Over the past six or so years of doing CrossFit, and being around strength training, a common cue for the squat that I have heard is, “sit back on the heels,” or, “you should be able to wiggle your toes in the bottom of the squat.” Both cues are great for teaching people fundamental concepts of the squat, but if they are retained past introductory levels it can be more of a hinderance than a help as the person progresses int their squatting ability. I know I have used these cues in the past, but have tried to since make an active effort to come away from them whenever I am teaching the squat. These cues will not teach a bad squat per say, but they will just more often than not have the person end up with less than optimal form and in CrossFit we are all about optimization.
The reason why these cues can be more of a hinderance rather than a help is because because it does not allow us to utilize the most advantageous movement pattern. The squat, specifically the high bar squat, is most effective when we utilize mostly our quadriceps (quads) to execute the lift. This means we would have our torso fairly upright, have our hips stay in the center of our gravity, and allow our knees to track over the toes as far as the ankle will allow them to. In order to do that we need to have proper foot pressure and knee movement to maximize that ability. Excessively sitting our hips back, and in some cases having our toes come off the floor, limits our knees ability to track forward over the toes and use the quads as much as possible. This does not allow us to optimally use our leverages for the best squat. In addition it can actually limit depth in the squat and cause you to be unbalanced. Those things combined can add up to pounds being left off the bar, and nobody wants that!
As said before, I have definitely used the hips back and the toes off the ground cue in the past to coach the squat, but after gaining a bit more depth of knowledge have since learned to approach the squat from a different angle. A great video explanation about this concept can be found right here. Its actually a video that helped me reaffirm why my concept of the squat needed some tweaking. If you have any questions about the squat and if you feel like you need some help with your technique please ask a coach we are always more than happy to help you!