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The SSOC Staff Coaches are constantly discussing programming, clients, injuries, form issues, useful cues, and all sorts of other interesting things on the Slack App that we use for inter-company communication. We had an excellent discussion this morning about the squat progession and the relationship that is played out between “Knees Forward and Out” and “Hips Back” as part of the timing/cadence in a proper squat. The discussion was as follows…

Matt Reynolds [7:43 AM]

From going through videos this morning, I have an idea of a video that needs to be made: “Squat Cadence”….I’m seeing alot of people sit way back early and not let their knees move at all in the beginning. Then as they descend, their knees continue to come forward all the way to the bottom. What’s interesting, is that SOME of these people actually get in a decent position in the bottom, but everything got there in the wrong order.

And IF they get there in the wrong order on the way down, even if the concentric phase is OK when the weight is LIGHT, it won’t be when it gets really heavy. When these people get to heavy fatigued sets of 5, or even worse triples, doubles, and singles preparing for a meet, then those knees are going to be impossible to stop in the bottom and they WILL flex forward as they try to squat the weight up.

We have to teach these people that as soon as they break at the hips and knees, they MUST shove the knees FORWARD and OUT over the toes and BEND OVER ALOT (nipples to the floor). (They don’t have a problem sitting back early. The problem is that they don’t continue to sit back in the bottom, because they blew their load early on the “hips back.”)

FREEZE those knees (and really the back angle as well) 1/3 of the way down. They DO NOT MOVE from this point forward. Once they are here they just keep sitting back and staying on midfoot until they hit the bottom and then shove their ass up (HIP DRAHVE) to stand up.

I see other people (I’m sure you guys do to) who are firing their knees BACKWARDS coming out of the hole of the squat (hips follow back and back angle becomes more horizontal = bad). I have a theory that this is a 2-fold problem:

1) These people are allowing the aforementioned knee movement to get into the bottom, so the “equal and opposite reaction” to stand back up to shove the knees BACK if you were letting them come forward all the way down.


2) They are heel squatters and want to shift back to their heels off the midfoot in a hurry on the way up, which we see dramatically increases moment on the hip and back (but not in a good way) all at once coming out of the hole.

Niki Sims [8:08 AM]

Definitely seen this, too. TUBOW helps a lot associated with the cue to set the knees sooner. Cueing midfoot helps when they push the hips back and shift into their heels. It also helps to let them know they’ll feel slightly *less* leaned over on the way up when were fixing this, but that has to be used carefully so they don’t go over board

Some times cueing them to keep their elbows down helps if they’re getting more horizontal on the way up, that is if we’ve already fixed a too-wide grip

Jayson Ball [9:00 AM]

I’ve been able to fix the knee issue (get knee position set 1/3-1/2 of the way into the descent) with TUBOW. The existing TUBOW video says “make sure the knees touch midway down the descent). I would be happy to may a “cadence” video, though, explicitly talking about this AND back angle.

Matt Reynolds [9:01 AM]

Yes, agreed on TUBOW – I need to get clients an easy to get a good one. Most use a single piece of wood or foam roller – its not substantial enough

Andrew Jackson [9:09 AM]

@matt_reynolds I think you hit the nail on the head for one of the biggest problems I’ve personally had as a lifter and commonly as a coach. It is a movement pattern that has to be fixed early because it completely changes loading on the hips and hip drive out of the hole. It’s insidious because you can get away with it at lighter weights but will always limit your heavy single. I also think it’s a major contributor to patellar femoral sensations.

One of the challenges I have with the early coaching model is that I think the emphasis on hip drive can sometimes miss the setting knees and back angle early. Many people do it naturally, but I think the problem comes in at a later stage as the weights get a little heavier and the lifter is more self aware of their movement. The problem is that by this point they’ve developed a pattern that is difficult to break because it feels more normal particularly in the hip loading and hip drive. By this point, changing the pattern is changing their sense of where they get their power from. For me personally it requires a substantial reset to work on it and it still creeps in as weight gets heavier.

I agree that TUBOW is a good drill, but I think it’s also critical for fixing as early as possible; establishing a priority on setting knees and back early and holding.

Adam Skillin [9:11 AM]

My TUBOW is 2 lengths of 2×4 that I just screwed together. Not any easier to get than a length of 4×4 but lots of people probably have the materials sitting around like I did.

Matt Reynolds [9:16 AM]

I think the best TUBOW is 3 lengths of 2×6 24” long screwed together


Just go to lowes/home depot – buy 1 8 foot board and have them cut it there for you for 25 cents per cut

Andrew Jackson [9:23 AM]

One of the counterintuitive aspects of the knee setting is that it is mentally hard to push into that position once you’ve started experiencing pain in the patella, but I have found that fixing the knee/back cadence is the best thing I can do to for my knee pain.

Jonathon Sullivan [9:52 AM]

TUBOW isn’t just for the eccentric phase–“don’t push the TUBOW over with your knees on the way down.”

It’s also for the concentric phase — “don’t take your knees off the TUBOW on the way up.” This helps a lot, I find, with the aforementioned problem of flopping the knees back on the way up. It reinforces the idea that all the diagnostic angles and knee position are set at the top, then one simply lowers hips and raises hips. Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but it’s been a big help to me with my clients.

Karl Schudt [10:10 AM]

This conversation is pretty much my entire coaching practice. It’s my theory that the reason knees tend to come back on the way up is analogous to the reason hips rise in a heavy deadlift if you’ve dropped them: you have to get to the efficient position to generate force. If you’ve come down upright and -slid your knees too far forward, in a heavy squat, you’ll have to send your knees back and get to where you should have been on the way up to get out of the bottom, just to get in the more efficient position.

Scott Hambrick [10:19 AM]

I’m physically retarded.  Proprioceptively blind.  I couldn’t figure out how to hip drive with the knees out for about 1,000 reps.

Keeping the knee on the TUBOW was a big help.

Andrew Jackson [10:20 AM]

Does it over complicate the novice teaching progression to include this? In other words, is it just inherently a late novice/intermediate problem?

Specific cues on knee and back at particular points of the lift, I mean.

Matt Reynolds [10:21 AM]

Its a bad habit/ form creep issue.

Andrew Jackson [10:21 AM]


Matt Reynolds [10:22 AM]

If an SSC has the client from the beginning this should not be a huge issue because its fixed early and motor pattern is set

If you get an intermediate who is already a strong squatter and they are doing this, its damn hard to fix.

Andrew Jackson [10:23 AM]

Right. Doesn’t seem to present until the weight gets heavier and form creeps in.

Rebekah Cygan [10:40 AM]

This is what happens when smart people collaborate and think about squats a lot #bestpossiblecoachingprogressions

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