By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches
The squat is one of the core lifts in just about every high school football program. However, many high school athletes put themselves at risk by doing the exercise with poor form.
Denton High (Texas) strength coach Brandon Taylor, CSCS, believes it’s never too early to teach the proper squatting technique. In fact, he begins working on squat movement patterns with prospective football players when they are still in junior high.
“It’s a process I go through in junior high so that by the time they’re going into freshman summer, they can load a back squat,” Taylor said.
Here is Taylor’s progression for teaching the squat.
- Wall Squats.
“Put them on a wall so they can learn how to position their body. You can have them put their hands behind their backs and do slow, eccentric movements. Have them hold it so they feel the position. Have them wiggle from side to side to feel the muscles activate.”
- Air Squats.
“They can do both eccentric and isometric at a younger age. Move slow. Make sure the foot placement is 10 to 30 percent out and corkscrew the feet. Drive the hips back and keep the knees up.”
- Breathing Technique.
“You want them to take a deep breath on the way down and push out in full on the way up. We’ll go down and sit so they’re bracing their core as they squat.”
- Dumbbell Goblet Squats.
“This is when you teach them to squeeze their shoulder blades together, engage the bak and make their chest big. I’m an advocate of keeping a neutral spine. Tell them to look at the ground 6 to 8 feet in from of them because we all have a natural lean in our torso.”
- Front Squats.
“We move into front squat for an extended period. They won’t do back squats for a while. We’ll front squat and develop the quads that way. I’ll show the bar placement on the collarbone. They’re learning to control the weight and put more load on it.”
- Barbell Split Squats.
“This just gives an athlete a chance to put a bar on the back and feel what it’s like. We’re still focusing on hip hinge and driving the feet through the floor.”
- Back Squats with Boxes.
“Use a low box or low crate to teach the proper depth and maintain the technique. I’ll do 5-second eccentric squats. It’s a process we’ll go through until the summer of their freshmen year.”
- Back Squats.
“This is where it all comes together. We talk about split the feet and corkscrewing through the ground. Push the whole foot; don’t just push the heels. Hing at the hips, keep the chest wide with a neutral spine. Squeeze the shoulder blades. It’s a culmination of all of the work that led to this point.”
The 5 Technique Tips for Squats
- Point your feet as straight forward as possible. A 10-30 degree toe-out angle is acceptable.
- Maintain three points of contact with your feet in relation to the floor establishing the ‘tripod’ foot.
- Hip Hinge to engage the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) by pushing your hips backwards slightly and bringing your chest forward. Your bodyweight should be balanced over the middle of your feet.
- Create external rotational torque at the hips by squeezing your glutes and shoving the knees out to the side while maintaining the ‘tripod’ foot.
- Solidify our postural integrity by holding our arms out in front (parallel to the floor) while looking straight ahead.