Squat Better – 3 Things To Think About

8 May

Are you having trouble with the squat? Maybe you’re pitching forward, not making progress, having all sorts of joint pain? I feel you, I’ve been there.

The squat is an awesome lift. It’s also a lift where things can go wrong in a hurry. The thing about squatting is this, you have to go down and up, and unlike the bench press, you don’t have a giant padded bench to support you. With that in mind the descent becomes a huge decider as to the outcome of the lift.

Here are three things to consider before dropping like it’s hot:

1. Where’s the pressure?

Strive for neutral, with the foot rotated out slightly. Avoid excessive supination.

If you want to be successful, start treating the squat as an exercise is spreading, not in sitting. I like to tell people the knees go out to get down, the knees go out to get up. The old adage to sit back like you’re sitting in a chair is crap in my opinion. With that in mind, make sure you have pressure on the outside of your heels before descending. I’m careful to say heels, and not feet. Too often cueing outward pressure on the feet leads people to roll over and lose contact with the ground from just below the big toe. While you don’t want to squat on your toes, you do want to try and keep them down to ensure balance and control through the movement.

2. Brace yourself!

I like belts. Belts teach people how to brace, they don’t have to be so tight that you can’t breathe either. Weak abs, and /or a lack of intra-abdominal pressure will send your squat into no man’s land.  So how do we fix this? For starters, learn how to brace. Using a belt is a nice start, but eventually you want to limit belt use to higher percentage lifts. Outside of a physical aid, practice is always a great option. Practice bracing, every rep, every set. Additionally, utilize exercises that teach and train proper bracing: pallof press variations, planks, and anti-extension exercises such as rollouts, body saws, and push ups are a good place to start

3. Think back…

This is not a great position to be in when carrying hundreds of pounds on your back…

I mean this in a few ways. One, as soon as you release to descend already be thinking about driving back into the bar with your shoulders. Doing so will send the hips where they need to go, and applying # 1 and # 2 along side will keep you balanced. Second, think about driving your upper back into the bar, not your head. “Head back” is a fine cue if the person is on the same page as you. By this I mean they relate “head back” to keeping the neck packed and then actually driving the entire shoulder girdle into the bar. If they aren’t on the same page, they will most likely relate “head back” to lifting the chin, and this will only make it harder to maintain stiffness through the upper back / shoulder girdle (and keep a neutral spine).

Mike Robertson lays it down nicely here: Coaching Neutral Neck

Take these 3 ideas with you to your next squat session and say goodbye to coming forward, stagnant numbers, and nagging joint pain!

For more on the squat check these past posts!

Approaching The Bar Part II

Low Bar Back Squat Trouble Shooting


2 Responses to “Squat Better – 3 Things To Think About”


  1. Saturday Good Reads: Edition 2 | LaVack Fitness - May 13, 2012

    […] We Tend to “Glib” About Our Weaknesses – Matt Siniscalchi To Cue or Not to Cue – Craig Liebenson Squat Better – 3 Things To Think About – Greg Robins […]

  2. 3 Strategies For Squatting With Cranky Knees « Greg Robins - May 28, 2012

    […] into a back squat and allow your hips to do more. I have done a couple posts on squat technique: here and here. In the same frame, minimize or scrap more quad dominant squat variations (mainly front […]

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