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Teaching the Back Squat

Once our athletes have mastered the foundational air squat (and only then), the first loaded variation we introduce is the “High Bar Back Squat”. The back squat, along with the bench press and barbell deadlift, is one of the 3 “Power Lifts” and is widely considered one of the best tools for developing raw strength.

You may see other programs and trainers utilize a “Low Bar” back squat. While this is also great tool for pure strength development, we feel the low bar variation is difficult to perform well by new athletes. It often turns into some sort of good morning/squat hybrid that goes against all of our movement tenets. Thus, we aim to first master the High Bar squat when training our high school athletes.

The loaded back squat is relatively simple in it’s execution, so long as you master the set up and always keep all 4 points of squat performance in mind during every rep.

To set up appropriately, the athlete should set the bar to roughly chest height (to allow for a little dip when getting under the bar), and grasp the bar with a double overhead grip just outside of the shoulders (or wider depending on shoulder mobility). The athlete steps into the rack and under the bar, positioning it on top of the actively engage traps which create a sort of shelf on which to rest the load.

The athlete stands to full extension in order to lift the bar out of the hooks. Once standing tall, he or she steps back away from the rack. Taking the time to get comfortable (don’t rush!), the athlete sets up in proper squat width stance and begins the prescribed reps.

As with any squat, all 4 Points of Performance apply for the duration of the set:
1. Entire foot in contact with the ground
2. Lumbar curve maintained
3. Knees tracking toes
4. Hips descending below parallel (hip joint below the knee joint).

If, at any point, these points begin to falter, we stop our athletes, drop the weight and correct the movement before adding heavier weight back into the equation.

Upon completion of the set, the athlete walks back into the rack until the bar hits the j-hooks (not by leaning forward). Then, he or she softens the knee and allows the bar to settle back into the hooks before stepping through.

Keep an eye out for our video discussion on how best to teach athletes about spotting, bailing a bad rep, and staying safe in the gym!

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How to Teach the Squat

The Squat.

Arguably the most foundational movement within any fitness or training program. Why? It’s simple. Mastering it boasts the most bang for your buck.

Firstly, it is a movement pattern essential to our DNA. Squatting (properly) is how we were designed to sit – chairs, couches, and toilets haven’t always existed. Squatting and standing is our way of getting up and down. While some may claim that a full range of motion squat is injurious to ones knees, the truth is actually just the opposite. Instilling proper mechanics and adding the squat through training is actually quite rehabilitative of bad knees (and backs, hips, etc) as well as preventative of potential injury. A good squat will set anyone up for a healthier life.

Additionally, it is a movement that can be used to improve your athleticism in every way. Proper squat mechanics translate into enhanced body control in a multitude of movements, keeping you injury-free and energy efficient. Developing raw squat strength makes you more powerful and explosive and initiates one of the best hormonal responses you can get from working out. Working the squat and it’s variations is also one of the best full-body mobility tools there is. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most versatile movements you can program – from strength, to power, to stamina, to pure mobility, you can get it all from the squat.

All of these benefits, though, assume a mastery of movement. You’ll never see results if you don’t set the foundation first. So let’s talk about a proper squat and it’s 4 Points of Performance:

1. Entire foot in contact with the ground
2. Lumbar curve maintained
3. Knees tracking toes
4. Hips descending below parallel (hip joint below the knee joint).

Knowing the points of performance is one thing, executing them to perfection is another. Just telling an athlete what we’re looking for will rarely result in a perfect rep on the first try. More realistically, as we teach the squat, we will see a number of different issues from different athletes. In this discussion, we highlight some of the most common faults we see with new athletes, and offer up just a few possible coaching strategies to correct them.

Take time to get comfortable with the squat in intimate detail. Your ability to instill perfect mechanics in your athletes will go a long, long way towards setting them up for success.

Looking for more advance squat help? Check how to front squat or how to back squat.

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What if not everyone has a phone or I don’t want 30 phones in the weight room?

With Rackview up to 5 students can share 1 device and still get their personalized workouts and weights.  

Rackview is great for every type of school partnering with PLT4M because it gives flexibility for different students to work together any workout of the week.

Rackview  also fosters accountability among the students working together. Students know they must use the phone/device as a tool and not get side tracked by texts or other apps, because they all need to get their workouts completed. It keeps kids moving and on task, all while sharing one phone!

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Do you work with schools that are a similar size to us?

PLT4M partners with over 700 high schools nationwide. As teachers and coaches we are proud to provide the tools and resources to run a successful educational fitness program for every student and athlete at your school.

PLT4M has partnerships with schools as small as 50 students grades K-12, all the way through some of the largest high schools that have over 2,000 students.

While every school faces its unique set of challenges when it comes to strength and conditioning and educational fitness, PLT4M is equipped to help you navigate anything that might come your way.