Squat Habits for Success

TAGS: Jordan Shallow, squat

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“Everyone can squat.”

If there is a single statement in the fitness industry that makes my blood boil, it’s this one. More than “muscle confusion,” “yeet,” and “gymshark” combined.

Squatting is a craft, a skill, and an art form, and only purists to the barbell give this art form the respect it deserves.

When teaching the squat, we need to have the utmost respect for the movement and its potential. In doing so, we need to raise the barrier of entry to this movement by setting forth more rigid prerequisites prior to introducing the complexities of the squatting pattern.


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Simply put, if you’re attempting to teach a squat and you’re having to constantly cue “knees out” or “chest up,” that lifter isn’t ready for a squat. Period.

When we get to the squat, our efforts should be left to higher-order cues, which will yield greater improvements in technique and ultimately more weight on the bar. Unfortunately, most people never get past the remedial cues of “knees out” and “chest up,” and their squats never reach their true potential.

One of the higher-order cues that should be a standard issue in squat teaching is to keep the xiphoid process in proximity to the pubic symphysis.

I know what you’re thinking:

“That sounds complicated.”

To that, I say: “THAT’S THE POINT”

Platz, Hatfield, and Coan were savants, technicians, and artists.

Let’s unpack this simple, not-so-simple cue.

The xiphoid process is an extension of the bottom of your sternum, and your pubic symphysis is where your pelvis joins in the midline of the front of your body.

Now, these two points are going to give us a visual representation of how our lifters can control the position of the lumbar spine, which is the cornerstone of any great squatter’s technique.

If that xiphoid begins to move in relation to the position of the symphysis, this will be an indicator that our lifter is undergoing an excess extension of the lumbar spine, is losing core stability, and is sacrificing his or her position.

This change in the position of the xiphoid and the symphysis usually occurs at two separate points of the lift.

1. The first part of the squat where a lifter might lose the relative position of xiphoid and symphysis is on the initial inhalation. An excessive breath into the rib cage rather than the diaphragm will lead to the initial hyperextension of the lumbar spine, and the lifter has lost the position before the lift has even started.

Many intermediate squatters can be led down a long road of chasing red herrings of technique breakdowns in the hole, all from not knowing how to control their breathing as well as control the position of the xiphoid and symphysis.

2. The second part of the squat where the lifter might lose the relative position of the xiphoid and symphysis is as he or she approaches the hole. The cue “sit back” usually involves lifters just haphazardly pushing the pelvis back, anteriorly tilting, and, by extension, losing the stability of the lumbar spine.

There is a lot that goes into the artful instruction of the squat, and no single article will be the one-size-fits-all answer to cueing for the perfect squat. However, we need to understand that just because we are teaching beginners, we owe it to them to teach them like the pros. When we teach beginners like beginners, they will stay beginners.

You owe it to the sanctity of the barbell to begin to recognize the complexities of these movements and to implement cues and strategies to make every beginner a potential world-record holder.

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