Recently, I wrote an article on how fillers can be great additions to your programs. You can read it here.
Fillers are low-intensity exercises you perform in between sets to improve mobility, prevent injury, and correct imbalances. They maximize your clients’ time in the gym, enhance recovery, and reinforce optimal lifting technique…all the while helping you steer clear of mind-numbingly dull small talk between sets.
Today, we’ll cover squat fillers your clients can do in between sets based on their individual goals. If you need help planning workouts for your clients, TrueCoach can help you manage your daily workload.
Note: Regardless of which fillers you program, they should address your clients’ individual needs and complement their squat, rather than contradict it. For example, if they aren’t reaching full depth, would it make more sense to do biceps curls or a hip mobility drill between sets?
Understanding the biomechanics involved in the squat will help you determine which fillers might be best for your clients.
Clearly, you’ve got choices. But rather than blindly bobbing for drills, pick 1-2 fillers you think can offer the highest return. Study your client’s reps, whether it’s through video or in-person, and determine which low-hanging fruit you can grab to improve their squat.
Here are seven squat fillers you can try with your clients (or yourself).
1. Ankle Gliders
Squat limitations can usually be attributed to ankle mobility, or a lack thereof. Without adequate range of motion in the ankles, it can be challenging to keep your feet “rooted” to the floor when squatting. This typically has a domino effect on your squat pattern and can lead to ongoing knee pain if not addressed.
With ankle mobility being a common limiting factor among the masses, it’s usually a good idea to address it consistently with your clients (regardless of whether or not they’re squatting).
Ankle gliders are an effective way to improve dorsiflexion between sets to achieve optimal squat depth. Moreover, it’s a simple piece of homework you can give your clients to do on their own time (many of my clients follow this protocol).
· Get into a half kneeling stance with your front foot flat on the floor.
· Push your front knee forward as far as it can travel while keeping your foot rooted to the ground (never let your heel lift off the floor).
· Hold for 1-2 seconds and rock back gently.
· Repeat for 10-15 reps per side between each set of squats.
Note: Have your client perform these barefoot as to minimize any potential assistance from their shoes (which often have elevated heels).
2. Active Hip Extension
Consistently addressing hip mobility is generally a good idea when it comes to most of the people you’ll be working with.
You’ve done this drill a dozen times, but I offer it with a small twist.
· Get into a half-kneeling stance, with your right knee directly below your hip and your left foot flat on the ground.
· Hold a medium-sized kettlebell in a goblet position.
· Get into a slight posterior pelvic tilt (think tucking your tail).
· Squeeze your right glute and slowly push your right hip forward until you feel a stretch in your right hip.
· Hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds (exhaling the entire time).
· Relax and repeat for 5 reps on each side.
The small tweak of tucking your pelvis posteriorly and engaging your rear glute is a gamechanger. Whenever someone does the classic “hip stretch”, they almost always make the mistake of hyperextending (arching) their lower backs instead of achieving real hip extension. Engaging your glute with a slight posterior pelvic tilt addresses this issue and helps your client maintain a “neutral or flat” lower back position.
3. Seated Hip Abduction
Credit to Jim Smith of Diesel Strength for this gem.
You’ve seen the machine counterpart at your local gym, but have you done this kettlebell/Hip Circle variation?
One of the most common squat issues you’ll notice as a coach is valgus collapse (knee cave), which can typically be attributed to lackluster glute strength and limited rotation in the hips.
This seated hip abduction not only reinforces external hip rotation, it murders the gluteus medius with an added element of core stability given the goblet position of the kettlebell. It actually simulates what the bottom of a squat should look like: externally rotated hips, engaged glutes, and a strong core.
Do 10-15 reps between each set of squats or part of your clients’ warm-up.
4. Shoulder Rotations Against Wall
Whether your clients are front squatting or loading a barbell behind their neck, a decent amount of shoulder mobility is needed for an optimal setup.
]This shoulder rotation drill between sets will improve your clients’ positioning in the squat.
· Get into a half-kneeling stance with your right knee on the floor (closest to the wall).
· With a proud chest, draw a circle on the wall with your right arm (keeping your arm straight).
· Your head should follow your arm throughout each rep.
· Focus on rotating at the upper back and shoulder.
· Do 5-10 reps each side between each set of squats.
5. High Row with Resistance Band
If you think of the squat as a lower body lift, you’d be about half right. A real squat requires full body tension.
A strong upper back means a strong shelf for the bar to rest on during back squats, and it provides support for an upright torso during front/goblet squats.
The high band row is a low-impact exercise your clients can do in between sets of their squats to reinforce upper back engagement.
Do 15-20 reps between each set of squats.
6. Thoracic Extension
Your thoracic spine or upper back needs adequate extension during squats in order to maintain an upright torso and avoid caving forward. This is a classic go-to drill your clients can use in between sets to improve their thoracic extension.
How to do it:
· Get on both knees with both of your elbows on a bench.
· Exhale as you push your chest to the floor and hold for 30-60 seconds.
· Focus on extending your upper back (not hyperextending the lower back) while breathing in and out through the stomach.
7. Bar Hang
Hanging from the bar isn’t just a great squat filler, it’s also a healthy post-workout “cool down” (especially after deadlifts given the demand on the muscles surrounding the lower back).
Squats can put a toll on your spine overtime, especially if your clients are loading a barbell behind their neck. Regardless of the potential repercussions that come with barbell squats, just simple day to day activities can place a lot of shear force on the lower back.
Hanging from a bar for 30-60 sec helps decompress the spine and serves as a great filler in between squats. Moreover, it’s a great way to increase your clients’ grip strength overtime.
We hope you find this information valuable. If you need help managing your day-to-day client communications and training plans give TrueCoach a try FREE for 14 days.