The Squat and Deadlift have stood the test of time as highly effective movements for building muscular strength and generating maximal force and power outputs in the lower body.
These three variables are vital to an athlete's development; therefore the strength coach must find strategies to safely and effectively create an environment where this can be achieved. If you decide to include the Squat and/or Deadlift in your programs, it is imperative that you give the athlete the tools needed for proper technique and performance both in the gym and on the field.
We use both internal and external cues to effectively teach movement patterns to our athletes. The more athletes you coach, the more cues you might find yourself using in the process. When coaching these movements, especially to novice lifters, the coach and athlete are faced with various "stages of struggle" as I like to call them.
Over the last 12 years of coaching athletes in the Squat or Deadlift, I have found that a common struggle involves teaching athletes how to create and feel tension in what is a very kinesthetic linkage of segments from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head. I have watched, listened, read and personally created many different cues, checklists and systems for success in these movements. Many of them have worked quite well over time, have proved successful and have found their way into my "bag of tricks" for future use and systems development.
However, the struggle is sometimes longer than anticipated, as each athlete presents different challenges. All athletes are not created equal, and every movement has subtle differences that a coach must be aware of and accommodate with cueing and set-up.
The variable factors include age, height, flexibility, limb length, joint mobility, pre-existing injuries, the specific sport being played, experience, self efficacy and accountability and gender, just to name a few. Great coaches recognize these factors and make changes in their cueing to accommodate the many different people and different bodies that they coach. If you are trying to make every athlete squat or deadlift like the person next to him or her, or in the style that you were once taught, you are making a coaching mistake.
I have included a video that has worked wonders for teaching athletes how to create the necessary tension needed to be successful in their set-up for the Squat and Deadlift. Just about every athlete I have ever coached knows how to jump, and we have taught them that to jump higher, they must create more force and power. To do this they squat and deadlift increasingly heavier loads to get stronger so the y can generate more force.
When I ask athletes to stand with their hands overhead and drop quickly, as though loading for a Vertical Jump, they almost always create the necessary tension and body position for a great Squat and Deadlift. Go figure! We now use that in our programming to manufacture a good bottom position for our athletes in both the Squat and Deadlift. Try it out. It may help speed the teaching process with your athletes.
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