A solution to teaching people how to squat better is something that I battled with as a coach for what seemed like forever! It wasn’t a question that squatting was good for my clients, but getting them to do it well was a whole different story. I did EVERYTHING from trying different equipment, to corrective exercise, to mobility training, nothing seemed to work at the time. It wasn’t till I realized what was really at the heart of many of my clients’ issues.
The more science of movement I learned, the more it became obvious. Before I get into the techniques and a tiny bit of science, let me say that the number one problem is people don’t know HOW to squat. They think knees going forward or butt going back. Neither is where we start. Teaching people how to use their feet and push their knees outwards actually allows them better stability, movement, strength, and utilization of the glutes over their low back.
Physical Therapist, Jessica Bento, gives some great cues we can get people to use their feet more. Remember, your knees follow your feet!
With that addressed, the other part that most people don’t realize is that core stability plays a huge role in how people perform their squat. We don’t think of the core a lot of the time because we think of the squat as a leg exercise. It is predominately a lower body drill, but the body only functions as one piece so the lower body is influenced by what happens above, especially the core.
When the body doesn’t perceive the spine to be stable, it creates tightness in areas like the hips, it causes compensations like bending more forward. That means we needed a way to teach better core stability so we could get better hip mobility and have the “brakes” of the nervous system turn down. It was this idea that led to the creation of the Press Out Squat.
While people have front loaded the body for a long time and even people showed some pressing out of a weight at the bottom of the squat, the Press Out Squat was unique. How so? It was the cuing along with the Ultimate Sandbag itself that plays a big role in the result we either do or do not achieve in the squat.
Step 1: Placement of Load
The whole point of pressing out the Ultimate Sandbag on the squat is to create a “plank” where the core braces and gains stability as we move into more demanding positions. The more mobility we require the greater stability we need to create. So, if we hold the Ultimate Sandbag towards our chest, we are going to get shoulders and upper traps. This doesn’t create our plank and just feel super uncomfortable. Instead, we use the bellybutton as a reference point, this allows us to develop that core stability.
When I taught the US Border Patrol DVRT, we began with our Ultimate Sandbag Press Out Squat and people got better depth and less pain they had ever experienced. The key is understanding the intent and execution.
Step 2: How We Hold The Ultimate Sandbag
There are several keys that the Ultimate Sandbag has that allows for better performance of the squat here. For one, we can hold it two different ways, vertically makes it feel lighter than horizontal. If people have a hard time engaging their lats or feeling what we want, holding horizontal typically works better as a teaching tool and lighter weight (around 10-15 pounds) is more than enough.
Once we determine how we want to hold the Ultimate Sandbag and where, then what we do next is so key! What makes the Ultimate Sandbag the best tool here is that it is pliable so that we can “pull it apart” and teach people how to pre-load their lats and core muscles (lats are technically part of the core, but just easier to explain) before we start our squat. We actually want tension BEFORE we start moving both in our upper and lower body. Engaging the hands and having this very deliberate tension is going to make all the difference.
What DVRT UK Master, Greg Perlaki shows is that we just don’t hold the Ultimate Sandbag, we are very deliberate with how we create tension in trying to “break it apart” to engage better core stability.
Step 3: Timing of the Movement
We played with all different types of ways of doing the Press Out Squat, what we found was that timing slowly the press out with the movement of the squat was the best. If you press out first and squat, it feels heavy in the arms and doesn’t do much to improve the squat. If we press out only at the bottom, we don’t get much of the core stability that would help with the squat. Timing the press out with the squat is where a lot of the magic happens.
That also means what we do on the way up! Once we hit the bottom of our squat, we not only want to push through our feet, but really “PULL” the Ultimate Sandbag back to our body. Doing so almost creates a spring in our body and allows us to drive through our legs more and not load our low backs.
It was how I rebuilt my own squat after my spinal disease led to my first lumbar fusion (Dwight coaching of course helped!)
Putting It All Together
The Press Out Squat in our system is a MUCH slower movement than you see most people perform. It is meant to build foundational movement capability as well as strength in the squat pattern. Where does it fit in progressions? It would be the first squat we taught, then a kettlebell goblet squat, and then bear hug squat. Why first? Most people can’t hold enough load and create proper tension on the kettlebell to make the goblet squat really the entry point. The goblet squat is based on using load as a feedback tool so we want to build success first with the press out squat. This also means giving people 4-6 repetitions rather than 1o-12.
The reason for that prescription is that we want people to go slow and it is hard for people to go slow for that many reps, especially beginners. We also will see them fatigue much faster from using more muscles and being more deliberate in their squat so we want to use lower repetitions.
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Greg Perlaki of DVRT UK shows how we take the concept of the Press Out Squat to more advanced forms of squatting for strength, stability, and mobility!
Don’t confuse a relatively simple drill for easy or not nuanced. The cues are essential as if you know the how’s and why’s you can deliver instant results. If you don’t, you just get a really uncomfortable squat.
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