you have already gotten some great advice. I only teach MELT classes which is a format in which I do not participate but only cue.
At the beginning of the class, I ask people if they will give me permission to touch them if I feel they need correction. They response has always been “Please Do” because people are usually eager to get things right, and the subtle movements in MELT can rarely be ‘shown’ because they just don’t do that so well.
You’ve received some great advice already. We all learn differently, so there is no perfect way to correct form. Here are some of the things that I do, that may or may not work for your situation. For me personally, I like take a few minutes of class time to educate, which reduces (but will never eliminate) my need for corrections later. If I have time, I do 1 and 1.5. If I don’t have time, what seems to work best for me is to demonstrate for about the first half of the time that we’re doing the exercise so my visual learners can get it, then I coach verbally and with touch as my second and third lines of communication.
1) If there’s a particular movement that your students tend to have trouble with, take some time to go over it during your warm-up or right before class.
1.5) My preference for doing this is to allow members to observe themselves in a mirror and self-correct. So, for example, I might have people do a standing side lunge and then I’ll talk through each body segment and where it should be in relation to the others.
2) Verbal corrections first, drawing attention to my own form and addressing the class generally.
3) My weight training classes tend to be 25 people or fewer and I know them, so my next verbal correction would use a name to draw attention and then a short correction from the front of the room – “Nancy, shoulders down and back.”
4) For people that don’t learn well by listening, the next individual cue I would make would be to do correction one on one but instead of touching the client, I’d have the client control whether they touch me or not. For example, if I have a client whose knees are going far forward of their toes in a squat, I’d put my hand at knee height and about an inch behind the front of their toe. Then I’d say, “Don’t touch my hand,” which will make them drop their hips back. If they can’t figure out how to not touch me (most people figure it out on their second rep after they bang into my hand on the first rep), then I’d give the next cue, “Put your hips back so you knee doesn’t touch my hand.” If they over-correct so that now they’re not moving their ankle, I’ll give one more cue – “OK, knee is good. Now, keep the hips back there, but bring the shins just a little forward. It’s like skiing, you have to flex your shins into your boots but keep your hips back.”
5) I touch clients in my weight training classes. As a personal trainer and a yoga instructor, it’s in my scope of practice and I’m comfortable doing it. Here’s the catch. I almost never touch anyone I don’t know; I’ll only touch a new person if what they’re doing will injure them and verbal cuing has failed. Even when I do know them, I will make sure that they can see me coming so my touch is not a surprise. And then I tell them what I’m going to touch.
These are all great answers, and get to the heart of the matter: you must demonstrate and explain, and provide individual help as needed.
I don’t think there is one best way, as different people will learn differently. Part of what makes a seasoned instructor is the ability to be doing them all, seamlessly, and as needed in response to what he or she sees going on in the class. It is silly to cue ‘drop shoulders’ if everyone’s shoulders are dropped, and good to cue ‘exhale’ if everyone is straining against a weight.
Do be particularly aware if you have older students: their hearing is not always great, especially if a fan and the music are both going. Also their eyesight is not always perfect. And of course, for those who did not do this sort of thing when younger the neuromuscular pathways are not highly engrained. I often will move toward an area of the room and demonstrate closer to someone who seems to need it.
It is also important to use skill in communicating. Some people are touchy that they might be doing something wrong…. If I know someone is like that I demonstrate and talk about form while looking elsewhere, and then nod and smile at them if I see them get it.
In other words, remember that cuing is to a large extent about good communication, and half of communication is listening.
It depends on the situation. In bootcamp we correct verbally and always use concise clear instructions: If the person doesn’t “get it” I will go up to them and show them what I mean.
To me it’s essential that proper form is executed, otherwise why bother?
With my personal training clients I always explain prior to doing anything new and will do it along side them if need be.
I correct them with queuing and if necessary I will do as many reps as needed alongside them until they understand the form and they execute it correctly. If they have hard time understanding the exercise, then I do as Christine does…take them aside after the class and help them perfect the exercise/movement.