Correcting Squat Technique

correcting squatI had a very good email question from a young man last week.  He was incorporating the core lift, squat, into his lifting routine, but was having a difficult time maintaining an athletic posture and going down past parallel.  He was a big man, over 6’ 3” tall.   It is not uncommon for a big person to have these difficulties and usually they can be corrected.  Tall people are at a bio-mechanical disadvantage when it comes to lifting weights.  They have long levers, and have to move the weight a greater distance than a small, squatty body person.  That is why it is important not to get caught up in the amount of weight that is being lifted, but rather correct technique and moving the weight through the full range of motion.

The root of this problem (not being able to go through the full range of motion) could be a number of reasons.  It may be a lack of strength in the supporting trunk or hip girdle, or lack of flexibility in the hip girdle.  Often we find that it is just having the kinesthetic awareness, of knowing what it feels like to correctly go through this motion; having correct posture, with head up and shoulders back and sitting back with their feet flat on the floor until their hips are below their knees.  Sometimes when they actually feel what the correct motion is, they “get it”.

Here is a progression, with accompanying video that we use for our athletes that are having these problems.  It will help develop strength, flexibility, and also give them a better kinesthetic awareness regarding correct body position.

Step 1 – Assisted Squat.

We have the student- athletes begin by doing sets of 8-10 reps with no weight or bar.  We position them in the rack, grabbing the rack on each side with their hands slightly below their waist.   They begin the squat , keeping good posture, shoulders back, big chest, assisting themselves by balancing and pulling slightly with the hands.  We have the athletes continue this until they get a feel for the correct depth and full range of motion.  This will also help with flexibility and strength.

Step 2 – Air Squats

Next, we progress to sets of “air squats” with no bar and their hands in front, again working on balance and flexibility.

Step 3 – Simulated Bar Squats

The next step is to do “air squats” with no bar, but the hands positioned outside of their shoulders where a bar would be.  There can be a difference in balance from the preceding set,  since the center of gravity has changed due to their hand and arm position.

Step 4 – Squats with the bar only.

Next, we progress the athletes to just doing sets with the bar only racked correctly across the back.  The athlete should concentrate on posture, shoulders back, head up, feet flat, and not bending at the waist.

Step 5 – Begin adding weight.

When the athletes have mastered all of these steps, then (and only then) do we allow them to begin adding weight to the bar. We continue to stress correct form and full range of motion rather than the amount of weight they are doing.

Below is the video that demonstrates each of these 5 steps:

Using this progression, we have been able to improve the technique and range of motion of our athletes that were having difficulties with technique and form.  A full description of the Core Lift Squat along with telestrated video can be found in this post – The Core Lifts – Squat

Tomorrow I will have some data for you regarding lb/lb ratios of our student-athletes

If you have any questions, just comment or email… either way, I will answer you!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

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New and Improved Video

squatThanks to my colleague, Amy Temples, for a suggestion to improve the telestrated video.  She thought it would be helpful to see the “good” points in green text, and the “not so good” points in red text.   I also added a grey masked window behind the text to make it a little easier to read.  Keep in my you can also pause the video if you need more time looking at any particular frame.  I will update the Bench Press video that I have already posted, and use this same technique when I post the Push Press and Hang Clean videos the next few days.

I hope this helps – Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments.  Leave them here or send me an email

Jeff Foyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

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 – youcandomore1@yahoo.com