Building a Strong Squat Foundation for Athletes

The squat is one of the cornerstones of the Trojan Power Program. We teach movements rather than “lifts” in our facility, and the squat is one of the first movements we incorporate, making it essential that students have a solid squat foundation to build upon.

Wall Squats

To start, I suggest taking athletes to a hallway and having them perform wall squats.  The goal is to complete an “overhead” wall squat with their toes touching the wall.  This could be part of a warm up progression or used at the end of a workout as a finisher.  No matter when it is done, it serves as a great mobility exercise.

Adults building a squat foundation using wall squats

With movement training in mind, we have our athletes demonstrate the proper technique through a progression of bodyweight squats, Gobblet squats, and begin technique work with a bar while teaching the front squat.

Front Squat

The front squat is of great importance, as that is the catch for our favorite exercise, the clean.  Teaching the front squat assists in the proper development of angles, ankle rocker (an ankle component that I feel is often overlooked in most athletes), as well as keeping a flat back.  Also, the use of the trap bar deadlift also assists in the overall technique and development in this process.

Back Squat

After proper training and development of the front squat, we will begin teaching our athletes how to back squat with weight.  I have no problem putting an empty bar on a developing athlete to work technique, and we will not do any loaded exercises until they have reached a level of relative strength.

The back squat is the ultimate goal for us in training, but it is not the end of the road once they are able to effectively train with it.  We incorporate a great deal of alternating movements by rotating through Back, Front, Gobblet, and Overhead Squats.  We do our best to evaluate our athletes and tend to pull back on kids more then we push them.

Squat Foundation

I titled this blog as Squat Foundation because that is how we train our athletes. The squat is a foundation lift that is built off of and one that athletes need to master. We focus on the foundation because not all athletes are necessarily able to do the exact same lifts on any given day.  There are a lot of different levels of technique and ability on our teams and in the room at the same time.

We want everyone training certain movements at the same time, but do not want to force athletes into lifts or positions that they simply aren’t ready for, which can lead to injury. On “Squat day” in our facility, there are typically various squat exercises being done throughout the space. Back Squats inside our Power Racks, Front, Overhead or Landmine Squats on the platforms, and Gobblet squats and technique work being done on the turf down the middle for developing or injured athletes.

Ankle rocker visualAnkle Rocker – Shin Angle

For a long time if an athlete had trouble with squatting I assumed it was automatically a problem in the hips. The more I learn about Ankle Rocker, which is the 2nd phase of 3 in the gait cycle, I have come to understand its importance in the squat movement as well.  The gait cycle is the three phase process that propels the body forward and most often is discussed when dealing with sprinting or running in general.  The 3 phases are heel rocker, ankle rocker and forefoot rocker.

Ankle rocker range of motionLooking specifically at ankle rocker you can see how this range of motion is also very important when squatting.  Going back to the wall squats description you can see how this is a major factor when squatting.

The squat movement is important to our program, as are the progressions leading up to the performance of the back squat.  Happy Squatting!

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