Archive for “Squat” Tag

The King of Athletic Performance Potential—Squatting

How to Help Your Athletes Dominate the Top Movement Skill for Any Sport

Fundamental movements like squatting are necessary skills for an athletic foundation. While today’s typical 12-18-year-old athlete often lacks refined movement skills, with a simple learning progression, he or she can quickly become a proficient squatter.

Click on the image below to grab your free gift “5 Factors For Athletes”, from Power Training Expert Wil Fleming

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We are strength coaches. Our goal with every athlete we come across is to develop their movement skills along with power, speed, and agility to maximize their potential in their relative sport(s).

Early specialization, where young athletes focus solely on a single sport throughout the entire year, is definitely an issue, but I think an even more pressing issue is the case of the multi-sport, highly-sought-after athlete. Many athletes we work with between the ages of 12-18 not only play multiple sports but also play on multiple teams for multiple seasons.

These athletes are accomplished and skilled at their particular sport(s) but lack a foundation to continue to build upon their current skills. Indeed, their movement skills, the foundation for athleticism, have never been focused on.

To me, that’s like building a house by trying to put the roof up first. I am not an expert on the physics behind a feat like that, but it sounds highly ineffective at best and downright disastrous at worst.

Even if the athlete learns to develop some power, speed, or agility to improve in the sports they play, they are still left with a structure and a roof but no foundation. Again, I’m no contractor, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want a house built without a foundation.

I like to think about it like a pyramid. Here is our ideal athlete pyramid:

Ideal Athlete Pyramid

But here is what we commonly see:

Current Athlete Pyramid

It is clear that we as strength coaches need to build the movement skill foundation for our athletes. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just programming squats, hip hinges, pushups, chin ups or Turkish get ups because we have to build from the ground up, not the top down. That is why we created a progression system that get our athletes’ movement skills developed quickly and effectively.

Today, we’re going to cover our progression system for the teaching the squat, the king of athletic performance potential.

RNT Squat

Using a cook band (as shown above) or a light resistance band works great for this squat progression. Often, we will use this exercise in conjunction with a goblet squat.

If your athlete tends to collapse forward or struggle to reach full depth in their squat without falling backwards, this progression will make all the difference.

The concept of RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) is simple: Move the athlete further into their erroneous pattern with resistance. So to fix a forward leaning torso, we pull the athlete from the shoulders down and forward. Their brain reacts to the resistance and instinctively fights to oppose the force. Their neuromuscular system starts patterning a correct squat and develops the motor control to maintain the squat without the resistance.

I didn’t show RNT for collapsing knees in a squat—and for good reason. I am not a big fan of using RNT for valgus knees. I would rather an athlete focus on rooting their feet into the ground and visualize ripping a towel apart as they squat. This creates a more natural squat pattern and doesn’t overcorrect to a weak externally rotated position.

Overhead Squat

We typically use a dowel or PVC for overhead squatting. We generally don’t train an overhead squat for strength. It is more of a tool for us as we are progressing an athlete in our ADAPT athletic development program towards a front squat. (We prefer loading front squats to loading overhead squats because, in the front squat, we can teach proper upper body engagement and squat depth without having to do much “coaching.”)

Once again, this progression is a great tool to use in conjunction with a goblet squat. By putting the athlete’s arms overhead, it forces them to slow down and control the eccentric portion of the squat. If they move too fast with their hands overhead, they are much more likely to fall backwards without their arms as a counterbalance. And being able to control eccentric loading is imperative to injury prevention and re-acceleration.

Click on the image below to grab your free gift, “5 Critical Factors for Athletes”, by Power Training Expert Wil Fleming.

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We have the athlete set up with their hands wide enough so they create 90-degree angles with their elbows when the dowel rests on top of their head. They can move their hands wider but anything narrower than 90 isn’t necessary. Their feet are set up very similar to their normal squat stance with toes turned outward slightly and heels about hip-width apart.

