How To Coach The Squat
The squat appears to be a simple exercise. You load a bar with weight, bend your knees to move down and straighten them to move up. Although this is very obvious it's not quite the case.
There are a number of reasons the majority of people can't perform squats correctly as well as a number of things we can focus on to ensure we perform the squat correctly. In this basic overview article let's take a look at some of these:
Flexibility & Range of motion issues - This is by far the most under thought and common problem for people learning to squat properly. I see personal trainers or friends telling the person they are coaching to go down lower, bend their knees more, engage their glutes more or stand with their legs narrower/wider. The problem with this is that if they don't have the flexibility or range of motion ability no matter how hard they try, they will not be able to do it properly.
Years of sitting at computers, playing games, sitting on the sofa and driving have given us all sorts of range of motion and flexibility issues. The first thing anybody should do before trying to squat with weight is work out if they have any tight areas or areas with bad flexibility and start working on them straight away - stretch, learn to engage, strengthen, get your bodies mechanics working properly and efficiently. Once and only once this is complete you can move on.
A Natural Squat Stance - Everybody's mechanics are different and what may feel natural to one person may feel really odd to another. A good way to find your natural stance is by jumping up in the air (or off a box) and land steady on the ground. Your landing stance is a great starting base for how wide, narrow and pointed your stance should be.
Footwear or Squat/Powerlifting shoes - If you don't have squat shoes wear a thin soled pair of shoes or go bare foot - don't wear Nike shocks or spongy shoes/bouncy running shoes. In an ideal world invest in some quality squat/power lifting shoes such as the Adidas Adipowers or Nike Romelous, they are well worth the buy.
Squat Footing - Some people come up on their toes, some people round out or pick up in the middle. Spread your feet so all 4 corners of the foot are glued to the ground, making you think about all parts of your foot.
Weak glutes / buclking knees Knees - many athletes that have very weak glutes have knees that buckle inside. This is a sign that athletes have weak glutes. Spread your knees or show your crotch - this helps prevent knees that buckle inwards.
Squat Hips - Some people tip/sway their hips side-to-side - this usually means that they have a tight hip flexor. If this happens then find whichever hip flexor is tight and stretch it out.
Squat Butt - Teach yourself to sit on a pretend box - this will help you get used to sticking your butt out on the downward portion of the squat.
Squat Bar positioning - Prevent yourself from jamming the bar into the back of your neck - this is usually down to tight areas such as the pecs, shoulders and neck. Keep your chest pushed out high and try to maintain good posture.
Above are just a few pointers of things you can look out for to help coach your friend or gym partner in the gym. The squat looks very basic but it is actually a really complex exercise that involves pretty much the your entire bodies mechanics to perform the exercise.