Squat School with Johnny Griffiths

By Lisa Rhea

Coach Johnny knows squats.

Coach Johnny knows squats.

Since I’ve moved to San Diego, I’ve had the opportunity to work with SICFIT San Diego and train with co-owner and head coach Johnny Griffiths. Johnny not only creates all the programming for the gym, but is an invaluable resource for lifting form and progressing in technique and performance. I’ve learned a tremendous deal from him already.

Today, I want to share with you a post Johnny originally wrote for the SICFIT San Diego blog, which covers how to fix your squat technique and start putting up more weight. Newbies and advanced squatters alike can learn a lot from this article and the accompanying videos.


Drop it Like it’s Hot – How to Fix Your Squats

By Johnny Griffiths

From years of coaching, here are the top five squat faux pas I see and how to fix them.

You need to do more than a few air squats or bar squats to get ready for a good lift. If you are not taking the time to achieve your personal full range of motion before diving into squatting, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

To get the most from your workout, take time to loosen up your legs with either a barbell, lacrosse ball, or foam roller before you begin your session. Focus on your IT band and inner thigh, which seem to be the most common areas people ignore.

Proper Loading of the Foot
The majority of the weight should remain on the middle of the foot and the heel, with the balls of the toes and toes on the floor for balance purposes. If you find your knees bowing in during your lift, chances are you’re not doing this right.

The weight should be distributed on the outside of the foot, NEVER the arch of the foot. This will lead your your knees to track out over your toes or track on the outside of the foot. The knee position is up to you and what your more comfortable with as long as you have proper foot mechanics.

Bouncing Out of the Bottom
Most athletes hate the bottom of the squat and it is usually where they lose good form and increase there chance of injury.  Some avoid it all together – hence all the memes and squat jokes. The bottom of a squat is a long way down and as most athletes get closer and closer to parallel or below parallel they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. This leads to our bouncing out of the bottom problem.

Your hips need to stay back and down throughout the transition of descending to ascending. This will in turn stretch your hamstrings and glutes to their full range of motion, while also putting you at your strongest position for loading the foot and muscle engagement.

Most people who bounce out of the bottom typically have a massive weight transfer from their heels to the balls of the toes, only to shift back to the heels about half way up. This can be due to lazy squatting or tight hamstrings/glutes. Also, when this happens, your hamstrings and glutes disengage, which leaves your ligaments and tendons to bare the load of your squat (no bueno). If you truly cannot achieve a good squat position by fixing your mechanics, then ask a coach to show you LIGHT pause box squats.

Midline and Internal Pressure
A lot of athletes overarch their back thinking that they will be in a better position and have a stronger squat. If you are someone that typically cramps up or irritates their mid or lower back, then this is you!

You need to engage your abdominal muscles by crunching down your rib cage, then creating internal pressure with your diaphragm by taking a big breath and pushing your abdominal muscles out. Along with this you should be squeezing your glutes, as well as shrugging your shoulder back. This will put you in your strongest position and will give you your best squats.

The biggest problem many have with squats – actually doing them.  A lot of people avoid squatting and leg day because let’s face it – it’s hard. When training them properly, your thighs will have a deep burn, it’s an exhausting movement, and for the gentlemen, legs are not a superficial show muscle.

The squat is one of the most fundamental exercises that has been a testament of strength since the birth of weight lifting. From toddlers to the elderly, everyone gets in and out of chairs (bathroom included), travels up stairs, or at least walks short distances. The squat helps with all of this and is a key exercise for daily functioning.  Not to mention it can give you some nice legs. So the moral of the story…squat one to three times per week in some form or fashion.



Coach Johnny also offers online training, including individualized programming and form review. If you are interested in learning more, hit him up at johnny@sicfitsandiego.com.

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