Once they are in position, we cue, “Reach up and out.” That sets their upper back and shoulders in place and fires their trunk stabilizers. Then we cue again, “Root and rip the towel apart,” for their feet. Once they are fully activated, they squat.

Goblet Squat

This is generally our starting point for loading an athlete’s squat pattern once they have cleared the deep squat test via the FMS. We use this because it gives instant and physical feedback to our athlete at multiple points.

When they move, we don’t want the dumbbell to leave their sternum. If it does, either they have shifted their butt too far back or their torso has collapsed forward. When they hit full depth, their elbows should lightly touch their knees. This helps to standardize depth for each individual athlete. Each athlete will be unique in how deep their squat is, but by having their elbows touch their knees, we know they are going deep enough for their specific anatomy.

Once in full depth, I love the cue, “Push into the ground.” This sets up our athlete to use their entire foot to drive the squat back to standing. Often, we see young athletes get on their toes in the bottom of the squat. However, if we cue, “Push into the ground,” they will shift their weight back to the entire foot before standing. Eventually, they develop the necessary stability and control so their feet stay flat during the entire squat.

With younger athletes (10-14), it is very important to stand in front as you coach. They are often mirroring your squat pattern or looking to you for feedback. If you stand to the side, they will turn their head towards you and alter their pattern. By standing in front of them, you will substantially improve how your younger athletes squat.

Box Squat

As our athletes progress through their strength development, we want them to front squat. Often, the addition of a bar on the shoulders throws a young athlete for a loop, and they forget everything they learned from the goblet squat. Either they will squat super shallow on their toes or insanely deep, resulting in a real ugly a#%-to-grass squat.

For either case, a box is our answer. Like the goblet squat, it gives instant and physical feedback to our athlete. We are pre-determining how low the athlete goes.

If the athlete has a shallow front squat, give them an empty bar first because they are likely to fall onto the box. They will understand the depth necessary and, assuming they learned a good goblet squat, will quickly gain the motor control needed to front squat.

If the athlete bottoms up and curls their body up under the bar, the box is useful to limit their range of motion (ROM). Again, when they do their first box squat, give them an empty bar and have them do a tempo squat down to find the box with their butt.  It will arrive much faster than they expect!

Speaking of tempo, a box front squat is, in my opinion, the best time to really focus on a tempo pattern with the squat. The athlete is finally able to accept some heavy load and needs to be able to handle it eccentrically. By using a 303 tempo, the athlete must control the load going down and coming up.

This is also when our athletes feel like they belong with the older athletes. But adding load quickly will result in poor technique and very little carryover to sport. By keeping the focus on tempo, they will be unable to load their squat super heavy, and it will keep the pattern solid. Remember, we are building athletes, not weight room superstars!

Front Squat

This is our top-level progression for most athletes who train with us. We will do back squats when appropriate, but for today’s discussion, this is the end of our squat continuum.

The great thing about a front squat is that it is self-limiting. If an athlete cannot maintain posture, they will lose the bar forward. If an athlete cannot stand up with the weight, they can very easily and safely dump the weight forward.

More importantly, when done right, it teaches an athletic position, develops incredible trunk strength, and creates massive potential for jumping and sprinting.

We have many variations in terms of reps/intensity/tempo to change the focus and the effect the squat has once we get our ADAPT athletes to this progression.

Ultimately, front squat strength is the goal. We will use plyometrics, medicine balls, Olympic lifts, and other tools to develop explosiveness. The front squat is a pillar of strength development for ADAPT.

Furthermore, an athlete who can squat well substantially decreases his or her chances of a non-contact lower body injury. If the athlete is playing multiple sports in multiple seasons, staying healthy is goal #1.

In conclusion, if you work with athletes, whether in a sport setting or a strength setting, squatting is imperative to athletic potential. Using these progressions or bits and pieces will help any athlete develop a quality squat pattern and reap the benefits associated!

Click on the image below to grab your free gift, “5 Critical Factors for Athletes”, by Power Training Expert Wil Fleming.

