Patterning for Improved Skill Acquisition

A few thoughts I’ve jotted down in my journal over the past few months that I thought I’d share here…

All of the athletes (yes, all) that walk in our doors at SAPT become, nearly instantaneously, better at their sport simply from performing a correct goblet squat for the first time in their lives. Yes, the loaded carries and hip hinges certainly aid in this phenomenon as well, but for now I’m just talking about squatting.

We personally recommend the majority of the young athletes (ages 13-18) entering SAPT for the first time to begin with just a 2x/week training regimen, and then, if needed and appropriate, they can increase the frequency. But you’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish in just two sessions a week with someone who’s brand new to virtuous training methodology.

In the past, Day 1 has been a “squat emphasis” day, where the first main movement they do is a goblet squat. Day 2 will be a “deadlift emphasis” day, where we help them pattern the hip hinge and learn to deadlift with a kettlebell, keeping a neutral spine and using their posterior chain. After they groove the squat or deadlift (depending on the day), they’ll then move on to their unilateral work, pushes, pulls, loaded carries, direct glute work, and all that good stuff.

Now there is nothing wrong with this layout, as, after all, it has worked for a myriad individuals and allowed them to become stronger, less prone to injury, and become more of a beast on the playing field.

The thing that had been troubling me though was I felt that, simply put, they weren’t squatting enough under our watch. Given the fact that despite the thousands of team conditioning sessions, commercial gym group workouts, and exercise DVD routines they’d undergone, their squats resembled something along the lines of a baby giraffe learning to walk for the first time. I guess their previous instructors were either too ignorant or lazy to teach them good squatting mechanics, but who am I to judge?

And it can take a long time to “undo” the habits developed from thousands of bad squats performed in a life time. And while 1x/week of squatting twenty-five TOTAL reps can certainly do the trick, I’ve found it even more time-efficient to squat everyone during every single session.

So, if they’re training 2x/week, they squat every session, toward the beginning of their workout while they’re fresh. If they’re training 3x/week, then yep, they squat 3x/week. Patterning it every day until it becomes second nature.

This means that the unilateral work and direct glute training take the back burner, at least until they can execute perfect squats every single time. Good squats will lay the foundation down for everything else in subsequent training cycles.

While squatting 1x/week will work for a 400lbs squatter, everything changes when someone can’t hold a 25lb kettlebell and sit back without everything turning very ugly very fast.

I guess all I am saying is that, in order to “reprogram” someone’s nervous system and motor control, they need to practice this motor control training frequently and correctly. Nothing too new or revolutionary, but something to consider when you have limited time to work with a young, developing organism.