6 super simple squat progressions

After the deadlift progressions from a week or 2 ago, here are 5 squat progressions to take you from absolute beginner to squat pro in quick time.

Squats are a basic movement that, once again, due to poor mechanics, often get a bad rap for “making your knees hurt”. The problem is though, the squat isn’t fundamentally an issue, the way you squat might be. I have yet to find anyone who can’t squat to some level of proficiency with the right variation and progressions. MY client Catherine, who avoided squatting movements due to knee pain, used the progressions I lay out below to build up to pain-free bodyweight squats, and goblet squats at 12-14kg in about 4 months. I think it could’ve happened quicker, but sometimes patience is a virtue!

dan john squat quote

TRX squats

The TRX squat is a great way to work on the squat if you have no idea where to start. The straps allow you to support yourself, provide some balance and get you sitting down into the position, and not back. Unlike the deadlift, the squat is a knee dominant movement. Or rather knee and hip, since both bend maximally.



Key points:

  • The straps are only there to give you a little balance and stability, don’t use them to pull yourself up with!
  • If your feet want to turn out a little, let it happen.
  • Weight should be slightly towards your heels
  • Try to keep your knees tracking on a line through your middle toes.
  • See the video demo here

Sumo squats

Adding load to the squat is pretty straightforward with sumo squats. Since the load is held down low, the core component is lower than that of the goblet and barbell squats.


Key points:

  • Sit down into the squat, when it gets tougher, you’ll want to push your hips back and turn it into a deadlift. Don’t!
  • Eyes up = chest up
  • Keep your shoulders back as much as you can, elbows track inside your knees.
  • See the video demo here

Goblet squats

The goblet squat is a great option for adding load, and for a lot of clients, it’s the best squat option available to them. It can be loaded heavily, it almost resists attempts to mess up technique and can be progressed using the landmine unit to greater loads.


Key points:

The landmine squat

The landmine allows you to use heavier loads than the goblet squat, and makes sure you sit into the squat, while staying upright, due to the arc of the bar. Treat it much the same as you would the goblet squat, keep the bar held high, and sit down into it.


Key points:

  • You can use a bench to prop the weight up to make it easier to lift up and set down as it gets heavier
  • You may have a little more or a little less forward lean at the top position than I do. It’ll depend largely on where you position your feet, which varies from individual to individual.
  • See the video demo here

Front squats

The first option with the barbell held high on the shoulders. The forward position of the load, much like the goblet/ landmine variations, gives it a high core component as well as a high demand for a strong upper back to maintain a “chest up” position.

Key points:

  • Keep your elbows high regardless of which grip you use
  • You can cross your hands over (as in the video), or you can use a clean grip if you have the prerequisite flexibility
  • See the video demo here

Back squat

The final progression you’ll commonly see done in the gym, often badly. This variation demands a lot in terms of strength but also in shoulder and ankle mobility. If you can’t get your arms and hands into the right position you’ll suffer, and if you don’t have the ankle mobility you can’t get into the squat well as your shins tip forward more than the front loaded squat variations.

Key points:

  • Keep the bar pulled in tight to you. Have it sitting on the meat of your traps, not your neck.
  • There is more forward lean as you go into the squat, keep your chest up to avoid being pulled forward.
  • Drive your heels in to the ground hard on the way up
  • See the video demo here

If you have any questions about squats, technique and programming, just get in touch via the comments, or email me at dave@edinburgh-pt.com

Stay strong,


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