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ADAPT and Conquer,
Coach Jared

About the Author: Jared Markiewicz

JarredJared is founder of Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.). F.I.T. is a performance-based training facility located in Madison, WI. They specialize in training athletes of all levels: everyday adults, competitive adults and youth ages 5-20+.

The long-term vision for F.I.T. is recognition as the training facility for those desiring to compete at the collegiate level in the state of Wisconsin. Alongside that, to also develop a platform to educate those in our industry looking to make strides towards improving the future for our young athletes.

Find out more about Jared’s gym by visiting F.I.T.

Career Highlights

  • 2014 Fitness Entrepreneur of the Year – Fitness Business Insiders
  • 2014 IYCA Coach of the Year Finalist
  • Volunteer Strength Coach for West Madison Boys Hockey and Westside Boys Lacrosse
  • Helped develop dozens of scholarship athletes in 3 years of business
  • Instructed Kinesiology Lab at UW-Madison
  • Houses an internship program at F.I.T. that started in 2013
  • Member of Elite Mastermind Group of Nationwide Fitness Business Owners


3 Movements For Young Athletes


Preparing Young Athletes


young athletes weight training


By Wil Fleming


Can you recall walking into a weightroom for the first time?


I still can, it was my high school weightroom and I was maybe 14 years old. Men, four years older than me were lifting much more than I could imagine, grunting, cursing, and straining their way to be better at their sport. I was told what the workout was and went to it.


I remember that first workout. Three sets of 10 on the bench press, back squat, and incline bench press, and five sets of five on the power clean. I remember that my squats were three inches too high (no one back squats well the first day), my power cleans looked like reverse curls, and my bench press was 15 pounds too heavy for my strength levels.


This happens all the time, young athletes are thrown into programs about which they know nothing, for which they are completely unprepared, and from which they are likely to get injured.


It doesn’t have to be that way though.


The squat, the clean, and the bench press are the staples of programs for high school athletes in their school. There are three exercises that they can be taught beforehand that can set them up for ultimate success.


3 Exercises that every young athlete should be taught


Goblet Squat
We’ve all seen the picture of the baby in the perfect squat position. You know which one that I am talking about. The neutral spine and neck, the hips below the knees, the feet flat on the ground. So we all know that humans can squat…at some point. So at what point did people lose the ability to squat well? I can’t tell you for sure but typically it is before they hit the weightroom for the first time.


The first key that makes the goblet squat the best tool for re-teaching athletes is the un-weighted goblet squat or prayer squat. Have the athlete take a prayer type position with hands together and elbows down squat to the bottom. At their lowest point let their elbows push their knees out . This is the first lesson that the Goblet squat can teach us. We must create space to squat to. We do not need to bend over to squat, because you will run out of room. Squatting must happen between the legs with a vertical torso.


Move on to using the dumbbell or kettlebell and try the same thing. Squeeze the top of the dumbbell or kettlebell this time and see that your lats are turned on and because of this your entire torso is straighter. This is the second lesson of goblet squatting that other squats do not teach: The torso is just as actively a part of the squat as the lower body.


KB Swing
We all know that I love the Olympic lifts but before I even get to teach athletes to Olympic lift the swing is very often my first chance to teach explosive movement. The benefit of the swing is that it is also one of the first times that I get to teach the athlete to hip hinge.


Before getting to the swing begin by teaching the hip hinge pattern. The easiest way to do so is to grasp the kettlebell in a handcuffed position behind your back. This handcuffed position will start to teach the shoulders back, superhero chest position that will be important in the swing and in the Olympic lifts. The bell will be slightly below the glutes at this point. The athlete should unlock their knees and drive their glutes into the bell . There will be a tactile sense when this happens correctly. If the athlete gets into a back bend pattern the bell will remain below their glutes and make contact with their hamstrings throughout the movment. Actually moving the hips backwards in space will bring the bell up higher and in contact with the glutes through the movement.


Do this movement slowly at first and then teach them to forcefully drive their hips to stand up. You have begun to teach the athlete to swing, and given them a hip hinge pattern to base much of their movement on.


