Squat Setup & Cues: A Young Athletes Complete Guide

Here at The Academy, we're building the next generations - simple as that. And when it comes to the physical training aspect of this, learning the squat movement pattern is a foundational element to this. Technique becomes paramount, and to teach all young athletes we're blessed to be exposed to, we have a simple cue progression (and also exercise progression) to help them learn and perform the squat movement to the best of their abilities

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and Iearn"
- Benjamin Franklin

Squat - The Youth Academy

The squat is said to be the king of all movements (along with the deadlift), and it's the cornerstone of any good strength and conditioning training program. From an early age, we've been ingrained to squat, as, in essence, it's simply a "sit to stand" - but somewhere along the way we've forgotten how this is supposed to feel... and thus, we need to re-learn the movement pattern

At The Academy, we always begin with a goblet squat, as it's the simplest form of a squat to teach, and the addition of holding the weight in front acts as a counter balance that makes it "easier" than a normal bodyweight squat. And the main thing we teach our young athletes and enforce in their heads is that

Squat - The Youth Academy

"regardless of the implement being used or squat variation being performed,  the basic cues never change... the movement pattern never changes - only the implement or variation does"

And with that said, here are our simple cues & the setup we use to teach all of our Academy clients the squat movement pattern (please note: these cues may change depending on the level of the individual and the type of learner they are - visual, kinesthetic, auditory)

Before The Descent:

  1. Feet slightly wider than shoulder width (note: this will change given the individual athletes leverages/limb lengths)
  2. Toes between 0 & 15 degree's rotation
  3. Squeeze your butt ass hard as you can
  4. Turn your knees out (engages the glutes & posterior chain + opens the hips by creating internal torque)
  5. Shoulders back and down/scaps in your back pockets
  6. (we may utilise a box here if required and if the athlete cannot learn to "sit")

Out Of The Hole:

  1. Drive through your heels
  2. Drive the knees out 
  3. Chest up
  4. Hips through

And once the young athlete begins to progress and become more accustomed to the cues and movement, you can break the cues down into even simpler single-words, such a feet, knees, chest, hips, etc...

Squat - The Youth Academy

One key is to not overwhelm the young athletes and have them focus solely on one or two major cues they seem to have to think most about... and then have them perform the movement pattern properly so that it becomes ingrained automatically into their nervous system and the movement soon becomes second nature

And perhaps most importantly, there should be a simple and systematic progression for young athletes to work through with the squat movement pattern, that allows them to progress into more "complex" versions of the movement with time... this ensures that, with time, they will eventually move onto the barbell squat or front squat

And in future articles, we will break down our "graduation" system to show you how this is done...

But they should NEVER begin with a barbell on their back - especially when their long-term development and safety is at the forefront of what we're doing for them

Nick Maier