| | Attacking Limiting Factors: Squat Initiation

Author / John

5 - 7 Min Read

PAHQ 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 (especially with virtual training), 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.

This is an ad. Please consider our shameless self promotion.

We take a life cycle approach to developing athletes.  Under Bedrock 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.

Corrective exercises

Dead Bug Home Position

The Dead Bug is the Swiss Army knife of corrective exercises.  From this perspective, we look for the athlete to lie flat on the ground and press their lower back into the floor painting their spine as long as possible.  Getting rid of the natural arch when laying on the ground is actually an action of the hips!  Athlete’s who are able to press their lower black down demonstrate the ability to posteriorly tilt their hips and will gain isometric stability and strength in a neutral neck, spine, and hip girdle.

Hip Bridge

Begin the Hip Bridge with the lower back pressed against the floor and the hips in a neutral position.  The athlete will then be challenged to maintain this long spine and neutral hip position.  We are training the athlete’s ability to recruit their glutes and hamstrings to push the hips through space, while drawing in the trunk and preparing for squat initiation perfection.

Dead Bug Pelvic Tilt

This movement can be simply thought of as an exaggerated posterior pelvic tilt as demonstrating in the standing video above.  THIS IS A HIP MOVEMENT, NOT A CRUNCH!  Notice the athlete’s leg are moving in a straight line, his hips are simply turning over and returning to neutral.  A huge limited factor for squat initiation and lifting big is lower ab isometric strength.  This movement will not only increase their lower ab strength, but also their hip girdle awareness and coachability.

Empower Your Performance: Started from the Bottom

A coach can get wrapped up in the minutiae of programming and set their athletes on a strength journey that is destined for success – on paper.  A common afterthought in program design is not only how their athletes move, but also how they will correct moment faults.  Cuing is a great tool for a coach, but the universe’s best cue will not help an athlete who has a performance-degrading limiting factor, especially with the squat.

Watch the above the squat initiation video and focus on the differences between these two initiations.  The seemingly simple action of setting and locking the pelvis to a neutral position is a real skill that takes practice.  Develop this skill in the low stress environment, starting from the floor, gradually progressing to the barbell.  Once competency is maintained, regardless of implement, this limiting factor will be butt an afterthought.

To learn more about squatting set up and execution, check out Power Athlete Radio Episode 384!

Related Articles

PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio Episode 352 w/ Dr. Keith Barr – The Future of Muscle Tissue
BLOG: Train Fast, Be Fast on Field Strong’s Potentiation Cycle by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: Amortization Phase by John Welbourn
PODCAST: On The Long Road w/ Dr. Fred Hatfield

Share this article




John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. billpain2 on August 14, 2015 at 8:21 am

    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. dpelletierbeacon on August 18, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Great Article!

  3. sheldoneous on August 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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

  4. magnus15 on August 18, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Great as allways!!

  5. grondin2772 on August 27, 2015 at 5:55 am

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

    • Tex McQuilkin on August 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Thank you, @grondin2772. I believe somewhere in our mission statement it says, “Saving the world, one squat at a time.” Be sure to include a link to our CFFB Cert schedule to everyone you share this with.

  6. Josh on October 1, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Great article@mcquilkin

  7. DavidMck on October 10, 2015 at 6:46 am

    @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?

  8. […] PA Radio – Episode 174: Raph RuizBLOG: 4 Magic Movements to Fix Your Squat by Tex McQuilkinBLOG: Attacking Limiting Factors: Squat Initiation by Tex McQuilkinBLOG: Training Foot Health: Shoes Are The Devil by Dr. Matt […]

  9. […] Now: Attacking Limiting Factors – Squat Initiation by Tex […]

Leave a Comment


Never miss out on an epic blog post or podcast, drop your email below and we’ll stay in-touch.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.