The Academy's Unique "Graduation" System for Squat Progression

Last week, we discussed and gave an oversight into our Squat Cues & Technique for how we teach the squat movement pattern here at The Academy to all of our young athletes & adolescents - you can find it HERE. In this article, we're going to take you over the progressions we utilise as part of our "Graduation System" for teaching & progression the squat movement pattern

Squat - The Youth Academy

When working with young athletes & adolescents, the ultimate focus point should be technique and ingraining proper movement patterns due to their young training age. Our process regardless of their experience within a gym and S&C setting is always the same - our clients are always taken through the following progressions for the squat movement pattern

Why? Well in doing so we can identify inadequacies in their movement patterns, mobility, or other aspects and help begin getting them used to performing the movement pattern we're seeking to teach them in the most efficient and correct manner for their physiological makeup. This also ensures that safety and technique is always accounted for, and also that each young athlete has the same setup & is aware of the same cues so that any Academy coach can slot in and coach the athlete

Squat Progressions

  • Goblet KB Squat

  • Double KB Front Rack Squat

  • Box Squat

  • Goblet Box Squat

  • Double KB Front Rack Box Squat

  • Safety Bar Box Squat

  • Safety Bar Squat

  • Barbell Box Squat

  • Barbell Squat

  • Zercher Squat

  • Front Squat (only when young athlete can perform and maintain proper front-rack position)

The first thing you'll notice is there's no bodyweight squat here - and there's a reason for that... the goblet squat is superior and the addition of a tiny load (even a 2kg dumbbell) acts as a counterbalance that promotes proper back angle and knee alignment. This is our starting point - and we will have young athletes hit a certain "KPI" before progressing and "graduating" to the next movement - the double KB front rack squat

This is the next simplest progression, as again it allows us to add load and minor complexity without loading the spine. Also, the limiting factor here will be the upper back & midsection - not the legs, which we find to be perfect as the intention here is to learn the movement pattern, not lift the most weight

From there we may transition to a box so that we can take the stretch reflex from the movement & develop a greater transfer of power to the movement & increase posterior chain engagement (n.b. the key here is to never "relax" when sitting on the box)

Young athletes don't touch a barbell until they've displayed significant control & strength through Double KB Front Rack Box Squats (again, meeting a specific KPI) - and even then we transition to a Saftey Bar... why? Firstly, the hands are in the same position as they would be for a KB front rack squat, but now the load is transitioned as it would be with a barbell. Secondly, most young athletes don't have the shoulder mobility to correctly use a barbell, and also, the safety bar mimics a front squat, so we find we get greater midsection activation & strength from its use

The most important thing to note here, is THE MOVEMENT PATTERN NEVER CHANGES, only the implement being used does... it doesn't matter if we're performing a goblet squat or a safety bar squat, the movement pattern/setup/cues are the same

Why KPI's?

Using standards allows us to track progression and ensure adequate levels of performance before "graduating" to the more 'complex' variation of the movement. An example of a KPI would be using a certain % of bodyweight for "x" amount of reps... demonstrating perfect control and technique here allows the young athlete to progress and graduate

That's All Folks...

It doesn't need to be complex, although this may seem so to you - but to us, it's simple and incredibly easy to follow - plus, we find we get phenomenal results utilising this unique system we've developed

If you're looking to improve your squat strength and lower body power, we highly recommend giving this a whirl. Check your ego at the door and learn to dominate the movement pattern and find strength in simpler versions of the movement before progressing upwards and onwards

You can build strength without the barbell... ;) 

Nick Maier