Quadruped Rockbacks: Improving Strength and Athletic Performance One Rock at a Time

Method behind the Madness- installment 2, the quadruped rockback. You can find Installment 1: primal rolls HERE.

Quadruped rockbacks are one of the ubiquitous exercises found on SAPT programs and usually every athlete performs some version of the quadruped rock during the training session. 

So why do these magical rockbacks hold a prominent spot in SAPT coaches’ hearts? Do they really make you stronger and more athletic? (Short answer: yes.)


Three simple explanations:

1. Quadruped rocks help groove the neuromuscular (brain + muscles) pattern for both squats and hip hinge. (It carries over a bit more to the squat than the hip hinge (such as a deadlift) but the basic principle is the same.) Take a gander at the movement and pay close attention to the joint angles: neutral spine + deep hip and knee flexion.

Does that look familiar? Rotate the movement 90 degrees and you have a deep squat.

For kids- and adults- who have a difficult time maintaining a neutral spine while moving through hip/knee flexion, this drill is perfect for teaching the brain how to organize the muscular activation pattern in a very controlled setting (i.e. on hands and knees with no weight). We’ve seen smashing success in quickly teaching athletes how to squat properly.

2. Rocks provide feedback for the end-range of a person’s hip mobility, particularly in a squat. Segueing from the above point, the rock also provides the coaches visually and the athlete physically his/her end-range for a squat. The point just before where the lower back rounds and tucks under is where we want to stop. If we load a rounded lower back… bad things happen. Therefore, we want to know exactly where that stopping point is for that individual.The majority of trainees will round around the 90 degree angle (at the hip) however, some people can go further and some stop before 90 degrees.

Occasionally, it’s lack of muscular control (core, hip flexors, spinal stabilizers) in those who stop short of 90 degrees- which the quadruped rock improves over time; the rest are limited by their anatomy. Here is an informative explanatory piece from the PTDC that succinctly speaks about pelvic anatomy. It’s important to know where your limits are: not everyone can or should squat deeper than 90 degrees!

3. Last point: quadruped rocks encourage joint centration. Joint centration- a fancy term describing the optimal joint position in which there is an ideal balance of muscle tension acting on that joint- is what we strive for during movements. In the case of a squat, we want the femur (thigh bone) sitting in the center of the hip socket instead of gliding around and getting all crazy; this allows for the glute, for example, to contract optimally at the bottom in order to return to standing.

Aside from teaching the squat pattern, I personally love doing them in my warm-ups. They loosen up my hips and lower back and get the blood flowing. Even as an experienced lifter, the rockback is still beneficial in etching my squat pattern in my neuromuscular system, and anything that grooves my squat pattern is a winner in my book.  

They’re also a good “check in” movement: if my quadruped rocks are feeling achy, that’s a good indicator that I need to spend more time warming up and/or adjust my training for the day if needed.   

Rockbacks improve performance overall by contributing to stronger, more efficient squats and deadlifts both of which increases your athletic prowess by 1000% because being stronger will do that sort of thing.

Pretty fantastic for a humble rock back right?

Note that there are several other variations that we use here at SAPT so today’s explanation is merely the basics. If you don’t train with us, throw in some rockbacks and reap the benefits!