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Teaching the Squat?

I, myself am just a beginner. However, I have a decent grasp of training from the articles and vids I looked up online. So I decided to start my buddy, a newbie, on the starting strength routine. We started off foam rolling and doing some basic warmups. Afterward I introduced him to the basic front squat, but his form was horrible, his heels come out of the floor and his back was rounded.

I then decided to make him stretch out his hip flexors and perform some over head squats, still his form failed immediately. I even tried make him do the wall squat, he could only go down to about a 1/2 position.

Any idea on how to teach the squat? especially the idea of neutral spine? I’ve tried to make him push his ass out, but his lumbar spine still remained somewhat flexed.

Teaching neutral spine, for some reason, is really difficult to some people, and others grasp it right away. I’m not sure what it is. About the only way I’ve done it make them practice with no weight, no barbells, no nothing. Just do freestanding squats and coach them up to get it right.

As far as him pushing off his toes…you can try putting 5 or 10 lb. plates under his heels and really make him focus on pushing off his heels instead of his toes. I’ve found most people push off their toes because they’re not flexible enough to squat properly and therefore lean too far forward.

One way to correct that is to have him stand facing a wall about a foot away. Have him perform a squat. If he can do it without falling, have him get a couple of inches closer to the wall and perform another squat. Continue this until he can stand with his toes touching the wall and perform a squat without falling backwards. This will force him to not lean forward and keep the weight back on his heels.

If he just cannot do that, start him out with just squatting down like he’s gonna take a dump out in the woods. Make sure his weight is on his heels and he gets comfortable in that position.

I have this problem a lot with some of my younger clients and one of the fastest ways, I’ve found for teaching the squat is to just have them sit down and back onto a bench and then stand back up. Start with body weight only and then they can start holding a weight plate in front at their chest. Tell them to stay tense and not to simply “drop down to the bench” and when their form looks good, take away the bench.

If they cannot squat to the bench with good form after a few times even with their body weight only, it sounds like they could have some coordination issues.

LOL well shit guys, if an Internet Expert can’t even teach somebody how to squat, what makes you think us experienced people know any better!?

I have taught several people how to squat correctly, it was a process that takes several weeks of teaching and several months of refining, but you can’t do it if you don’t have experience yourself with good squatting technique.

Hint: it has absolutely nothing to do with foam rolling.

[quote]Mondy wrote:
I, myself am just a beginner. However, I have a decent grasp of training from the articles and vids I looked up online. So I decided to start my buddy, a newbie, on the starting strength routine. We started off foam rolling and doing some basic warmups. Afterward I introduced him to the basic front squat, but his form was horrible, his heels come out of the floor and his back was rounded.

I then decided to make him stretch out his hip flexors and perform some over head squats, still his form failed immediately. I even tried make him do the wall squat, he could only go down to about a 1/2 position.

Any idea on how to teach the squat? especially the idea of neutral spine? I’ve tried to make him push his ass out, but his lumbar spine still remained somewhat flexed.[/quote]

You gotta be careful here a little. For some people it takes time, weeks to get the movement right. Is there any chance you can film your buddy and put it on youtube or post some pics of him on the bottom position of the squat? Of course, if he’s comfortable with it.

The reason I ask is that this will be the only way for us, dwellers and lurkers of the interweebs to check, or at least suggest an educated prognosis.

However, you do have the right idea regarding stretching the hip flexors. However, the fact that he’s coming off his heels suggest he has a serious problem with dorsiflexion inflexibility. Look up at the link below and scroll all the way down to ankle orthopedic inflexibilities:

http://www.exrx.net/Kinesiology/Inflexibilities.html

The preventive/corrective exercises and stretches mentioned there are spot-on, and will help your buddy squat down. Other things you want him to do is to perform what’s called the ‘asian squat’:

[photo]20647[/photo]

Obviously he won’t be able to do it immediately, but barring some unknown knee injury, he can start working on that little by little. He will need to grab onto something at first (I prefer to grab the toes) to keep the balance. But the idea is to squat low and upright and stay there for 30 seconds, then 60 seconds, then 90 seconds. This to be done after a short warm up and before squatting. He should try with feet close together as well as with feet wide apart in a powerlift squat position.

This will help improve flexibility at the calf, ankle and lower back, right where the spine meets the hip. Once in that position, he can slightly and carefully curve his lower back forward and the back to improve his flexibility (read this, SLIGHTLY AND CAREFULLY.)

