Jargon: Why Coaches Should Use It Then Lose It

“So what do you think?” Katie and I were on a conference call with our lawyers, because #adults. They had just laid out an everycase scenario in this conversation. It was truly satisfying, to hear how well they were covering anything. When they asked, I wasn’t quite sure what to say.

“Yea, you guys are the f*cking best!”

We all laughed; and I suspect it’s because f-bombs aren’t as common on the bar as they are under the bar.

Throughout the conversation, our lawyers often paused to explain the “legalese” in an understandable way. I appreciated the translations, and at the same I was also aware of how much I had to do my Google searching along the way. I began to wonder:

How often do I do this very same thing as a coach?

How often do fitness professionals do the very same thing?

My hunch is that we do it all the damn time, and we’re not even aware of it.  I’ve been practicing the translating process from the moment I began training, but that’s not saying much: I told one of my first clients to create femoroacetabular external rotation while squatting. You can only get better from there, right?

One of the best coaching role models I’ve had at MFF is Brian Patrick Murphy. BPM is as unencumbered by scientific snottery as they come, and on occasion flat-out tells Ninjas that he doesn’t know or care about the nerdy stuff.

Ninjas, he’s absolutely lying to you.

Brian absolutely knows what he’s talking about, yet he models for us the priority of action. We feel the most successful when we can learn and apply what we know into movement.

I’d love to share with you a simple self-feedback system that I use when coaching that can tell me in the moment if a cue is appropriate or not. Answering this simple question can be a powerful tool. Here it is:

Did they stop moving?

Remember, the whole point of exercise is to move.  If we’re not moving, we’re not exercising. When that happens, we’re awkwardly standing in a room together, and someone is thinking, “What the hell did they just say to me?” I hope that as coaches, we’re regularly asking ourselves the same question. “What the hell did I just say to them?”


The goal isn’t to distill years of education in a single sentence. The goal is to improve the performance of the next few reps.  Inspired by what I’ve seen when Brian and the rest of the MFF Team coaches, I want to create a difference between outcome-driven coaching and input-driven coaching, or what I call “acronym” coaching.


Acronym coaching is primarily done by my stereotype of a fitness professionals who like knows too much for their own good.   I’m one of these people, so trust that I’m going to poke fun at us for a second. They like acronyms, and they like jargon. We love it when people create FA ER, or femoroaccetabular external rotation, far more than we like them to “turn out at the hip,” or dare I say, “Spread the floor.”

It’s the coaches that list CSCS, FMS, CFSC, PRI, AKC, ABC, LMNOP, WGAF-TNTP behind their name on every social media account. As a reformed, and on occasion relapsing acronym coach, we can help so much more when we save our industry jargon for meetings with other trainers, and spend our coaching time actually coaching.


It’s all about prioritizing content over context. When I coach in classes at MFF, the least effective thing I can do as a coach is say something that completely stops someone. It’s not about the physical inertia, and while I’m sure sorry when I take that away from someone, it’s about the mental inertia.

One of our biggest “Oh duh!” moments of de-jargoning our coaching came from Steph Wilberding. In a training meeting, we went down the rabbit hole of what constitutes contralateral and ipsilateral loading of single leg exercises. That is, which side of your body are you adding external load to in comparison to the primary working leg.

I recall Steph simply asked, “Why don’t we just call it same side or opposite side?”



Coaches: Those are the questions we need more of! We’re best able to share our gifts when we make ourselves as easy to understand as possible. This means that once we’ve learned our technical terminology, we learn how to explain it in more clear, concise, and confidence-inspiring ways.

It means we can use our jargon when necessary, and we know that losing it can make our coaching that much more effective.

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