3 Tips for Better Squats

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Everyone is doing squats again.

They have become a part of most programs and that is a very good thing. Maybe it is the Crossfit influence but people are actually lifting weights and that is a good sign.

It seems like less people are worried about running in their “fat burning zone” and replacing it with actual training that might get them closer to reaching their goals.

Spend some time on social media and you will see people throwing around some impressive squats.

Squats are a great exercise for building leg strength and losing fat. They are a difficult, total body exercise and is perfect to add to a program.

I do not feel that squatting is the right choice for everyone and that people need to earn their progressions. Not everyone is going to back squat right away and some people may never get further than a goblet squat, which is perfectly acceptable.

There are a lot of coaching cues out there that are taught to people that do not have a full understanding of the squat. One is “knees out”, which is an effective cue for people who have knees that cave in when they squat.

The only problem is that most people take this too far and think that it is going to solve everything. Depth not low enough? Knees out. Chest too far forward? Knees out. It is not one size fits all.

Some tips for better squats are as follows.

  1. Choose the right progression

A good squat progression is goblet (kettlebell) squat, 2 kb front squat, barbell front squat, and back squat. This means that a lot of people would take a minimum of 4 months to get to a back squat. Most cases should be longer but some can be shorter as well.

2 kb front squat

The right variation depends on the individual and not everyone should go for the gusto on day 1. The back squat is an advanced movement and it can wait a little while.

Giving it time also gives shortens the learning curve. Someone that becomes proficient in the other variations will be set up for back squat success.

  1. Improve your deadlift

We have found that the inclusion of the hex bar deadlift has done wonders for the back squat. The back squat requires the hips to sit back, needing good hamstring and glute strength. Without a strong posterior, the squats are quad dominant and high, two qualities that make for notoriously ugly squats.

Building a good set of glutes and hamstrings provides the person with the ability to manage the weight on the bar. It also teaches the hip hinge, which we will get to.

While someone is grooving the squat pattern with a front squat, we can develop the lower body to accept force with deadlifts. In some cases of poor back squatters we have made these two changes for a few months and it did wonders for the back squat.

All of the sudden people that could barely sit into a squat were now crushing the lift.

  1. Lead with the hips

Most people are quad dominant. This is athletes to the everyday adult. Our quads are stronger than everything else and the body relies on them.

Squats that start with the quads are an issue. This happens when the squat starts with the knees shooting forward and the heels will often come up as a result.

Depth is hard to hit from that start and the posterior chain is getting nothing from the exercise.

The squat should start from the hips. We start by pushing the hips back and then dropping the hips between the legs.

This way we can achieve proper depth and get the most amount of muscle involvement. Activating more muscles will mean more weight and a better overall squat pattern. It will also reduce the risk of injury and pain.

These 3 tips are good for people that are new or struggling with the squat. Without these first 3 ideas all other cues and tips are meaningless.

We can try to coach technique from sun up to sun down, but the person will still struggle with the squat if they do not have good posterior strength.

Choose the right variation, start deadlifting, and make sure the back squat encompasses the hips if you want to be a successful squatter.