Next teach the swing and the snap that comes along with it. The swing is an excellent first explosive exercise to teach because it does not reward poor positioning. A relaxed core will lead to the athlete being pulled forward on their toes. The swing teaches athletes to make “something” move with their hip hinge and hip extension rather than with their arms, which will come in handy in the Olympic lifts later on.


The big 3 at the high school level are squat, power clean and bench press so why aren’t we using this space for a push up? Quite simply many young athletes are not ready for the push up. For this reason we choose to teach directed stability in the plank to prepare the athlete for the push up.


Most athletes that we encounter for the first time lack total body stability. Trying to place them in positions that require strength before they have stability will only build on top of deficiency.


The goal of the plank should be to find stability throughout the body. Have the athletes lock the lats low, and forcefully contract the glutes and the quads. The core will be locked in without many cues at that point.


With these three movements athletes will develop important patterns that can assist them in learning to do more advanced or more heavily emphasized lifts in the high school weightroom. Equipping athletes with these patterns can lead to fewer injuries and more success for the young athletes we coach down the road.



Kettlebell Training: It’s All About Progressions


Kettlebell Training With Young Athletes


Kettlebell training progressions with young athletes


By Pamela MacElree MS


Just like every other training modality, kettlebells also have training and movement progressions.


I find it ironic that we often see people approaching kettlebell training far differently than they would barbell training or even the use of a dumbbell. Everything has a progression, always. I’ve talked about it before, you wouldn’t give someone additional weight in a squat if their bodyweight squat has poor form and you especially wouldn’t give them a weight to use in squats if they never squatted before.


If this is the case why would we automatically hand someone a kettlebell and show them how to do snatches if they had never done one before, if they had never used one before, or if they had never done any other similar movements before. We don’t.


This is where progressions come in to play when training young athletes. Progressions are highly important to understand and know to ensure that our clients and athletes both have good form and once they have maintained good form, can safely make increases in weight.


Since I mentioned kettlebell snatches earlier, let’s use them as the example. Keep in mind that I am not teaching how to do a kettlebell snatch, I am showing you the progression on where to start when first teaching the snatch.


Let’s take a look at things in reverse order:


    • Prior to doing kettlebell snatches we should ensure that being able to do a one arm kettlebell high pull is a proficient movement pattern.


    • Prior to doing one arm kettlebell high pulls, we want to teach and learn two arm kettlebell high pulls.


    • Prior to doing two arm kettlebell high pulls, we will teach the kettlebell Romanian deadlift. 
    • Prior to learning the kettlebell Romanian deadlift we teach the good morning stretch.


As you can see there are several steps that need to happen before teaching young athletes a kettlebell snatch. The purpose here is to not actually teach you the kettlebell snatch but to show you the movement patterns that need to be learned and perfected prior to attempting the snatch.


The good morning stretch shows us that our athletes understand the hip hinging process of moving the hips back in space, rather than down toward the floor as in a squat.


The Romanian deadlift follows the same hip hinging pattern as the good morning stretch with external load, slow and controlled. When learning the Romanian deadlift you start with two hands on the kettlebell and move to one.


After mastering the slow and controlled movements, we will move into the more dynamic explosive exercises of the two arm and one arm high pulls and finally progressing to the snatch.


Here’s a video to help you coach young athletes bring all of these kettlebell movements together :




Is Your Training Program Complete?




by Wil Fleming


The other day a track coach that I really respect called me to discuss an athlete that we both work with and right away I knew he was excited. I could hear in his voice that he was just fired up. I asked him what was going on and he responded,
"Coach Flem I have to tell you the coolest thing, Anthony has gotten 3 feet faster just training with you this summer and fall. (meaning his long jump approach had to be moved back 3 feet on the same number of approach steps) What kind of speed work have you been doing?"



Honestly, the answer was very little, outside of some very short acceleration work, this athlete’s focus had been on improving his explosive strength recently.


So what’s the point of this story?



Teaching the Squat For Young Athletes



Ever seen an instructional video that talked you through how to teach a squat to young athletes WITHOUT actually showing you?