Concurrently to that (and the corrective exercises mentioned in the exrx site), he should try to sit in seiza, which will help him loosen up his hips, glutes and shins.

[photo]20649[/photo]

A word about glute stretching; make sure it’s not done immediately before squatting. That should be done on off days or after squatting, but not before. You want to make sure the glutes are fired up and ready to contract - stretching them will prevent them from doing so.

Last but not least, it takes weeks to get the body to loosen up, so tell your buddy not to get discouraged. Barring some unknown injury, he’ll get there.

The “asian” squat is what I meant by saying squat down like taking a dump in the woods. lol

[quote]Mondy wrote:
So I decided to start my buddy, a newbie, on the starting strength routine. We started off foam rolling and doing some basic warmups. Afterward I introduced him to the basic front squat[/quote]

Just to be clear, you’re tweaking the Starting Strength plan a bit, yes? Any particular reason?

He failed at the front squat, so you progressed him to a more difficult squat variation? Does not compute. What was the logic behind going to overheads?

Not sure if we’re thinking about the same exercise. Are you talking about:

A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31z5DR9P1kw

B: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIBYqM9xHA0

or C: http://backandneck.about.com/od/deskexercises/ht/wallsquat.htm

Call me boring, but did you try having him do an old fashioned, bodyweight-only squat? If he can’t get a dozen or so reps with good technique (if his heels come up [which could be as simple as a stance width issue], he can’t hit the depth [could be flexibility, could be a hundred things], etc.), he probably shouldn’t jump under the barbell with another admitted beginner teaching him.

Your intentions are great, but the implementation is off. You’re asking us to tell you how to tell him to train right. It’s a telephone game that’s bound for confusion. Have him consider picking up a session with trainer at your gym, or better, the two of you both do a session with someone.

But I don’t want you chipping in your two cents during that session too often. More like, after the group session, you can refer back to what the trainer was saying. “Jimmy, it’s like when the trainer told you to do this, do it this way.” Make sense?

What type of ROM does he have in an unloaded, bodyweight only Romanian deadlift/good morning/toe touch?

I’d use manual reinforcement. Have your fingertips on his lower back and verbally cue him to straighten out when he starts to flex there. Remind him to keep the shoulderblades back and “high” towards the ceiling behind him.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
Mondy wrote:
So I decided to start my buddy, a newbie, on the starting strength routine. We started off foam rolling and doing some basic warmups. Afterward I introduced him to the basic front squat

Just to be clear, you’re tweaking the Starting Strength plan a bit, yes? Any particular reason?
I’m tweaking it because he lacks the form to perform the squat and deadlift properly. His lower back rounds, does not grasp the concept of the neutral spine. Besides he can barely do 20 good pushups. If a person cant do bodyweight, why hand them a barbell so eagerly?

I then decided to make him stretch out his hip flexors and perform some over head squats, still his form failed immediately.

He failed at the front squat, so you progressed him to a more difficult squat variation? Does not compute. What was the logic behind going to overheads?

I tried overhead because it would force his lower back to still in a good position, any rounding of the lower back would make him loose his center of gravity. Apparently, it didnt work out.

I even tried make him do the wall squat, he could only go down to about a 1/2 position.

Not sure if we’re thinking about the same exercise. Are you talking about:

A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31z5DR9P1kw

B: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIBYqM9xHA0

or C: http://backandneck.about.com/od/deskexercises/ht/wallsquat.htm

Option A of course!
Any idea on how to teach the squat?

Call me boring, but did you try having him do an old fashioned, bodyweight-only squat? If he can’t get a dozen or so reps with good technique (if his heels come up [which could be as simple as a stance width issue], he can’t hit the depth [could be flexibility, could be a hundred things], etc.), he probably shouldn’t jump under the barbell with another admitted beginner teaching him.

He only did a few reps and sets. I am now working with him with the bodyweight squat, and some front squats with limited range of motion. A range of motion where he can go without rounding his lower back. I’m now advising him to stretch out his hips, calves, and hip flexors.

Your intentions are great, but the implementation is off. You’re asking us to tell you how to tell him to train right. It’s a telephone game that’s bound for confusion. Have him consider picking up a session with trainer at your gym, or better, the two of you both do a session with someone.

But I don’t want you chipping in your two cents during that session too often. More like, after the group session, you can refer back to what the trainer was saying. “Jimmy, it’s like when the trainer told you to do this, do it this way.” Make sense?

especially the idea of neutral spine? I’ve tried to make him push his ass out, but his lumbar spine still remained somewhat flexed.

