The Core Lifts – Squat

squatThe second in our series of “Core” lifts that are part of our weekly workout (see previous post A Weekly (not weakly!) workout) is the Squat (back squat) .  The Squat is considered a power lift, and primarily works the Quads, Hamstrings, and Gluteals.

When we begin teaching the squat, we start with each athlete doing a set of “air squats” simulating holding a bar on their back.   If they need help balancing, we have them put their hands in front or hold on to the rack to assist them.  We progress to a set using just the bar before we begin adding any weight.

The lifter will place the bar on their back, positioned on the natural platform across the flexed traps and delts.  Care needs to be taken not to place the bar on the neck (this will force the head down and hips out) or too far down the back (this is difficult to hold with much weight on the bar).

We ask both our lifter and spotter to go through this mental “checklist” when they get under the bar, prior to beginning the lift:

  • Base – Athletic stance feet should be shoulder width apart, maybe slightly wider.  Toes pointed straight ahead, maybe out slightly
  • Spread your chest – pinch the shoulder blades together in back- arch in your back
  • Posture – Stand Tall –“Pop” your butt out
  • √ “Eyes on the Red” – Head up (we have a red stripe around the top of our weight room wall)
  • Feet flat – heels down
  • Full range of motion – Go down until your hips are below your knees

If the spotter notices any of the marks missing, they help communicate (as do the coaches) to the athlete.

A good resource that comes from the BFS, Bigger, Faster, Stronger, is a poster detailing what they call their 6 Absolutes. 

When starting the descent, the athlete will sit down, reaching back with their bottom, as if they were sitting down on a chair.  The descent should be made at a controlled speed, stopping when the hips are slightly below the knees, or the thighs slightly below parallel to the ground.  During the ascent we coach the athlete to lead with their head and chest, keeping their head up and shoulders back.  The hips should remain tucked, with a slight arch in the back.  The athlete should “push through the floor” with their entire foot, keeping their heels in contact with the ground.

The spotter should be in a position behind the lifter, attentive and ready to assist the lifter if needed by “fork lifting” up under the armpits and shoulders.

More than any other of our Core lifts, because of the “grey area” (how far to go down) we stress correct technique and full range of motion more than the amount of weight lifted.  It is only when the athlete goes down to a position where their hips are below their knees that the Hamstrings and Gluteals are engaged.  When determining whether the athlete “breaks” ( see previous post Breaking-it’s a good thing) or not on their heavy squat day, they must complete all of the sets, and all of the reps, going through the full range of motion and using correct technique.

The following short video shows six different athletes executing a back Squat.  There are two that are fairly close to perfect, and 4 that highlight various errors in technique.  I have inserted some telestrator illustrations on the video that breakdown each lifters technique

Any questions – just comment or email

Jeff Floyd –

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