Nov 15, 2017
Squat Like a Pro

If you have a strength training plan in place for your team, you probably have athletes squatting on a regular basis. Squats help build lower-body strength and power, while also ingraining an important foundational movement pattern. But how can you make sure that you’re training athletes to get the best benefits of this exercise while limiting the chances of injury?

In an article for, Andy Haley, CSCS, describes the three-step process used by Cincinnati Bengals Head Strength Coach Chip Morton to prepare his athletes for the squat. The first step is to ensure that his players correctly understand the movement pattern. Many athletes struggle to engage in this basic movement due to tight hips and mobility issues. Even those who have been doing squats every season can be affected.

Because of this, the first thing that Morton does is re-teach the movement pattern to his players. One of the best methods is utilizing an exercise called the All-Fours Squat. Here are the steps to teaching the All-Fours Squat:

All-Fours Squat

Athletes should do one set of 12 reps.

  1. Assume the table-top position with your hands directly under your shoulders, arms straight, and knees positioned under the hips.
  2. Dig your toes into the ground and raise your knees about an inch off the ground.
  3. Tighten your core and keep your back flat.
  4. From this position, slowly rock backward, as if squatting, as far as range of motion allows.
  5. Briefly hold this position before returning to starting position.

“We’re tying together the shoulders and hips, making sure they’re moving in synchronization and opening the groin and adductors,” Morton said at the 2017 Cincinnati Hammer Strength Conference. “If we framed this position and flipped it vertically, it would be a Squat.”

Once your athletes have reinforced this movement, the next step in Morton’s progression is to have them squat in the upright position. With so many squatting varieties to choose from, Morton generally implements the Goblet Squat at this stage, as it starts to load weight, activates the core, and reinforces proper form once again. According to Morton, athletes must be able to correctly engage in the Goblet Squat in order to be successful in step three.

After the athletes can properly engage in the goblet squat and you are certain that they understand the movement, you can begin to build strength on the bar. First you must choose which squat you want your athlete to perform. This could be anything from the Back Squat, to the Front Squat, to the Bulgarian Split Squat.

The next step is to decide on the number of sets and reps. Many strength coaches use set-and-rep schemes of 5×5 or 5×3. Your athletes can use the same weight every time, or gradually add weight as they gain strength. If you want your athletes to develop explosive power, Morton suggests having them lift less. For example, they can do two sets of eight reps with a weight that is 50-60 percent of their maximum.

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