We’ve all seen the red-faced coach who regurgitates motivational slogans at their clients while they’re lifting. What these “coaches” fail to understand is you can’t motivate yourself out of shitty positioning. And you definitely can’t motivate someone else out of the same predicament.
Instead, use coaching cues to communicate what you’re looking for in terms of technique.
And when it comes to squats, particularly box squats, there are a few cues that really stick.
1. BRACE FOR A PUNCH.
Breathe and brace. That’s where core engagement stems from. And without core engagement, you’ll have a weak, crappy squat.
You want to “brace for a punch” because it encourages you to keep your ribs down (as opposed to flared out, which typically leads to hyper-extending your lower back).
This helps you keep a rock solid core and the engagement needed to support a bar on your back.
2. SIT DOWN INTO YOUR CHAIR.
Push your hips back and sit down for dinner. Squats are both a knee-dominant and hip-dominant movement pattern (i.e. you’re bending at the knees and hips to do it).
A common mistake is to initiate the squat by bending at the knees and pushing them forward excessively past the toes. This isn’t ideal, since you want your feet to be “rooted” to the floor so you can drive through your heels.
So instead, push your hips back slightly while bending at the knees to initiate the squat. Your knees will feel better, you’ll be able to engage your glutes by pushing through your heels, and you’ll have less back pain. Thank me later.
3. SPREAD THE FLOOR APART.
Knee cave is never a good thing when squatting. So to avoid that, imagine you’re standing on a sheet of paper and you’re trying to rip it apart with your feet.
This will encourage your hips to externally rotate, your glutes to engage, and your knees to maintain a strong, healthy position as you squat.
4. PUT HALF OF YOUR BODY-WEIGHT ONTO THE BOX.
Credit goes to Joe DeFranco for this gem. He encourages his athletes to pretend the box is a scale and it should read half their body-weight when they descend into the bottom of their squat.
In other words, don’t just plop down and relax with all of your weight on the box.
This cue encourages you to keep your hips and core engaged at the bottom of the squat as you begin to drive back up. Good idea if you’re looking to avoid any potential back issues.
5. HEAVY HEEL.
Sink those heels into the floor and drive through them. Think “rooting” your feet through the floor and maintaining a heavy heel to engage the glutes.