Squat and Hinge Lessons from the Perform Better Summit

perform better logo

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

There’s always a lot of buzz around the Perform Better summit and this past weekend I got to go to my first one. The lineup didn’t disappoint. I got to see some extremely influential people in the field and took home a few pieces of knowledge that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

The best part about the summit was the hands-on portions that got entire conference halls full of people moving and learning from their own body. Lectures are great, but in the realm of training and coaching, nothing makes knowledge stick like feeling new movements firsthand.

I got to catch up with old friends like Harold Gibbons (check out his recap of the Perform Better Summit here) and the Mark Fisher Fitness crew, Henry Lau of Next Level Fitness and Kevin Dineen of Structure Personal Fitness. I made a handful of new friends and got to meet legendary strength coach Dan John, whose wisdom will make up the majority of this post.

The biggest thing I took away was to KEEP THINGS SIMPLE. That doesn’t mean make things easy. It means stick to the basics because most personal training clients will reach their goals by mastering the basics. Straight from the front page of Dan John’s website:

1. Pick Stuff Off the Ground
2. Put Stuff Overhead
3. Carry Stuff for Time and Distance

The more I train people, the more I realize that all the fancy stuff we worry about as powerlifters, bodybuilders and athletes goes out the window for the average person. Time under tension? Rate of force development? Undulating periodization? Nope. Just take baby steps every day to get stronger and move better.

Here are two insanely simple tips I took away from Dan John’s presentation at this year’s Perform Better summit to help you squat and hinge better:

1. Squatting’s Not Actually That Hard

“Squatting is a fundamental human movement.” “Babies squat perfectly, so why can’t you?” Blah, blah, blah.It’s one thing to tell a client that squatting is simple, but that just belittles them. We may hear ourselves saying, “C’mon! Squatting is simple. Just do it already!” But the client actually hears, “Squatting is like, SO easy. Why can’t you do it? You must suck.”So if a simple bodyweight squat is difficult for a client, it’s our job as the trainer to make it easier. Empower them and ensure that they cannot fail. Dan John gave some unbelievably simple tips to regress the squat and show anyone that they can squat.

  • The Hands-Slide Squat
    • Slide the hands along the insides of the thighs as you descend
    • This increases the comfort factor and decreases the “oh shit, I’m gonna fall over” factor simply by giving the squatter the feedback of contact with themselves
    • This eventually gives way to the…
  • Potato Sack Squat
    • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with your hands cupped underneath
    • This teaches you to squat “between” your knees instead of over them
    • Also reinforces a slow and controlled descend because if you divebomb, you crush your fingers

dan-john potato sack squat

  • The Holding-Hands Partner Squat (I think he called this the “Doorknob Squat”)
    • With arms extended and wrists crossed at shoulder height, the client holds onto your hands for stability
    • The client sits back and drops into an ass-to-grass squat
    • This builds a trust factor with the client as you provide them with stability
    • Also virtually eliminates most mobility or flexibility issues, further proving that most people can’t squat because they haven’t learned how, not because they have “tight hips” or “tight hamstrings”

dan john partner squat

After having a client do the Holding-Hands squat, the next logical step is to have them do the same thing holding onto a power rack or a TRX to show them they can do it all by themselves. It’s all about empowerment, people.

2. The World’s Simplest Hip Hinge Cue

“Push your butt back” is the oldest cue in the book for trying to get someone to hinge at the hips for a deadlift, box squat, kettlebell swing, whatever. It works for some people.

But what I’ve found is that most people need an external focus cue rather than an internal focus cue. Simply, rather than telling them to move their body, tell them to move their body in relation to something outside their body and they’ll get it.

We learned the Hand Cuff Hip Hinge which is so brilliantly simple that I was almost upset I didn’t think of it. Just hold a kettlebell behind your back with your hands in a position like you’re getting handcuffed (not that I’ve ever been…). Then, just push your butt back against the kettlebell.

During client assessments, I’ve always used the 3-point PVC hip hinge to teach neutral spine position. It gives immediate feedback if you round your back too much, but the Handcuff hip hinge gives you something to push your butt against, giving you that external feedback that makes it click for so many people.

Literally everyone who I’ve had try this so far has performed a spot-on hip hinge instantly. No squatting, no back rounding. It’s like magic.

Plus, it’s usually a big no-no for me to touch my clients’ butts, so I let the kettlebell do it for me!


These tips may seem like no-brainers for some, but they were new for me and got me excited to use them right away.

The simpler you make a task, the more success your client will have. Breaking down complex movements like squatting and hinging into simple, digestible parts will eliminate the frustrations of failure and lead to better gains.

And if you ever get the chance to see Dan John present, do it. He’s hilarious, a tremendous storyteller and an engaging speaker. I’m thrilled I got to meet him and learn from him.

Give these simple squat and hinge tricks a try and let me know how you make out.


Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Tips and Tricks
One comment on “Squat and Hinge Lessons from the Perform Better Summit
  1. […] Squat and Hinge Lessons from the Perform Better Summit – Tony Bonvechio […]

Comments are closed.


Sign up for the Bonvec Strength newsletter and get your copy of Top 10 Bench Press Mistakes

The Supplement Goals Reference Guide

The cheat sheet to better health, a better body and a better life.

%d bloggers like this: