Should An Athlete Look Up When Squatting?

coaching coaching cues exercise form Jun 17, 2022

Photo Credit: Li Sun

10 Year Transformation Challenge: Coaching Neck Position in the Squat ⁣

The NSCA previously encouraged coaching the squat with the cue eyes up”.

The reason was to prevent athletes from segmentally lifting the hips and then basically doing a good morning to finish the lift. ⁣

⁣They have since changed their position to encourage using a neutral neck position (right side pic).⁣


Why the change? ⁣

Excessive cervical hyperextension and excessive cervical flexion may be compensatory movements for lack of thoracic extension or tendency to extend the lumbar spine, respectively.

These positions can increase lumbar compressive forces leading to some athletes having low back pain under load.

This can often be improved with a neutral neck position. ⁣

The neutral neck position encourages a ribcage position that establishes and maintains greater Intra-abdominal Pressure. 

If an athlete is unable to maintain this neutral position, it may be due to poor neuromuscular control, strength or stability insufficiency, or poor mobility.


⁣Other cueing for your athlete during a squat is to have their point of focus for gaze to be either straight ahead or slightly upward. A slightly upward gaze may help an athlete to lead their ascent with their head and chest instead of hips and help prevent excessive forward trunk flexion. A gaze that is directed too high or too low may place unnecessary torque on the spine.

Doesn't that contradict the change to neutral neck position!?

There is a dissociation from gaze and head position. While gaze might be slightly upward, the neck should still remain in that neutral position. Gaze can be corrected and adjusted with verbal and visual cueing.

Other cues for coaching the squat:

· "Grip the floor with your feet"
· "Keep your big toe down"
· "Keep even weight through the tripod of your foot" (The Tripod of your foot is explained in an earlier blog)
· "Hips back"
· "Spread the floor on the way up"

Support & Courses Available

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