What type of ROM does he have in an unloaded, bodyweight only Romanian deadlift/good morning/toe touch?

He can get into a 1/2squat with bodyweight without rounding his lower back. He cannot even maintain a neutral spine on the deadlift, I will refrain from teaching this movement until he grasps the concept of neutral spine.

I’d use manual reinforcement. Have your fingertips on his lower back and verbally cue him to straighten out when he starts to flex there. Remind him to keep the shoulderblades back and “high” towards the ceiling behind him.[/quote]

I’ve tried! Right Now I’m thinking of putting an ice cube, to show him how it feels to arch his spine, I know that hyperextension, but at least it could serve as a first step to teach him how to move his spine? Crazy idea, perhaps worth a try?

[quote]He failed at the front squat, so you progressed him to a more difficult squat variation? Does not compute. What was the logic behind going to overheads?

I tried overhead because it would force his lower back to still in a good position, any rounding of the lower back would make him loose his center of gravity. Apparently, it didnt work out.[/quote]

The overhead squat, while sometimes used as an indicator, is pretty technical. If he’s having problems with a back squat, I’d stay away from even unweight overheads. It’s just more for him to get confused with.

That could be a flexibility issue as well. I had trouble getting deep with face the wall squats when I first tried them.

[quote]Call me boring, but did you try having him do an old fashioned, bodyweight-only squat?

He only did a few reps and sets. I am now working with him with the bodyweight squat, and some front squats with limited range of motion. A range of motion where he can go without rounding his lower back. I’m now advising him to stretch out his hips, calves, and hip flexors.[/quote]

That’ll do for now. But I’m thinking it could just be a combination of poor low back strength (not a surprise since he’s a newbie. How long can he hold a plank position?), maybe some pre-existing flexibility issues, and some coaching that’s, no offense, all over the place.

Stick with what you’re doing now, get him stronger all over (back, abs, legs, everything), include some unilateral leg work, and get his bodyweight squat into double digits with good form.

[quote]Have your fingertips on his lower back and verbally cue him to straighten out when he starts to flex there. Remind him to keep the shoulderblades back and “high” towards the ceiling behind him.

I’ve tried! Right Now I’m thinking of putting an ice cube, to show him how it feels to arch his spine, I know that hyperextension, but at least it could serve as a first step to teach him how to move his spine? Crazy idea, perhaps worth a try?[/quote]

I never remember seeing a trainer in the gym use an ice cube to teach a neutral spine. If it works for you, great. But it “should” be unnecessary. There are plenty of techniques people use, but if it works for you, good on 'ya.

Yeah I’d begin with straight up body weight squats, arms out, look up, chest out but back knees forward etc.

Teach him about hip tilt. Especially male athlete newbs have an issue with being able to bend and move their hips. Some times all it takes for an unstable newbie to get a good form squat is learning to move their hips “back” [or pronate in a sense].

Also doing some ankle mobilization over the toes will help greatly in allowing them to feel stable when squatting.

Also, I would warm the hips up a great deal. I’ve seen squat mobility improve from 8" ROM to full ROM with 15 minutes [well spent] of hip activation and mobility work [ie. controlled (as opposed to wild/flailing) leg swings front to back and side to side, ghost good mornings, side lunges, long lunges forward and backward].

as a last resort to poor ankle stability/mobility use some plates under his heels. I have yet to see someone so hooped that they cant squat with weight lifting shoes or a inch or two of plate under their heels. but work the plate down to get those ankles stable and mobile.

Along this boring course of mobilization you could use shorter ROM or single limb lift like step ups, bulgarian split squats, lunges, good mornings, single leg press, GHR, reverse hyper, and many others to try and build back/leg/butt/ankle strength while waiting for squat form to come [less than 3 weeks for sure].

after regular BW squat move to goblet style squat and then on to the classic variants.

-chris

First thing you should teach him, is EVERYBODY and their mother has a different way to squat.

Second, if your a beginner and he’s a beginner don’t expect him to squat like you, specially if he didn’t compete in a lot of different sports. He may never have gained the hip and ankle flexibility to squat the same way you are.

Until he becomes more experienced, teach him to do what comes natural and progress slowly.

