It is well-known that for Hilbert space linear operators $0 \leq A$ and $0 \leq C$, inequality $C \leq A$ does not imply $C^2 \leq A^2.$ We introduce a strong order relation $0 \leq B \lll A$, which guarantees that $C^2 \leq B^{1/2}AB^{1/2}\ \text{for all} \ 0 \leq C \leq B,$ and that $C^2 \leq A^2$ when $B$ commutes with $A$. Connections of this approach with the arithmetic-geometric mean inequality of Bhatia--Kittaneh as well as the Kantorovich constant of $A$ are mentioned.