewhere to start a movement is often necessary. Cueing body parts to create a movement is not.

Where this goes wrong: Instructions focus on the inside of the body

Please know this, instructions focused on the inside of the body (internal cues) are rampant in the health industry and therefore we want you to know that it’s ok if you are used to using internal cues. What we hope you consider is that there has to be a better way to learn movements than “squeeze your transverse abdominus/tuck your belly button in”, “activate your glutes” and “switch on your multifidus”.

If you’re looking for an example of someone who learns through focusing on results and external cues look no further than a toddler. We don’t have to give them lots of instructions on what muscles to activate (internal cues) for them to stand up, walk over and give mummy a big cuddle!

How well is your exercise professional communicating with you? Is there a couple of ways in which their communication could improve? 

If you found this helpful, it would be fantastic if you were able to share this with a friend (or perhaps your practitioner)

Your friend in helping you be active and healthy,

Ben Taylor

Looking to Make an Appointment?

Booking Online is the most convenient way to lock in the appointment type, practitioner & time you want.

5 Star Google Reviews
Tailored Health is committed to 5 star client satisfaction.

Over last six to eight months I’ve had a pain in my right arm and shoulder that has stopped me from doing various day to day tasks. I decided to visit Tailored Health and the team of dedicated Exercise Physiologists know what they are talking about, and how to assist me. They have assisted me with slow, steady exercise twice a week. A program that I can do at home, along with suggestions on who else could help me get through. I finally have managed to find a great team, that has a holistic approach to personal health mentally and physical. They have a great sense of humour which helps a lot when you’re in pain, I’m slowly getting stronger and pain movement improving. Huge thanks to everyone at Tailored Health. PS: They have tissues and coffee on hand if you just need a chat to discuss your options.

Cathy Rideg Avatar Cathy Rideg
February 16, 2024

I am very happy with my progress at Tailored Health so far. I am a golfer and have some injuries which I am getting help with. Yasiru is very knowledgeable about the mechanics of the golf swing and the body. He is helping me with my recovery and the strength work that I need. My golf has already improved! I really enjoy being able to use the PhysiApp and view exactly which exercises I need to practice at home. It reminds me how to do them properly. I would definitely recommend Yasiru and Tailored Health. I'm looking forward to being able to play golf better and without causing further injuries.

Lyn Scanlon Avatar Lyn Scanlon
October 17, 2023

I completed my first placement at Tailored Health and my experience working with the team was amazing, they were very welcoming and kind. A talented team of knowledgeable Exercise Physiologists who truly care about their clients and wanting to help them achieve their goals. Couldn't have asked for a better environment to join!

Caitlyn Kavanagh Avatar Caitlyn Kavanagh
December 15, 2023