For the strength aspect you can have him squat with 5lb plates under his heels, nothing extremely heavy but he’ll at least be able to use heavier than body weight. For the flexibility what others have listed, hands out bodyweight squats, (start with wide stance and move in as it gets easier until you can do a narrow stance with full deep bend) By time your that flexibily any squat should be doable with weight. Try the swizz ball wall squat, and the one they said earlier where you face the wall.

That’ll do for now. But I’m thinking it could just be a combination of poor low back strength (not a surprise since he’s a newbie. How long can he hold a plank position?), maybe some pre-existing flexibility issues, and some coaching that’s, no offense, all over the place.

He can hold the plank for about 30 seconds. I got to admit I really suck at coaching :S

Stick with what you’re doing now, get him stronger all over (back, abs, legs, everything), include some unilateral leg work, and get his bodyweight squat into double digits with good form.

Yep, that is what I’m trying to do. What kind of stretches would you recommend? His lower back rounds if he get below a 1/2 squat and his heels come straight off the floor. I’ll try to get a video in sometime.

Search for Eric Cressey’s article on uses for a smith machine. There’s a bunch of dynamic hip mobility drills in there. I did these a couple times a week and it really improved my squat depth.

[quote]Mondy wrote:
What kind of stretches would you recommend?[/quote]

The mobility stuff Avocado talked about sounds good, if not maybe a bit much for a newb. Add in some time spent at the bottom of a third world squat, just hanging out down there and getting comfortable, but not slacking on posture.

And check his form on unweighted Romanian deads/good mornings. He should be able to keep his back flat or arched, not rounded, for the full ROM on those as well.

The majority of the time, from what I’ve seen, the heels coming up is usually related to a too-narrow stance. Scoot the feet out wider to get him comfortable with the movement, and then you can gradually work them back in. That also doubles to keep the torso more upright, reducing the tendency to round.

Overhead squats going as low as possible will work the fastest to build up to squat flexibility.

Just make sure he stops at the point that his back tries to change position and use shoulder strength to keep the bar up. The point is just that the weight will naturally force the stretch more. Long as he takes his time the flexibility will come quick.

Calf Stretch and extremely important bent leg calf stretches are good. matter of fact

just go to youtube and look up the Squat RX series. It’s 8 clips and it’s been the best squat instruction I’ve ever seen, outside of personalized coaching.

The number one thing is teach him how to get an arch in his spine, and its more the act of making an arch constantly. Then get him squatting, Light weight even body and slowly progressing on depth then weight. While sure an as to grass squat would be great not everyone will be able to do that EVER everyone has different levers we are not all blessed with the genetic levers most Asians have for squatting, a good reason why they are good Olympic weightlifters.

So dont start him going deep start going as deep as he can go and slowly make progress and always have him attempting to hammer that arch. The act of squatting will increase his strenght and flexibility.

I agree with the above poster that doing OH squats with even just a broom stick can do wonders at increasing mobility over time.

Take it slow first address thins that pose danger, make the move safe then address things that make the lift more efficient.

[quote]Mondy wrote:
I, myself am just a beginner. However, I have a decent grasp of training from the articles and vids I looked up online. So I decided to start my buddy, a newbie, on the starting strength routine.

We started off foam rolling and doing some basic warmups. Afterward I introduced him to the basic front squat, but his form was horrible, his heels come out of the floor and his back was rounded.

I then decided to make him stretch out his hip flexors and perform some over head squats, still his form failed immediately. I even tried make him do the wall squat, he could only go down to about a 1/2 position.

Any idea on how to teach the squat? especially the idea of neutral spine? I’ve tried to make him push his ass out, but his lumbar spine still remained somewhat flexed.[/quote]

When you work with someone completely new to these movements, it’s crucial to work through a progression. You can’t expect to throw a beginner into a front squat, a complex movement, and expect him to be able to handle it.

As others here said, you definitely want to start with no weight. Try having him squat with his hands behind his head or straight out in front, whatever he’s more comfortable with.

Another way to help him work through this is to put him in front of a bench or a box and have him sit back on it. That will emphasize the idea of sticking your butt out. Also emphasize a big chest and head up. If you’ve got those two factors, the neutral spine is implicit. It sounds like this guy has a strong mobility deficit, so it’s going to take a little while to work his way down to parallel.

Start with the half squats and work down as he progresses. Work actively on hip mobility in the mean time and things should come together.

Things are coming together! Now he is about 2inches away from a parallel squat.

I did alot of calve/hip flexor stretching. Combined with lunges and some limited lower-back-rounding-free range of motion front squat with an emphasis on sitting back.