Coaching The Squat - Part 1

Coaching the squat Welcome to the first blog in a 3 part series ‘Coaching the Squat, deadlift and bench press.'

These are known as the big 3 and are a staple in most PTS programming, but with there being so much debate on correct form and set up, we thought we would introduce a guide on how to teach CORRECT form and SET UP for all 3. The aim of this blog is to give you the confidence that you are coaching correctly, using the correct cues, and you clients can get progress safely without getting injured (Your number one goal as a PT – Don’t injure your clients). *** The blog material is heavily influenced by Jim Smith and Joe De Franco (Barbell Training Essentials) and what we learned a part of the CPPS program and what we now deliver on our FFTAcademy PT courses. So we are going kick off with the KING of compound exercises – THE SQUAT.

***If you have attended one of our courses, you will have heard us say ‘The barbell back squat is the last place you go, based on client mobility, stability and movement potential. Start with bodyweight squat, wall squat, goblet squat, box squat, front rack squat and then barbell back squat’ You may find the your clients are also better suited due to the aforementioned to single leg squats such as split squats, Bulgarian squats, pistols squats etc The client has to EARN THE RIGHT to barbell back squat because if they cannot perform a bodyweight squat proficiently, and you are seeing breakdown of movement or position, then you have no right ADDING LOAD to a DYSFUNCTIONAL MOMEMENT PATTERN. This is clearly a subject for another blog post when we will cover ‘how to trouble shoot the squat’, for the purpose of this blog we will assume your client is ready to back squat.

Grip on the bar The grip on the bar is often overlooked, but this is essential in generating tightness in the upper body. The tension, generated by an almost ‘death like grip’ on the bar, is spread across the arms, shoulders and upper back.

The hands should be placed roughly on the knurling of the bar and as you then pull yourself under the bar (imagine performing a lat pulldown) it should be sitting across the mid-to-upper traps. A common fault is the bar being placed too high, usually on C7, which is very uncomfortable and makes it very difficult to pull yourself into the bar and create required upper body tension.

As you can see from the picture it has created a crease at the neck which does not allow for an optimal brace or neck position and it makes it very difficult to create optimal lat tension and elbow position.

As you can see the bar is lower, sitting across my upper trapezes, and not resting on any bony landmark of the spine (which means you don't need to ask for 'The Pad').

Elbow position

With the head in neutral and looking forward, pull your hands in toward your shoulders to create tension and tightness in the upper back.

Once the hands are locked on the bar and pulled in to create as much tension in the upper back as possible, screw in your elbows and drive them towards the ground to set a ‘chest up’ torso position.

Un-racking the bar Once the body position is set and locked in place, feet are directly under the bar, a deep diaphragmatic breath is taken and a full exhale is performed to the rib cage down into neutral position to match the straight alignment of the torso. The goal should always be to gain optimal alignment of the diaphragm and pelvic floor Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) occurs when the diaphragm and pelvic floor are in parallel alignment. If you allow the rib cage to flare you will lose IAP which is to the detriment of core stability and strength.

As you can see here IAP has not been created and the start posting is in anterior pelvic tilt with a slight rib flare.

If the client starts a squat in a bad position, for example, over-arching, they will be in a bad position throughout the entire lift.

If the hips are forced into anterior pelvic tilt (APT) the client will not be able to achieve optimal bracing and core stability, will cause you to fall forward as they descend into the squat and cause ‘butt wink’ at the bottom of the squat.

Cueing the correct start position is key in developing strength and technique when barbell squatting so be patient and regress if needed. Remember to go back to your WALL SQUAT TEST that we discussed in the previous blog (LINK) and also take time developing bracing and core stabilisation with exercises such as Dead Bugs, Pallor Press and SB Rollouts or Stir The Pot.

Look out for Coaching The Squat - Part 2 when we discuss foot position the descent and squat depth. If you would like to learn how to Coach the Squat and Deadlift, we are holding the "Big 3 Seminar Series" at Fitness Factory Training Academy starting in September 2017

If you would like a spot on the next seminar, please email us to book your place

Also check get in touch for more details on our Personal Training Courses this summer.

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