Learn How to Pattern a Stronger, Healthier Squat with These 3 Movements

When preparing for squats and other movements, primer exercises can be highly beneficial for reinforcing and developing the correct neural patterning needed to promote the intended movement patterns.

Often, when there are blocks in one’s movements, we refer to limitations of mobility, joint and connective tissues, and asymmetries. While those are all viable reasons as to why someone may have a block in their movements, other factors, such as neuromuscular patterning faults may also be responsible.

Coaches and athletes can work to increase control and promote movement throughout a fuller range of motion (as sometimes a range of motion block may not be from limited joint/tissue mobility/flexibility, but rather limited neural control) by implementing specific priming exercises.

Dr. Quinn Henoch and Dr. Andreo Espina are two leading sports and performance movement professionals who preach the powerful impact that force application and control at end ranges (as well as throughout the full range of motion) can have on stability and strength of a movement and joint.

In this article, we will discuss three practical movements coaches and athlete can use during squat sessions, warm-ups, corrective segments, and movement screens to determine and facilitate a fuller, stronger, and more controlled range of motion in the squat.

How to Squat Better

The below exercises can be incorporated during warm up routines/sets in order to have the best application to the squat. Coaches and athletes should maximize the effectiveness of these movements by limiting the duration between the completion of the “movement primers” and the squatting movement. 

Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) Squat Progressions

This series of movements (not only limited to the above in the video) are part of the RNT principles, in which work to increase dynamic stability and proprioception without the need for verbal coaching. By using the bands to apply force in the same direction as the dysfunction (bands pulling lifter forward as the squat to stop them from leaning forward) this exercise “feeds the dysfunction.” In turn, the athlete/lifter must work to stop the dysfunction, reprogram the movement and posture, and develop functional and stable movement.

Quadruped Rockback to Squat

This exercise allows the athlete to approach the squat in a different pattern, starting with their connection to the floor (the feet) and how they will properly load and synchronize ankle, knee, and hip flexion to allow for a strong and stable base in the bottom position of the squat. The added goblet squat can further promote rigidity in the upper back (extension) as well as work to load and promote force production deep into the end ranges of motion, both of which can result in stronger, more stable squats at depth.

Counterbalance Squats

This exercise is ideal for individuals who have issues with proper knee and hip tracking while descending into the squat position. The counterbalance allows for the athlete to descend in a more vertical position, creating back extension strength and awareness, and in turn allowing for the proper loading of the hips and quads. This exercise can be done slowly and in tempo fashion to further promote muscular tension.

Final Words

All three of these movements are highly transferable to the development of proper control and coordinated movements in the ankles, knees, and hips. Additionally, these movements work to increase core strength and contractions (transverse abdominal, obliges, etc) to promote sound pelvic movement mechanics, bracing, and enhanced squatting performance on an individual basis.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @quinn.hencochdpt on Instagram