Form into pairs, and to stand approx 60cm apart, measured from toe to toe.
Each person places their feet together, bends their knees, and teeters on the balls of their feet.
Once balanced, each person will raise their hands into the ‘bumpers-up‘ position.
The goal for each person is to bring their partner ‘off-balance.’
However, the only area of the body that can be touched (at any time) is a person’s hands.
Play best-of-three rounds, then swap partners.
Video Transcript for Squat Thrust Game presented by Mark Collard
So let me demonstrate with Skye what the exercise looks like. Again on paper you think this is pretty simple, and you might think that there’s actually a lot of effort involved but it’s not. In fact you could do nothing and still win.
I like that kind of game where you don’t have to do anything and still win.
So, here’s how it works.
Let me demonstrate first of all what I’m expecting and then do your best. So I’m going to stand… kind of squat really on the haunches… on my toes… the base of my toes or my feet.
So notice how I do not have the base of my heels on the floor. It’s just my toes and the ball of my foot. Can you do the same thing and you’ll be roughly… I might bring myself a little bit closer… so roughly it’s about 30 centimetres between your knees.
It’s from this position, Skye, you and I are now going to be engaged in mortal combat. Now a possible impact here is that one of us is going to come off balance.
Note what I just said. It’s about coming off balance not pushing the other person over, okay? And the only point of contact we have with each other is with our hands.
Okay, you’re good there? I already think I’m going to win.
So from this position the object is to be able to use and only having our hands to work with. So as I said I don’t even have to touch Sky. It’s possible she could go over.
Now you’ll know if someone falls over because their feet move, their hand goes down. You continue and engage until one person has come off balance.
Okay, are you in a good space? Alright, we’ll do a quick 10-second round. Here we go. And, GO.
(demonstrating Squat Thrust game)
Okay, I think you got the idea. Alright, you got the basics.
So a quick 10-second round to see how many times in that space of time you might be able to bring your partner off balance.
Note there’s about 30 centimetres between your knees. GO. Good job.
(people playing Squat Thrust game)
(people playing Squat Thrust game)
New partner, same exercise. Go.
(people playing new variation of Squat Thrust game)
New partner, same exercise.
(people playing Squat Thrust game)
How To Play Narrative
Announce that you would like everyone to find a partner who has similarly-sized hands.
After genial greetings are exchanged, ask each person to face their partner and to stand about 60 cm (2’) apart – as measured from toe to toe.
With feet together, demonstrate the required pose by squatting down, bending at the knees, teetering on the balls of your feet. With hands in the ‘bumpers-up’ position, ie hands up, elbows in, palms facing forward in front of you, you are now ready to engage.
On “GO” – because it’s a great way to start a game – explain that the goal is for each person to bring their partner ‘off-balance’ (notice, I did not say “Push your buddy over.”)
Oh, and to make it a little more interesting, explain that the only area of the body that can be touched is a person’s hands.
That’s right, a person is not entitled to touch any other anatomical part of their opponent to cause them to come off-balance. Oftentimes, a touch is not even necessary to cause a toppling over; a good baulk is a clever strategy.
Make it best out of three rounds, wins.
Next, if the energy hasn’t waned, invite everyone to find a new sparring partner and start over.
Practical Leadership Tips
There are many fun, random methods you can use to divide your group into pairs – take a look at Getting Into Pairs for some great ideas.
To keep the game fun (not to mention, safe), reiterate the goal is to bring one’s partner ‘off balance.’ An aggressive push is not only unnecessary, but it will likely create an unsafe situation (both from a physical and emotional point of view.)
Beware the sneaky folks who think that resting on the soles of their feet is the same as teetering on the balls of their feet. Correct as necessary.
This is another classic no-props game from the adventure programming guru himself, Karl Rohnke. Thanks Karl.
You could integrate Squat Thrust as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to interact and engage physically with others in a positive manner may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of safety consciousness that was demonstrated during the activity and relate this to a set of observed impacts on others, eg choosing to vigorously push someone to cause harm.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Squat Thrust could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
One Hand Challenge: Restrict each person to the use of one hand only.
Team Challenge: Divide into groups of four people, squatting in a square-like formation. Now it’s every person for him or her self.
Rope Pull: Original set-up, but this time the partners hold a short rope, approx 2 – 3 metres (7 – 10’) between them. Squatting about a metre apart (3’), their object is to use the rope (push, pull or otherwise) to cause their partner to come off-balance. To keep it safe, encourage people to hold their end of the rope inside their palm only, and not to wrap it around their wrists.
Stand-Up Thrust: Take a look at Palm Off for a stand-up variation.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Keeping one’s balance is a learned skill. The more you do it, the easier and longer you can do it. Using your feet, there are a number of ways you can attempt to balance yourself. Here is a particularly vulnerable position in which to balance yourself…
Our language is a particularly powerful tool, because it conjures certain images in our mind when certain words and phrases are used. For example, when I say the words Team A and Team B, most of you will immediately think in terms of a competition. What about the words ‘off-balance?’…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this quick energiser game:
How easy was it to balance on the balls of your feet?
What did you discover helped you to maintain your balance?
What was the most successful strategy to bring your partner off balance?
Was this exercise fun? Why?
Short & Fun ‘Energiser’ Session
What You Need:
10+ people, 15 mins
Ro Sham Bo – fun, interactive ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ variation
Palm Off – introductory off-balance partner activity
Squat Thrust – more challenging off-balance partner activity
The inspiration for Squat Thrust, and many more fun, energiser activities, can be found in the following publications: