HE CAN’T SQUAT- He Hasn’t Got Enough Flexibility
“He can’t squat, he isn’t flexible enough!” This often heard statement is false. BFS has a quick and easy way to get every athlete to Parallel Squat. You must learn to balance yourself on your heels
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Spring 2001
At a recent clinic, the head football coach had four younger athletes who could not squat. The reason that was given? Lack of flexibility. This is a common reasoning by many coaches. This almost always is not the case. The real reason is lack of what I call a kinesthetic feel for a heels down-parallel squat position. The athletes with problems simply need to learn to balance themselves. Easier said than done, right?
Well, it is easy in most cases. Three of the four athletes were squatting parallel and looking reasonably good in three minutes while the fourth athlete required about thirty minutes. They all learned to “feel” the position and balance themselves. The following is the simple procedure that I use to teach this kinesthetic feeling of balance:
Shown above is the main problem: knees forward with the heels off the floor. The hips in this photo are good but usually, they too, are scooted underneath the lower back which is also rounded. This is a bad combination. When the athlete tries to keep the heels on the floor, he will lose his balance long before he reaches parallel. Therefore, with many coaches this error is perceived to be a lack of flexibility. Make a paradigm shift in thinking. It is a balance or kinesthetic feel problem.
Figures 1 & 2 illustrate the Front Squat with the Clean Grip and Cross Grip style. At BFS Clinics, all athletes try to experience a Front Squat while learning the Power Clean. Most are successful. We usually use between 45-65 pounds. With this light weight, athletes are free to experiment with their body position to get the “feel” of what it is like to go deep with the heels on the floor. They learn to keep the hips well back with the lower back locked in. They learn the importance of “eyes on target” and “spread the chest.” Therefore, this process is helpful to many when we start teaching the Back Squat. Bottom Line: Try a very light Front Squat first with athletes who are having problems with the Back Squat.
Figure 3 depicts the Balance Game. You can use a partner or hold on to a stable fixture. The idea is to get into an athletic stance and do a Parallel Squat without any weight. Holding on enables all athletes to balance themselves in a parallel or deep squat position. Many will want to bring their heels off the floor. Do not let them. Experience a parallel position with the heels down first and then fix the back, head, eyes, etc. The “game” part of this drill is to see if they can let go and balance themselves without outside support. Many will be able to look perfect in regards to depth, back, chest and eyes. They will also be able to squat perfect. However, those athletes without “flexibility” usually will not be able to balance themselves without holding on to something. However, some might and if they can, the problem is solved.
For those athletes who cannot balance themselves with an athletic stance, try doing the Balance Game drill using the stance shown in Figure 4. It looks kind of ugly but it works. Use an extra wide stance with the toes flared out to the extreme. Bottom Line: All athletes should now be able to balance themselves in a Parallel Squat position with the heels on the floor. They should also be able to do it without outside support or very little outside support. They can now experience the “feel” of getting it right.
Figure 4 shows Coach Kirkman ready to squat with this extra wide stance with toes in an extreme flared out position. He is ready to experience with the bar what he just experienced without the bar. Bottom Line: Now, even the most difficult of athletes should be able to experience complete success immediately or within a few minutes.
Figures 5 thru 7 portray a step by step procedure of getting the stance and feet into a perfect position. Most of the time it only takes one rep per position. Bottom Line: Do one rep in the extreme position of Figure 5. Then try Figure 6’s stance. Then on the next rep try Figure 7’s stance. Use as many “steps” as necessary to get the athlete in the correct position.
Figure 8 & 9 personifies the goal of executing a Parallel Squat from an athletic stance in an upright position with perfect balance. Bottom Line: Once you experience the kinesthetic feel of the balance that is required, you can perform a decent Parallel Squat. Good luck!