This one you have to see…




Learn More About ‘Skill Sets’ and Teaching the Squat For Young Athletes. Here —> https://iyca.org/yfs1



Favorite Strength Training Exercises for Young Athletes

Strength Training Exercises for Young Athletes

Tony Reynolds is a cut above almost every Strength Coach I know.


And that’s why he’s 100% in charge of the content for the message board
on www.IYCAMembers.com


When our Members have questions about training young athletes, their
is no one in the world I trust more than Tony to answer them.


But not only does Tony answer questions, he also contributes to the message
board every day with fantastic thoughts, opinions and suggestions.


Tony detailed some of his favorite strength training exercises to use with young
athletes last week and I just had to make sure that you saw this goldmine of
information. Below is a description of one of these exercises:


Single Leg Low Pulley RDL


Low pulley lowered as far down as it will go (ankle height) with a “D” handle attached.


Starting Position:
Grasp the D-handle in your right hand and face the pulley. Move far enough away from the pulley so you can perform a full range of motion without the plates touching the stack.


Stand on your left foot with your head up, base leg knee slightly bent (10-15 degrees), spine neutral but tilted, and hips pushed slightly back.


The Motion:
Flex at the base leg hip. As your torso moves forward and down “push” your free leg back for counter-balance. The free leg hip should not flex during the exercise.


You may need to slightly flex the base leg knee an additional few degrees as your hips travel back. This will allow you to keep your weight on the back half of your foot and reach forward maximally with the d-handle while keeping a neutral but tilted spine.


Descend until your back is near parallel with the ground. Reverse the motion and return to the top.


Things to Avoid:
Letting your hips push out to the side.
Dropping the base leg knee valgus
Over flexing the base leg knee…its an RDL not a squat
Losing a neutral spinal alignment
Loading the front half of the base foot
Hyperextending the hips/spine at termination of the ascent



Let me know some of your favorite strength training exercises for young athletes below



Why Test Young Athletes?




Young Athletes Performance

How to test a group of young athletes has become a popular
‘discussion board’ question recently. I have seen this query
raised on several prominent websites and have been asked
about it a great deal over the past few months as well.
Thus… my desire to touch on this subject.


The common curiosity surrounds how to test absolute strength
ability via 1, 4 or 8 RM (rep maximum). The thought process
is that once a trainer or coach has a baseline measurement of a
given athletes strength capacity, they can deduce two specific


– The strength gain(s) that an athlete will see following a training
program (because inevitably they will re-test the athlete at the
conclusion of there 6 or 8 week training cycle).


– The percentage of absolute strength the athlete can and should
perform their training programs. For example, if a 1RM squat
equals 225 pounds, then a ‘training weight’ may be 70% of that,
or 158 pounds.


I have touched on my disdain of this type of testing procedure
many times in my newsletter, so the following will serve as
little more than a recap:


Biomotor improvements (strength, speed, flexibility) are not
hard to come by with young athletes and are often just as
attributable to their natural adolescent maturation process as
they are to any ‘cutting edge’ training program a given trainer
or coach will put together.


More over, as demonstrated in countless studies, detraining
effects will occur in a relatively short period of time once the
training program has concluded.


Pursuant to the above point, we must progress away from the
‘value-intensive’ practice of training young athletes in short
bursts (6 – 8 weeks) and shift to a more long-term and
‘principle-focused’ approach to working with kids.


In that, a given training program would not look to isolate and
improve biomotor ability as much as it would act as a teaching
agent with a focus on improving transferability to sport.


In this value to principle shift I suggest, we must also look to take
pressure off of kids in general. Like it or not, if you adhere to test
or re-test training programs of short durations, you are allowing
that athlete to think only of the numbers and specific improvement


Kids should not be placed in a situation where the efficacy of
their training is based on how much more they can squat in week
7 than they did in week 1.


Again, your focus as a trainer or coach should be on technical
ability and improvements in this consideration. Create RTA
(rate of technical ability) charts that mark how well a child is
progressing from a form and function standpoint.


