What is Bottom-Up Coaching?

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 there 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 athlete 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 a young athlete.


To see what ‘Bottom Up’ coaching looks like in real life and real time,
head over to see the Complete Athlete Development System


– Brian



6 Responses

  1. Chris Cubitt says:

    Goblet squat from low box has proven a remarkeable teaching regression for “naturally” re-enforcing proper squat mechanics. I realize your post is more about teaching methodology. Just wanted to share that tip.


  2. george maoury says:

    Hey Brian, I agree with you 100%. I feel that “Bottom up” training on allot of the exercises(especially the squat) works wonders. I have always felt that Gray Cook’s way of teaching someone to squat is very effective. Have a question for you. If you feel that “bottom up” is the way to teach a squat. Then why in YFS1 (video and manual) you are teching us to teach our clients to squat from the standing position???? Eccentris to concentric???
    At the beginning of this post you state that this is an appropiate way to teach someone who exhibits poor technical quality. If they do not show any movement issues or poor technical quality do you feel that the eccentric to concentric works best? I use both and have found both to work well. For those that are less coordinated I feel “bottom up” training to be more effective. IS this your point? Thanks, George

  3. Eric Starkweather says:

    I LOVE this method!
    Works great for the squat, as described, as well as for pushups (start on an incline — even vertical on a wall) and bodyweight rows (I start from almost vertical — just to establish the endpoint with no strain). Instead of trying to explain to a kid how to do the exercise while they nod and smile with a blank look on their face, this method lets them “get it” on their own with minimal cueing. I can’t believe I haven’t tried it with the lunge yet, but I certainly will soon!
    In “Athletic Body in Balance,” Gray Cook also provides a nice progression for teaching the squat from the bottom position; Dan John also explains the concept (even more simply) in some of his stuff.

  4. Brian Grasso says:

    Great comments all!! Big George…. Regarding L1 – YFS, what I’m illustrating is how to create ‘skill sets’ and teach using them. I adore the ‘bottom-up’ approach (which is why I wrote about it), but have also found that using a skill set allows for eccentric-to-concentric instruction in a more sequentianl (and therefore efficient) manner. As with everything with the IYCA, we try very hard to equip our Members with as much information as possible and then empower you (through the Art of Coaching) to apply it in the best ways that you see fit. Some young athletes have better success with ‘bottom-up’ coaching. Some through the use of eccentric-to-concentric skill sets… Some have brown hair and some are blonde — not everything will work for everyone, so we opt to offer as much as we can to you. Having said that, the example in L1 – YFS is more of ‘this is how you create and use skill sets’…. I just opted to demonstrate that by using a squat pattern. Hope you’re great!!!!

  5. Rick Kaselj says:

    Great concept, Brian. Bottom-up coaching is one innovative approach to correcting certain exercise habits. We continue to learn and teach better methods of exercise that in turn benefit our colleagues and clients. Keep up the good work.

    Rick Kaselj
    of ExercisesForInjuries.com

  6. Shout out from NYC:

    So glad you posted this BG! I was just explaining our concept of this to folks at AFPA in Ocean City, MD this weekend. I miss the blog, I will be back on here exchanging with all of you once Club Industry is over. IYCA Rocks!!!

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