Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teaching the Squat: My Philosophy

The squat is fundamental to physical health and athletic development. Load the kinetic chain of the lower extremity in a balanced, efficient manner; then unload. Create a base of support (BoS), control your center of mass (CoM) through a range of motion. In the process, you train awareness, alignment, mobility, strength, power, strength endurance, power endurance—whatever you need.

I probably teach the squat a bit differently than many of my rehab and athletic development colleagues. My squat instruction is based upon a weightlifting squat, not a powerlifting squat or a wall sit. All single leg and other squat variations (speed, pause, partial) and hex or straight bar deadlifts flow from this movement. Remember, we are training a whole body movement pattern, not any one muscle group.

The body moves down and the torso stays tall, parallel with the shin. The knee must go over the toe and there is an emphasis on feeling the full foot pressing against the floor, not just the heel. The foot is balanced and the center of pressure about the foot is dynamic throughout the movement. The athlete learns to feel and control the balance. For me and for weightlifters, the squat is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We only need to squat loads that prepare us for our life and sport task. The focus is on quality of movement and the context the squat has in the current training plan.


1. Start tall, bar on upper traps. About shoulder width, toes out slightly.

2. Shoes are a must. Weightlifting shoes are preferred.

3. Head is neutral. Eyes slightly down

4. Grip the bar with thumb around the bar; no wide grip.

5. Initiate lowering the body with ankle and knee flexion, balance then with hip flexion.

6. Push knees out on descent and ascent.

7. Feel the floor with your entire foot as you lower body. Stay balanced.

8. Keep a neutral, stable spine. No need to hyperextend or over-contract back extensors.

9. Feel hips, thighs, ankles and feet work as you push yourself back up.

10. Control down, strong up. Bring hips over knees, don’t pull knees back under hips.

11. Finish tall with hips under shoulders. Avoid excessive hip forward thrust.

12. Depth is individual and varies with mobility, body type and possibly experience. The goal is below parallel.

Below are two videos. The first shows a novice weightlifter--a high school junior--squatting at the end of a weightlifting training session. The second video is of two elite Chinese weightlifters training at The Arnold Weightlifting Championships. Same movement styles. Up and down with focus.

1 comment:

Kevin Moody said...


Great post. I am going to share this with some of the sport coaches that work with their teams in the weight room. They can certainly benefit from this information.

Kevin Moody