Maintaining a tall torso when squatting is a skill. A skill few master… Me included. Here’s a quick story about my inability to stay tall in my Goblet Squat.
Many years ago, I attended a Kettlebell Certification Seminar though a company that will remain unnamed. When it came time to “test out” on my performance of the Goblet Squat the instructor immediately noticed that I failed to maintain a tall torso. The instructor cued me “Get and stay tall” and I still struggled. I was then instructed to perform the only coaching fix they taught us that day. A Wall Goblet Squat… in this exercise you face a wall, get your toes as close to the wall as possible, and then squat. I performed a set of 10 and retested. I promptly failed. This process continued for about 10 minutes. After a conversation among the instructors they passed me with hesitation. They DID NOT offer any other suggestions of fixes. Instead I was told to “work on it”.
I took it upon myself to read, research, and speak with colleagues about why I move this way in the goblet squat. A few weeks later I realized I failed to grasp the concept of “pulling” into the squat with my hip flexors plus I had some dorsiflexion limitations. These are two of a variety of potential issues that can prevent a student from maintaining a tall torso when squatting. The balance of this post will focus on how to fix this issue.
Here’s An Ideal Goblet Squat:
Unfortunately, most students won’t look like this right away. We recommend evaluating dorsiflexion first so it can be ruled out as a limiting factor. If a student has poor dorsiflexion staying tall in the squat is nearly impossible.
If dorsiflexions is an issue… mobilize that ankle. If a student has adequate ankle mobility then keeping the torso tall often comes down to motor learning. We like to focus our attention on having the student learn how to pull into the squat with their hip flexors. In our last post we showed you a partner prone hip flexor pull. Another great option is learning this skill when performing an unloaded squat.
We have found that learning to pull into the squat with your hip flexors is easier said than done. Therefore, we encourage performing the prone or unloaded hip flexor pull drill then immediately performing the goblet squat. The back and forth between a drill and the exercise often helps students apply and retain the skill at a faster rate.
We recognize that mobilizing ankles and learning to pull with your hip flexors won’t clear up all potential issues you’ll come across so here are some additional options you can try if you or a student are struggling.
Driver Squat: The student can apply the hip flexor pull concept here and this drill often also help with posture. This is also a great drill for learning how to distribute more weight in the heels.
Wall Squat: The student can apply the hip flexor pull concept here and they are provided with immediate feedback if/when they flex their torso forward… when they kiss the wall.
This is definitely a funky looking drill. Rocking with head nod is borrowed from Dr. Stuart McGill, high regarded biomechanist and spine specialist. A colleague taught me this drill and it had the most significant impact on cleaning up my goblet squat.
We don’t list all these coaching fixes to show how much we know or for the sake a putting lots of information out. Instead, the experience at that kettlebell seminar all those years ago shaped how I/Fit EDU teaches each movement. Since everyone’s anthropometrics are different and all the learning styles we feel it is critical for each coach to have a variety of drills to pull from to help improve movement.
Believe it or not, at the conclusion of this post we still have only scratched the surface in regards to potential movement flaws and fixes. In our next Goblet Squat Post we will dive into Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) and how to use this technique to improve the squat pattern.
Thanks for reading and happy holidays.