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Metabolic Stability Series: Building Successful Squats

Being 6'3 (used to be 6'4 before my spinal issues) squats weren't typically my friend. Add playing basketball for over a decade where you bust up your ankles/feet and get taped up almost a daily basis, and it isn't hard to believe that I hated squats.


Yet, like most, I was told you gotta back squat to get "strong". Yeah, I wanted to be strong and build muscle, but time and time again back squats felt worse than they were making me better! Years later, I thought it was solved when I was introduced to the world of front squats.


The idea made sense – it would take the load off my back and I would be more upright. I won't lie, it was definitely an improvement. However, Trying to teach others was so frustrating. I began to notice that I was missing a real understanding of how to get people successful at doing squats.


As I tried to help my clients and even myself feel better in squatting, I discovered that I simply had the wrong perspective on how to build the movement versus just the exercise. There is a difference, and that is why our break-down of building better squats is hopefully going to change how you approach teaching others as well!


It Comes From the Ground Up!


One of the reasons I wanted to really smack myself upside the head was that I coached the squat wrong right from the start! Most of us are taught from day one of coaching to either have people move from the knees or hips first. WRONG!

Thinking that everything we do starts from the ground up helps us understand we have to get people to use their feet first. In doing so, we immediately change how everything happens from the ground up! When you activate the feet you immediately keep the knees in a good position (impossible to allow knee valgus) and the glutes become active. That is why what we are doing with the Perform Better XL Mini-Bands are such a useful tool.


Tension is Strength & Stability


Getting the lower body to function well is key. When you think about the Joint by Joint approach that Gray Cook and Mike Boyle have developed, it makes so much sense that we can't do anything until we fix things from the ground up. However, once we do, we have to then approach the upper body. Many people never think of the upper body as being vital to performing great squats, but they are!


Coaches are often hesitant to load the body during the squat until they "master" their bodyweight squat. Well, that is good if we are assuming we are applying load to the body to challenge their movement. Load though can be used to help teach great squats if used with the right intent and purpose.


That is because load can help us use the core in better ways as well as connecting the chains of the body more effectively. This is especially true of the connection of the lats/core/ and glutes. We are designed for walking, running, etc. (locomotion basically). So, this connection helps stabilize our spine as we perform the unstable action of locomotion (in walking 60-70% of our time is on single leg). Why do we see our opposite arms and legs move during such actions? This is the way we create stability through those chains.


How do we use these concepts in squats though? Creating specific tension to both improve the core, but connect allows us to take advantage of the PNF concept of "proximal stability for distal mobility". In other words, the better our stability, the better our movement.


It isn't just doing squats with weight, though – it is building a system of progressions of which weights to use and how to apply them to the body. Squats aren't just a lower body exercise, but a whole body movement if we do it correctly. The best part of the squats that we are showing maximizing tools like kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags is helping people achieve great squats with no pain!


When people actually feel like they can do an exercise without it hurting, it excites them, it motivates them, it gets them wanting to do more. So, this month's Metabolic Stability is not just about "cool" squat progressions, but how to make your clients more successful and increase the value your clients see in your coaching and training business!


Recommended Products:


  • XL Minibands

  • First Place Kettlebells

  • Ultimate Sandbags


    Josh Henkin, CSCS is an international presenter on the topics of functional fitness, performance, and post-rehabilitation. Don't miss his and physical therapist Jessica Bento's brand new DVRT Shoulder Restoration Course HERE.