Coaching The Squat - Part 2

Coaching The Squat

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. In part 1 of coaching the squat we focused on the correct bar set up and the importance of finding your best start position in terms of alignment and bracing. Now we are ready to squat!

Walking the bar out Continuing to hold the brace, refer to part 1, the client should take one step back and set optimal squat stance position (This will differ for each individual client based on mobility). The client should not shuffle and avoid looking down at the feet as this will affect the tension that has been created. This important attention to detail will maximise efficiency and minimise energy expenditure by the client before the set begins. Setting the Lats To set a neutral position of the torso before sliding the hips back slightly into the hip hinge, the client should be cued to ‘get tall’ and not ‘arch hard’. Another very effective teaching tool that provides tactile feedback is to place a dowel rod on the clients back when they are drilling bodyweight squats, wall squats and hip hinge drills. Finally, to fully utilise the locked torso position, cue the client to drive the elbows downward toward the ground, and teach tightness in the upper back by performing band-resisted lat pulldown ISO holds while squatting on a box.

Get tight before the first rep

Once the final position is set, a third deep diaphragmatic breath is taken without losing the neutral alignment of the torso or allowing the lower rib to flare upward and outward. This deep breath is followed by a powerful isometric brace of the torso and ‘chest up’ position is locked into place by driving the elbows downward toward the ground.

Loading into the squat

Before shifting back into a hip hinge, the client needs to create tension in the lower body and torque at the hips by driving the feet outwards away from the midline of the body. As a guide the feet should be shoulder width apart, and feet need to be screwed into the floor, as if spreading the floor apart. This will externally rotate the femur and create torque through the hips which will minimise valgus collapse, and reduce energy leaked from the squat.

A great teaching point is to tell your client imagine you are trying to rip two sheets of paper with your feet or screw jam jar lids into the floor. This simple action will create torque and tension in the entire lower body and set the femur in the correct position, helping to avoid values collapse and ensuring the knee tracks the toe throughout the squat. As the client slides the hips back to start the descent, focus on THREE SIMPLE cues; Hips back, chest up, and knees out.

Yes i pulled out the baby picture!

Do not overcomplicate or overload your teaching points as this will just confuse your client and leave them frustrated.

As aforementioned, the cue ‘drive the knees out’ is used to counteract valgus collapse during the descent or drive phase of the squat – which is typically facilitated by poor technique, tight adductors, lack of control and poor glute strength/function.

The goal is to have the foot, shin and femur aligned throughout the lift without overcompensation.

To keep the chest up, as mentioned earlier, the client should drive their elbows downward toward the ground. If the elbows float backwards, the client will lose tension, and their head and torso will shift forward and translate the load over the quads and toes.

Elbows flared not allowing for sufficient tension through the lats and around the spine

Elbows down towards ground creating tension and start position

Achieving a good level of ankle mobility in the ankles, knees, hips, and upper back, while loading back into the hip hinge, will further promote the required upright posture. The drive phase During the eccentric phase of the squat , the client will only lower as far as they can maintain good position. If form breaks or they lose neutral spine position, the client should be cued to drive back to lockout and repeat through a safer ROM.

Another common error when strain the squat is not initiating the movement with a hip hinge and sliding the hips back. This helps load the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) and stops the client squatting through the knees.

Clients who suffer knee pain during a squat, in my experience, are not squatting correctly and load the knee first which means you squat 'through the knee and not the hips'. In our earlier blog 'Are your clients ready to squat' we emphasised this important point and used the 'wall squat test' to reinforce the correct loading and decent of the squat. 'What gets loaded fist gets loaded maximally'

***Squat depth is dependent on individual mobility and femur size/shape. But it is an URBAN MYTH that you should not squat past 90 degrees. Research shows that stopping at 90 degrees, with a load, is actually the highest risk of patella femoral syndrome due to the compressed forces at the knee.

If you have the mobility and stability go lower.

If you don’t, regress.

'Never add load to a dysfunctional movement' Squat to a box until you have improved your mobility and stability and don't be afraid to teach the squat from the box up.

Box squatting is a safe way to teaching the descent of the squat and will ensure correct hip, knee and torso position without placing stress on the lower back and knees and is also a great way to build strength and confidence around the barbell squat.

Through the entire movement, the client should maintain a powerful brace and ‘hold their air’, to ensure optimal control, stability and position until driven out of the body position by leading with the chest and completing the movement by returning to the start position. So we hope you found that useful and can take away elements that you can apply to your coaching but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch. Feel free to go back to the previous blogs and piece everything together and happy coaching :)

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.

Recent Posts