RTS Coaching: Knees First on Squats?


The other day I was perusing the Interwebz, and I came across this awesome tweet from my guy Mike Roncarati:

The timing was impeccable, because I knew I wanted to poke the bear this week and release this video.

But before I show it to you, let me give you a brief primer on one element of my training philosophy:

When I first starting working with a client or athlete, I want to give them movement variability. More specifically, I want their squat to look like a squat, and I want their hinge to look like a hinge.

Now what should a “squatty” squat look like? I’m glad you asked:

  • A vertical torso,
  • Dorsiflexion through the ankle, and
  • Balanced flexion between the hip and knee.

So would I really cue a client to squat by breaking at the knees first? I already know what you’re thinking…

“Knees FIRST on squats? Everyone knows you have to sit back.”

“Is Mike going off the deep end?”

“What is he trying to do? Get people injured?”

I would address all of these questions (and whatever it is you’re thinking), with one simple statement:

The longer I do this, the more I realize there are really no bad cues. You can, however, use the wrong cue, with the wrong person, and/or at the wrong time.

Like so many things in life, coaching and cuing is not black-and-white. It’s very much a case of “If – Then.”

So today, we’re going to talk about a time and place where I would absolutely cue an athlete to squat by breaking at the knees first (and have done so with great success).


The premise here is pretty simple:

If you have a client who is very patterned into “sitting back” when they squat, try doing the opposite – let the knees go first.

More often than not, this cue cleans their squat pattern up very quickly. It may not be perfect, but that’s the goal. Progress – not perfection.

Again, I wouldn’t use this cue with everyone, but there’s definitely a time and place for it. Use it judiciously and I promise it will pay dividends when you need it!

All the best


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    • Andrew – I love it man, thanks for sharing! I think this is a huge issue when it comes to “sparing” a joint. What often happens is you end up overloading a different joint!

    • It’s been a while, but yes, that has come across my desk. Just goes to show that “sparing” one joint will often negatively impact another one up or down the chain!

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