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The Squat – Progressions and/or Regressions

Good morning.

Today is Monday, that means in your regular gym, unless WGF is your regular gym, the place will be wall to wall bench press.

So it’s a great opportunity for you to get your squat on.

NO, Just fucking NO!

NO, Just fucking NO!

No matter what your training goals may be, the squat  will help you reach them. It is more than an exercise, it is a fundamental movement pattern, it is a mobility drill, it is a stability drill. It tests:

  1. Foot stability

  2. Ankle Mobility

  3. Knee stability AND mobility

  4. Hip Mobility

  5. Core Stability

  6. Thoracic Mobility

  7. Balance

  8. Coordination

And if you go heavy enough:

  1. Strength of Character

And if you go for high reps:

  1. Cardio

Not bad eh?

No wonder it gets hailed as the King of weight room exercises.

At WGF I like people to work through a progression on their way to Squat dominance. It’s a sliding scale that we use as a reference guide rather than a rule book. It goes as follows:

  1. Bodyweight Squat – this sets the foundation

  2. Single Kettlebell “Goblet” Squat

  3. Double Kettlebell Front Squat

  4. Barbell Front or Back Squat, whichever is most appropriate.

Each version has it’s pro’s and con’s. No one variation is better than the other, but as a progression, they form a logical sequence.

The Bodyweight Squat is your foundation, get this smooth and deep before looking to add any significant load. This is also great cardio, we often finish a lower body sett with 100 reps, sometimes we’ll go for time, 2 minutes, 5 minutes and if I’m feeling mean, 15 minutes. I consider 500, full ROM reps in a single set to be a goal we can all achieve.

Good form.....

Good form…..

The Single Kettlebell, or Goblet Squat is next on the list.

Dan John says do Goblet Squats. So DO Goblet Squats!

Dan John says do Goblet Squats. So DO Goblet Squats!

This keeps the load light, but also places the load out in front. This forces good positioning, if you lean too far forwards then you’ll drop the bell.

Double Kettlebell Front Squats are the next logical step, just now more load is available. These are very tough and usually highlight any weaknesses in the core before the legs fail. I class them as torso training, rather than a leg exercise.

Neghar Fonooni shows you how it's done.

Neghar Fonooni shows you how it’s done.

Barbell. I class this as the top tier. In many ways the kettlebell squats are harder, but that’s simply due to the difficulty in holding them. A bar sits closer to your centre of balance, it sits on the structure of the body and can be loaded to a far greater degree than any other method. If you want to get strong and powerful, the Barbell is your friend.


I’ve no preference for my clients over front or back squat. I personally prefer the front squat, it’s safer, it’s largely self correcting and puts less stress on the low back, which if you’ve beaten up your spine as much as I have, is good news. The back squat though can be used to load the hips better and allows for greater loading. The pay off is increased risk of back injury. We use the best squat for the athlete rather than insisting on one over the other.


So this is the progression we use. Read the list backwards and you have regressions, which are equally or even MORE useful.

The video here shows each progression and explains foot position, spine position and the commonalities that link each method.

Have a look:

Happy squatting.


Dave Hedges

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