Bottoms-Up Squat Patterning Is the Jam

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I was livid.

Not long ago I had a female client come in for an initial assessment and she divulged to me the previous coach she had worked with, in not so many words, inferred she was “dysfunctional” and that she’d likely never be able to perform a decent squat.1

What kind of BS is that? Within ten minutes of the first session you tell someone how much of a walking ball of fail they are? Awesome business model, dude.

I took it as my mission to use that initial session with her and demonstrate to her success; to prove to her she could squat. Maybe not with a barbell on her back, ass to grass, but I wanted to show her that 1) not many people are able to do that in the first place and 2) there are many different iterations of the squat and it was my job to showcase what her best options were given her ability level, injury history, and goal(s).

Screw that coach.2


The interaction above took place several months ago.

And, not to be too braggadocious, I was able to successfully get her to “squat” within that first session after taking her through a thorough screen and using more of a bottoms-up approach to pattern her squat.3

It all came down to getting her nervous system comfortable in the bottom position and to own it.

Cliff Notes Version:

  • Perform a hip scour to ascertain general anatomy limitations
  • Assess both passive AND active squat pattern(s).
  • See if active “matches” passive ROM (Range of Motion).
    • If so, do they demonstrate enough motor control to, well, control that ROM?
    • If not, is it a mobility or stability issue? I find it’s rarely the former. However mobility tends to be everyone’s “go to” scapegoat.
  • Implement appropriate patterning drills that match the trainee’s ability level and don’t bore them to tears with too many corrective drills that don’t accomplish much of anything.

Non-Cliff Notes Version:

Read THIS —-> Building the Squat From the Bottom

Bottoms-Up Is the Jam

Using the BOTTOMS-UP approach to introduce specific movements – in this case, the squat – is a foolproof way help build your client’s confidence in the movement and to start to nudge a training effect.

NOTE: a baby dolphin dies every time you default to 30 minutes of “ankle mobilization” drills.

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Clinical Athlete Workshop in Springfield, MA with Dr. Quinn Henoch, Dr. Zak Gabor, and Matthew Ibrahim.

Quinn brought to light two more drills I’m immediately going to add to my arsenal and I wanted to share them with you here.

Check these bad boys out.

Quadruped Rockback Squat Patterning


Tall Kneeling Squat Patterning


Pretty cool, right?

Play around with them yourself. Use them with your clients. Demonstrate to your clients that they can do stuff, and that oftentimes it’s just a matter of breaking down movements into more digestible parts to show them success.

Go to work my Padwans.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. I’m not going to give away any names, but the coach in question worked at a gym that started with the letter “C” and ended with rossfit.

  2. He probably ate “vegan” chicken parm sandwiches too. Or, or, I don’t know, thought The Matrix sequels were good. Fuck that guy.

  3. She actually got teary eyed because she was so happy she could do it. It was pretty touching I was able to help. We then watched a bunch of Julia Roberts movies and hugged it out.

Comments for This Entry

  • Kyla Jarrett

    I had a coach tell me 4 years ago during an internship that I was dysfunctional, and should never squat. After that I had another coach that only believed in ass to grass squats, and made me do what seemed like 10 million mobility drills in an effort to get me to be able to squat, to no avail. So I've basically avoided squatting completely for the last 4 years. I learned recently from a PT that I have bilaterally retroverted acetabulum, which explains my squat stance/foot rotation/depth/ supposed dysfunction. After some reading, I started playing around with squats again recently, but lost every ounce of confidence in my ability to do them, and could never get stable in the bottom position. I read both this article and the Building the Squat from the Bottom article, tried the patterning drills, and was able to do some really solid, stable squats for the first time in a very long time within about 5 minutes. Sorry for this long winded mess, but I just wanted to say that you're awesome, and thank you all of the information!!

    October 19, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Reply to this comment

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