Not only is this a more ‘teaching-based’ approach to conditioning,
but it also changes the focus and mental stress for the athlete – from
performance considerations (i.e. how much weight can they lift) to
technical considerations (i.e. how well can they lift it).


One of the more problematic issues I have seen in this debate revolves
around why a trainer or coach is testing at all. The reason to test must
be completely based on what you want to glean from the results…
and most coaches and trainers don’t seem to see that clearly enough.


For example, one of the questions that was recently posed to me was
in reference to a freshman baseball team (14 year old athletes). The
coach told me straight out that the kids had little to no experience in
terms of strength training, so testing the squat would not be a
worthwhile assessment. Instead, the coach wanted to know if leg
press or leg extension would be more feasible because they lack
technical difficulty.


Points to consider:


If you know that the kids have no lifting expertise, than by
nature of that conclusion, your role as a trainer/coach is to teach.




There is simply no reason to test strength capacity in a situation
where the kids you are working with have no experience at all.


That is part of the dogmatic thinking that must change in our
youth training culture.


Leg press and leg extension are silly exercises that will do more
harm than good to anyone. Specifically, lumbar rounding in the
leg press and anterior sheering at the knee joint with leg extension
make the risk/reward ratio of these exercises useless.


Additionally, and this speaks to my statement above, what is
the point of testing strength on an apparatus that you have no
intension of using during training?


Again, you must first ascertain why you are testing.


The reality is that in the United States, many high schools use
a programming model that is based on test/re-test situations
right from freshman through varsity.


The notion that incoming freshman, with little to no technical
ability, are being asked to perform strength assessments from
day one is nothing short of ridiculous… oh… and maybe a
touch dangerous as well.


Teach… Teach… Teach.


I cannot re-state that enough. Forget about testing biomotor
ability and concentrate on actually teaching young athletes the
skills they need to excel in sport AND be remain injury free.



‘Til Next Time,







Young Athletes & Poor Technique

Correcting Young Athletes Technique


With young athletes who exhibit poor technical quality on a particular exercise or group of exercises, the best method of offering correction is often to become less dogmatic or predictable in your teaching method.


When teaching the squat for example, most Trainers and Coaches tend to take a ‘top down’ approach to skill execution


They teach the young athlete to set their feet and proceed through an eccentric-concentric progression.


The nuances as to why a squat may be faulty are many, but very often, it is the inability of the young athlete to get to and summarily regulate the base of the squat phase (the ‘hole’).  When inaccurate applications of force production/absorption are applied to the eccentric and ‘pause’ phase of the eccentric base (no matter how quick or seemingly inconsequential), the ability of the athlete to apply correct force sequences towards the concentric motion will be compromised.


In that, it is often the incorrect pattern of eccentric loading and ‘hole’ stabilizing that causes an incorrect pattern of force production through the concentric phase of the lift.


Many Trainers and Coaches will visually recognize the poor form during the concentric phase, but fail to recognize that it was due to incorrect loading patterns during the eccentric portion.


Having said that, a wonderful way to reform poor squat technique (as an example) is to start the young athletes in the fixed, static ‘hole’ position, and then proceed up through the concentric phase.


Have the young athlete assume a quality ‘hole’ position and talk them through what they should be feeling:

  • Weight back on the heels

  • Knees pushing outward

  • Neutral low back

  • Chin up

  • Chest push forward

  • Elbows angled downward


Do not be afraid to hold these positions for several second counts.  An increase in the static strength of this position can, and usually does, improve technical patterning of the entire squat.


Upon ascending into the concentric phase, be sure that the young athlete understands how to push from their heels, using the large muscles of the hip extensors and drive through the ground.


Repeated efforts of this exercise, perhaps over a single training session or for several successive sessions, will have a tremendously positive impact on the technical qualities of a young athletes squat.


So, whether it is the squat, lunge, push-press or any other compound exercise, think ‘BOTTOM UP’ when trying to create a positive change in the technique capacity of young athletes.