Marble Statue Coaching

Coaching beginners is an important skill for any coach worth his or her salt.

However, new coaches tend to be the worst at this. I’ve taught nearly 100 courses around the world to new, as well as experienced, personal trainers and gym owners. One common theme I’ve noticed with the newer coaches is that they try to cram in too many details about what they’ve learned into their instruction.

This leads to confusion, frustration, and inhibits progress and sustainability. Often times a new student will get so frustrated that they cannot achieve perfection in the first lesson that they get fed up and quit.

One of the things that I emphasize in the Ultimate Athleticism Course is the idea of Marble Statue Coaching:marble statue thrower

Imagine a sculptor and his block of marble. The first course of action is to make a rough outline of the sculpture. This would be very rough cuts and chipping away to get the general shape. Next would be another pass through, this time focusing on larger details (arms, etc). Only after the more important aspects were finished would the sculptor focus on the finer details such as eyes, eyebrows, fingernails, etc.

This is the same way coaching has to work. It is important that a student not be inundated with details.

Take the deadlift for example. Imagine that a new coach came back from a teacher course and Monday morning was instructing a new potential student in how to deadlift. It would be tempting for the new coach to show how smart he is and overwhelm the new student with all of the details he’s just learned. Imagine a conversation like this where the new coach lists of the following before the new student has done one repetition of the exercise:

“Ok so here’s how you’re going to do this; first, grab the bar (squeeze it hard!) with both hands and externally rotate the arms while activating the lats and pulling the shoulders back and down into the socket. Imagine you have a logo on your chest and there is a camera in front of you, keep that logo pointed to the camera. Keep your neck long and your eyes fixed on a spot 12 feet in front of you. Pull the bar all the way close to you until it is touching your shins. Keep your shins nearly vertical. Keep your weight spread out evenly between your feet, but don’t let your weight shift forward. Take a full deep breath of air and keep your abs engaged (whatever that means). Imagine you are pushing your feet through the floor and squeeze the glutes to stand up. As you stand up think about pushing your hips forward and standing up tall. Once you get to a full standing position (up really tall) you can exhale. Hold the lockout and keep the shoulders back, the glutes tight, and the legs straight. Keep squeezing the bar and externally rotating your shoulders to engage the lats. As you bring the bar down keep it close to you so that it stays in contact with your thighs. Inhale as you bring the bar downward to keep those abs engaged. Finally once the bar touches back on the ground you can let go of the bar and relax again before repeating the process, sound good?”

You can see how this would get ultra confusing in a hurry. Some of this is very good advice, but not for the first time out. Don’t be this guy.

Instead, try using the following 3 D’s Method – Describe, Demonstrate, Debrief:

“Ok so the idea is to pick up the weight using your legs and especially glutes. Keep tall posture and go from this position (show bottom position) to this position (show top position). Any questions? Ok let’s try it.“[bctt tweet=”Marble Statue Coaching: Safe, not perfect–then practice.”]

It is crucial to give the person a chance to do it correctly and build up from there. You don’t need the details to learn a movement. You need a general idea and foundation to slowly add the more intricate details upon. You can worry about eyes, ears, and nose later, but first just pick up the damn weight and make it look safe!

Safe, not perfect–then practice.

Big picture first, details later.

Marble Statue Coaching.

Coaching Tips? Share in the comments below. 

Better every day,


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3 thoughts on “Marble Statue Coaching

  • David Breeze

    Thanks for writing and posting this article Max.

    I’m a Training Officer (for Digital Marketing) and even though this article is focused around fitness, I am going to use the DDD approach in my training sessions with my students.

    I have to admit that I have a tendency to fall into over-complicating most things for newbies.

  • TC

    Excellent article, Max!
    I've noticed a tendency to over-cue clients because an expectation for perfect technique. But, as you pointed out, it's much better to carve into the marble over time rather than quickly jackhammer the statue into gravel.

    Like you've said, "Better every day".

    Keep up the great work!