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Attacking Limiting Factors: Squat Initiation

Power Athlete Squat InitiationPAHQ understands the power of communication.  Nothing beats the experience of a coach and athlete working off the same page.  However, as with anything involving more than one person, the opportunity for miscommunication looms everywhere.  Three major miscommunication faults pertaining to coaching come to mind:

  1. Misaligned Vocabulary: Athlete and coach are on two different pages
  2. Messy Thinking: Ill-timed, over-stimulation, or broad cuing gets an athlete thinking too much
  3. Faulty Definitions: A coach doesn’t know what say, do, or see, so instead they throw paint on the wall and calling it art.

The most familiar communication medium is cueing, or something a coach does to an athlete that prompts specific action.  When prudent, effective cues serve as performance makers.  But when cues are miscommunicated, it becomes a performance breaker.

Let's look at one of the ever-popular cues for the back squat, “push your butt back.”  This cue is supposed to prompt the athlete to initiate the squat at the hips.  More often than not, this is misinterpreted, losing prudency.

This article will not list simpler or different ways to say this same cue.  Instead, we are going to introduce movements that help the athlete execute properly, correct faulty movement patterns resulting from 1000’s of bad reps, and master the initiation of a squat from both an athlete’s and coach’s perspective.


Do It right the first time

It is impossible to recover from a shitty position. Even when squatting correctly, the athlete must fight to maintain a solid position throughout the movement.  Once position is lost, purpose is lost.  Mid-set losses point out weaknesses, which is beneficial to training.  But losing position from go (initiation) defeats the entire purpose of training.

We take a life cycle approach to developing athletes.  Under the PA1 (CFFB Amateur) banner, the Power Athlete has thousands of opportunities (i.e. reps)  to instill perfect movement patterns under stressful, adaptation-driving loads.  In the same vein, poorly-executed initiation becomes an ingrained movement pattern.  Faulty movement patterns lead to a performance ceiling and eventual breakdown of the misloaded athlete.  Neuromuscular reeducation is no walk in the park.  Do it right the first time and every time.

do yoooou understand the woooords that are coming from my moooouth?! - Misinterpretation

An athlete hears, “push your butt back”, but performs an anterior pelvic tilt motion instead of the proper hip hinge.   The anterior tilt breaks posture and puts massive pressure on the lumbar spine.  No bueno!

The posterior tilt is required for many athlete to find a neutral position to allow the hips to rotate along the X-Axis.  This action allows for the athlete's hips to be in a position to truly push back, down, and load their hamstring and posterior chain.

debunk that weak trunk - Anterior Tilt Cause and Solution

Misinterpreting cues is not the only culprit.  A weak trunk could move the load to the lower back (dominance phenomenon).  Genetics also play a major role in hip alignment.  More commonly, form follows the function for desk ridden athletes getting tight hips in the office arena.  Butt, there is hope! (@ingob, feel free to use that.)

The solution for poor squat initiation?  Movement! Below are 4 fundamentals for correcting anterior tilt and mastering squat initiation.  The key, as with any movement, is the correct execution.  These must be applied during the warm up for training days containing squats.  If squat initiation is your limiting factor, perform these every day, programmed by @John or not.

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Tex McQuilkin
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Tex McQuilkin

Director of Training at Power Athlete
Book a consult with me regarding coaching, training, life, education... anything your heart desires. Click below:

Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
Tex McQuilkin
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Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Attacking Limiting Factors: Squat Initiation

  1. This article is worth the yearly membership alone. Perfect timing for my low back pain due to anterior tilt.
    Thanks for the great content Tex.

  2. Excellent article and so dear to my groin. Thanks for the great information!

  3. Sharing this with every CF coach I know! Hopefully they will see the light.

  4. @mcquilkin in the squat with hip flick video, are we looking at anterior pelvic tilt initiation into the squat?

    In the squat with push back video we’re seeing a squat where the hips are locked, as you said, in a neutral position, a better position?

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