I always thought having athletes back squat from day one was a mistake. I also went the other direction and had the most extensive teaching progression with multiple stations and a plethora of buzzwords only to have the athletes forget everything they were taught in the 50 minute pvc pipe marathon of a session.
I think the key to coaching large groups of athletes is to find those exercises which beginners can do correctly from the giddy-up and that they can actually get some volume in as well. Exercises like the Goblet Squat, the 1 Arm Dumbbell Snatch, and the Trap Bar Deadlift are hard to do wrong.
For the Squat, I don't think that a bodyweight teaching progression is a bad idea for some situations. It just so happens I usually had a 7-week cycle with 2 training days a week for some sports. Didn't have the luxury of an "orientation" during one of the 14 days.
Not going to get into crazy long explanations or reasoning, but this is the gist.
1. Goblet Squat
Either with a dumbbell or kettlebell. I like the dumbbell better and doing goblet squats and being able to reinforce the elbows between the knees can help the athlete. With the Kettlebell Goblet squat I either like holding the KB by the bell itself upside down with the handle at 12 and 6 o'clock. Or hold it by the horns (which most people do) but upside down with the bell resting against the sternum. Holding by the horns with the bell toward your feet forces your elbows out.
2. Front Squat
If you are coaching the clean, then this is a natural partner exercise. I do, however, feel that the weight being held in the front, helps distribute the weight forward of the C.O.G. which allows the athlete to sit back and subsequently achieve more depth. Athletes that can't get into the "catch" position to front squat should have the option to use straps or go hands free. I am not a big fan of the crossed armed (bodybuilding) version. I also like the *SS Yoke Bar™ version or using a bent or curved bar for the hands free variation.
3. Box Squat
I am a huge advocate of box squats. The arguments for which is better the front squat or box squat are so incredibly silly to me. The answer is: Do both.
The box squat for athletes may be taught and executed a little differently than the traditional WSBB technique for powerlifting. The benefits of doing box squats have been mentioned a gazillion times before. But we always have the Squat Box set up slightly below parallel. The benefit of separating the concentric and eccentric contractions helps the athlete start the concentric part of the lifts in a better position, develops explosive power, but also assists with recovery. The last reason is why I would always have athletes squat on a box during the season.
4. Back Squat
Most coaches just call this a squat unless you are using multiple variations with bar placement. The Back squat is going to be your best option when testing athletes and more importantly develop strength and hypertrophy for athletes for the simple fact the athlete will be able to handle more weight with proper form..
5. Accommodating Resistance
I may be in the minority, but using accommodating resistance for beginners can be a tremendous tool for not only teaching the squat but developing strength. This is a separate topic all together and an article I've wanted to write for the last 2 years.
I often hear that accommodating resistance is not appropriate for beginners and I can't disagree more. Yes I realize that is is not advisable to add band resistance or an athlete that bench presses 95 pounds. But there are some positives for using bands and chains.
1.) With the load being lighter at the bottom of the movement, this allows for a the athletes to be comfortable at the most precarious position of the lift, especially for the squat. This adds confidence for lifters who have apprehensions about getting depth. Squat depth is almost always the biggest technique discrepancy.
2.) Bands and chains can assist with alleviate soreness. Beginning lifters will get discouraged from DOMS after lifts. The weight being lighter off the chest or at the bottom of the lift can reduce soreness because the load is less at the pre-stretch position.
3.) The obvious benefit is the bands or chains forces the lifter to continue to strain during the entire repetition. More motor recruitment for the same amount of reps can benefit beginners immensely.
4.) Bands especially will force the lifter to "get tight" at the set-up. Bands can give the lifter a false sense of stability because they force the lifter down more than gravity. This can help a lifter set-up in a tight position which will carryover with max attempts.
Squat Technique Discrepancies
A good portion of the first-year athletes at the college level cannot execute a proper parallel squat. If an athlete has trouble squatting to parallel, it is the strength coach's job to make sure the athlete 1.) knows what a parallel squat is and 2.) what it feels like to execute it properly.
An athlete’s ability to perform a parallel bodyweight squat may be the most telling task he/she can perform. A parallel squat is not only the most effective exercise to develop lower body power; it can also be the most efficient way to identify weak or tight muscle groups as an assessment tool.
Something I added when I was a S&C Coach:
Athletes unable to squat parallel because of postural alignment or lack of experience will be labeled as a PUTS athlete. PUTS stands for Physically Unable To Squat. These athletes will be given alternative exercises additional commitments and extended teaching progressions to address these technique and postural discrepancies.
Regardless of the specific type of squat you institute, all variations should be performed slightly below parallel if you are a college athlete. There are 5 distinct benefits for having athletes squat parallel:
WHY EVERY ATHLETE SHOULD SQUAT PARALLEL (OR BELOW)
POSTERIOR CHAIN DEVELOPMENT
- The Glutes and Hamstrings are not fully engaged until the athlete attains a parallel position.
- The Glutes play a significant role in hip extension during running and jumping.
- Not squatting parallel can place overemphasis on the quads and de-emphasize the role of the hamstrings
- Squatting parallel develops the stabilizing muscles of the knee more efficiently
- Squatting parallel enhances strength at a greater range of motion
- Squatting parallel helps minimize the gap between quad to hamstring strength ratio
LEAN BODY MASS GAIN
- Squatting to parallel means a greater range of motion, thus increasing the:
–Motor units and muscles fibers being recruited
–Time under tension, which increases total work done within the same rep
–Joint Angle, which enhances the stretch reflex and connective tissue strength
- Squatting to parallel can increase the athlete’s functional flexibility
- Squatting to parallel helps the athletes become more “comfortable” and confident when bending his/her knees in sport
- Squatting to parallel addresses some problems of “playing low” and enables the athlete to change direction more efficiently
- Squatting with a limited range of motion will increase the weight lifted by the athlete.
–This in turn, will greatly increase the axial load on the spine
–This will also place much more stress on the knee due to the limited degree of flexion
Remedial Squats for PUTS
I used to start with this bodyweight progression, but like I said before, opted for the above progression. But, if you are working with young athletes or have some that are Physically Unable to Squat; then these may help.
1. Assisted Squat
Grab onto straps or a rack to allow the athlete to sit back farther and lower. They can even readjust their feet at the bottom. Still reinforce good posture at the bottom.
2. Bottom-Up Box Squat
Start the athlete by sitting on the box. Have them get into a perfect squat position with great posture while sitting on the box. Then have them stand up. Eliminate the eccentric portion (where more issues start).
3. Wall Facing Squat
This is a great drill to get the athlete to push their knees out, and keep everything back behind their toes. You can adjust by moving the athlete closer to the wall each rep.
4. Stick Squat
Free squat with the arms straight out like they are driving a steering wheel. Place the stick high on the delts and squat. Keeping the hands above the shoulders (especially at the bottom) will help reinforce good posture.
5. Weighted Deload Squat
I got this from JL and Nic Bronkall. Start in a bottom squat where you hold a small plate in front like a steering wheel. The plate will be resting on a squat box. the athlete will then release their hands from the plate and stand up. This works a lot the assisted squat drill.
- Pin 2 x6
- Pin 3 x15
Fat Bar Bench Press
- 305 x5
Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
- Grip 2 x5
- Grip 0 x5
- Grip 1 x5
Log Clean & Press (1st rep Viper Press)
- 170 x10
- 170 x8
- 170 x6
- 170 x4
- 170 x2