Squat Progression 101. Mastering the Basics!

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When it comes to teaching resistance training to our clients the number one resistance training exercise for weight loss, strength gain or almost anything in-between is the squat.

Being involved in the fitness industry for the last seven plus years, in strength and conditioning for four years before that and fascinated with strength for as long as I can remember I still can’t understand how so many people can squat with such atrocious technique, poor range of motion and higher risk for injury.

During my education and career path I have been fortunate enough to steal knowledge from some very talented trainers and strength coaches. In fitness we have learned that the steps of progressing an exercise need to be small more often than not to achieve mastery of any movement. Below is a basic teaching progression that we use at Xperience Fitness and that I have used previously to help someone with little to no background or a poor background learn how to squat properly.

There is a saying we use that goes “We never sacrifice technique/posture for range of motion and we never sacrifice range of motion for resistance (added weight).” By keeping true to this statement you lower risk for injury and maximize benefits of the movement. Always remember to let common sense trump all. Most of us are guilty of neglecting it at one time or another.

Our progression for teaching the squat is:

BW Squat on low bench



BW Squat on risers

BW Squat

Freehand squat with PVC pipe

Front Squat

High Bar Back Squat

Back Squat

We use a slightly modified version of Gray Cook’s Deep Squat Progression as pre-work and as needed to improve on posture/positioning throughout the movement. We also refer heavily to the NASM movement assessment chart for diagnosing and correcting any imbalances in the squat movement. I hope this article gives you some basic progressions to refer to or reinforces some things that you have found to be successful with your members and clients.