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Squat Tips and Cues from the Chicago Seminar


Squat Tips and Cues from the Chicago Seminar

A few weeks ago, Team Juggernaut, held a 2 day seminar at Crossfit Chicago. It was an awesome event with athlete’s hitting PRs everywhere under the watchful eye of our coaching staff, including Brandon Lilly, Paul Carter, Eric Lilliebridge, Ernie Lilliebridge Sr, Ernie Lilliebridge Jr, Caitlyn Trout, Pete Rubish, Chad Wesley Smith and the greatest powerlifter of all-time Ed Coan. Each of these coaches has unique things that they look for in each lift and a unique way of communicating those points to the lifter.

The squat was coached by Ernie Lilliebridge Sr, an 810 pound raw w/ wraps squatter who has coached many great lifter, most notably his son Eric who hold the 275s raw w/ wraps record at 882 pounds and Ernie Jr who has squatted 750 in the 242 class. Also coaching the squat was World Record holder Caitlyn Trout, who in only 1 year of powerlifting has squatted 352 pounds raw w/ wraps in the 123 class. Finally, Juggernaut owner and American Record holding squatter Chad Wesley Smith coached the final station; Chad has squatted 905 pounds raw w/ wraps in the 308s class. Here are some of the most common problems we saw with lifter’s techniques and some of the cues we gave to help them correct those problems…

Lack of upper back tightness-A lack of tightness in the upper back during the setup is dooming your squat to fail before it even begins. One of the most common ways a raw squat is missed if the athlete folding forward, this is a product of lack of tightness in the upper back and lack of strength. You must create an extremely tight shelf by squeezing the shoulder blades together and flexing the traps. A closer hand position will make it easier to achieve upper back tightness, so work on your shoulder mobility to be able to achieve this narrow hand position. Get uncomfortably tight in the setup of your squat.


Team JTS’s Eric Lilliebridge knows how to create a great shelf for the bar.

360 Degrees of Pressure-One of the most common cues that coaches give in the squat is ‘abs out into the belt’ or ‘big air in your belly’ but this cue is WRONG. Molly Galbraith and Jim Laird do a great job of explaining why in this video…

Only expanding the abs forward will put your back into extension, which isn’t the safest or strongest position for it to support heavy weight in. Think about breathing into your low back, this will undoubtedly also force you to brace your abs. Using this cue will allow you to create circumfrencial expansion through the midsection and create 360 degrees of pressure against your belt, giving you greater stability to lift more weight and do it more safely.

Speed ALWAYS-Speed work has been a hotly debated topic in recent months, thanks in large part to an article on this site. Regardless of whether you want to do work with bands and chains or submaximal work or whatever, the fact of the matter is that you need to move the bar as fast as possible, ALL THE TIME. As soon as you are sufficiently warmed up, focus on accelerating the bar though the completion of the lift. Constant focus on your bar speed and moving as forcefully as possible will improve the speed you move the bar with and moving the bar faster is a very simple way to get through sticking points.

Commit to the Descent-One of the most common ways that people miss heavy squats is by descending too slowly. Remember the axiom “treat 135 like your max and your max like 135” meaning that you need to use the exact same technique during your light warmup sets as you do with your max sets, but in the same way you must also approach heavy weights with the same confidence you do light weights. If you descend quickly with submaximal weights, do the same thing with max sets. If you are slowly descending with weights you aren’t getting the most out of your stretch reflex and you are wasting energy during the eccentric phase.

Carrie Holberg squatting 315×2 at the Juggernaut Seminar at Crossfit Chicago…

Elbows Forward and In-The angle of your torso will mimic the angle of your arms. Focus on keeping your elbows pointed down at your butt, don’t let them point backwards. If your elbows point backwards, you are much more likely to fold forward. Push your elbow forward and squeeze them toward the center of your body, this will flex your lats and give you a much more stable support for the heavy weight on your back. Try to flare your lats like a bodybuilder.

Jason Harbin nailing a 625 squat during our seminar at Crossfit Chicago…

The next Juggernaut Seminar will be at Crossfit Tustin in Orange County, CA on October 12-13th. Look for more information soon!!

Team Juggernaut

Juggernaut Training Systems is a group of athletes and coaches dedicated to leading from the front and providing people with the highest quality information from true experts to help them achieve their goals.

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