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Teaching the Squat

Filed under: Case Studies,Exercise Instruction,Exercise Progression,Exercise Technique,Squatting — Shon @ 2:16 pm December 6, 2011

An easy way to get a training client or patient to understand the concept of thesquat/  hip hinge is to use a couple of mini hurdles in front of the shins to provide an "environmental constraint" (motor learning speak) to movement.  Maintaining the "vertical shin" position allows more hinge action at the hips, and also lets us cue in good trunk stabilization.  Below are two examples; one unloaded as well as one with a little bit of load:

 

 

Note that I use a dowel to maintain a neutral and stable torso  while hinging at the hips.  Also note the increased box height with and Airex and Nautilus pad to decrease forward lean.  I also use the classic Westside "spread the floor-push out your knees" cueing to maximize gluteal firing posterior chain activation.  This video was taken within the first two or three minutes that the client learned the exercise. 

Below, we add some load with a more experienced (but still new) trainee.  Again, the hurdle placement proves invaluable to keep the shins vertical and knees apart:

 

In this case, this young athlete had been training with me for about three months.  The first progression was with the dowel and hurdles, progressing to bilateral kettlebells/ hurdles, and then the straight bar (with hurdles).  I have loaded her with a front squat as well; this particular day we happened to use a straight bar.

I do eventually abandon the hurdles, but if mechanics "go south" as load increases, I quickly break them out again to get form in line. 

Key Points:

1) The top of the hurdle should be to the level of the tibial tuberosity.  The tibial tuberosity is more sensitive to touch than other parts of the shin, and provides a great tactile cue for the patient/ client.

The tibial tuberosity-a great tactile cue -also hurts pretty bad when you bang it into a coffee table

2) A spotter is needed to place the hurdles when using a bar.  Note in the second video, I have someone take the hurdles away before re-racking.  Walking out a loaded bar while stepping over hurdles is a recipe for disaster along the lines of squatting on a Bosu Ball. 

3) Hurdles are generally parallel to the ASIS of the pelvis, the bar, or both.  I am a fan of symmetry, and straight line hurdles subliminally get the trainee to think "straight/ tight" with technique.

4) A box isn't always needed.  Early in the progression, the box obviously helps teach the hinge, gluteal/ hamstring activation, and proprioception/ depth.  However, like training wheels on a bike, you eventually remove this prop, as the trainee becomes more confident/ capable and comfortable with the technique and load.