In my last article on how to squat the right way, I touched upon a few problems at the end of the article about how people mess up their squat. This is almost always due to poor squat mobility.
Squat mobility is the key to having an effective and pain free squat that will last you a lifetime and send your lifting numbers soaring. Most of you are having trouble with the squat not because you don’t understand them, it’s because you are having a hard time actually getting into those positions. Squat mobility is your way to a better squat.
Thanks to our new desk culture of sitting down for 8 hours and then sitting in your car and then sitting on the couch at home, all of us are stiffer than ever.
When you sit down for long periods of time, you are literally reprogramming your body to move in a way that is not natural for it to move.
This is going to affect ALL of your movement patterns including the squat.
The only way for you to fix your form is to start incorporating squat mobility work into your training program.
That’s exactly what we are going to talk about in this article.
How To Tell If You Need Squat Mobility
If you are having trouble getting into the bottom position of the squat. Then you probably need to work on your squat mobility.
If your gym buddies are telling you that your form is looking sketchy. Then you probably need to work on your squat mobility.
Likewise, if you feel knee pain, hip pain, back pain, etc. Then you definitely need to work on your mobility.
It’s incredible how many liters just assume that being in pain is normal and a natural part of lifting. Well I can tell you one thing, those guys have very short lived careers.
Let’s face it, we live in the real world. Most of us are not training to become national competitors. Do you get hurt sometimes? Yes of course it happens, but getting hurt should not be the norm.
Most unexpected accidents only account for about 2% of the total injuries out there. The remaining 98% are “expected accidents”. This means they are almost al preventable.
Here’s a good example. If you squat every day and you feel a sharp pain in the front of your left knee EVERY TIME you squat, then you are heading for an injury.
That is an example of an expected accident. It is completely preventable, but if you do nothing to prevent it, then you will get injured, simple as that.
Squat Mobility Strategy
So if your gonna tackle this whole squat mobility problem, your gonna need a strategy.
What is the strategy?
Simple. We target and attack all of the areas of the body that are involved with the squat. These include the hips, the ankles and the thoracic spine.
All of these areas require a tremendous amount of mobility for the squat. Chances are if you are having trouble, it is from one of these areas.
But what about the knees? Don’t worry about the knees. They are sandwiched between to very mobile joints, the hip and the ankle. If there is a problem with either of these two joints, then you can bet money that you will feel it in your knee.
Let’s start from the ground and work out way up. Your ankles are the closest major joint to the ground level. If there is a mobility problem here, then you can be sure that the rest of your body will be affected.
I have already written an entire article on ankle mobility, so I won’t get into too much detail here.
So how do you test your ankles? Simple. Kneel down on the ground in front of a wall. Make sure you are at least 6 inches from the wall. Now try to touch your knee to the wall while keeping your heel down on the ground.
If your heel comes up, then you need to work on your ankle mobility. If you feel a pinch in the front of your ankle, then you have a joint capsule restriction.
Perform some soft tissue work on your ankles with a lacrosse ball and you should be able to loosen it up.
This video should help:
You will also need to stretch your ankles as well, refer to the following video for some advice:
Perform both the soft tissue work and stretches for at least 2 minutes on each side.
The hips are where all the action takes place. This is the engine of the squat. It is not the quads.
The hips hold the strongest muscles in the body, the glutes. Strong glutes make better athletes. Better jumpers, runners and lifters all have strong glutes.
This leads to our major problem with hip mobility. If the hips have poor movement patterns, then the glutes will literally shut off and their powerful antagonists will take over. The antagonist is called the psoas muscle. Also known as the hip flexors.
These are powerful muscles the help to stabilize the pelvis during all kinds of movements. But when your glutes shut off, then your hip flexors wreak havoc in your lower body.
I have written in the past about this in my hip mobility article. Be sure to check it out to learn more.
The hip flexors are deep muscles so soft tissue work will not work directly on them. You can do soft tissue work on the quads, that can help. But the hip flexors are way to deep.
That leaves only stretching. There are plenty of stretches out there, but the best stretch is the half kneeling stretch.
Get into the half kneeling position and posteriorly tilt the pelvis while leaning forward. This will give your hip flexors one hell of a stretch.
To take this even further, elevate your rear foot on a bench or stool for an even deeper stretch.
The extreme version of this is the infamous couch stretch. For this you place yourself in front of a wall and slide your leg up the wall behind you. This makes the shin vertical.
Now try posteriorly tilting your pelvis AND squeezing your glutes while doing this stretch. You will show your hip flexors who’s boss.
Hold each of the stretches for 2 minutes on each side.
Finally the thoracic spine is the last major area of the body to mobilize. The bar rests on top of the upper back and the upper back needs to be set in a good position.
If you are stiff and can’t get your back into a good position, then you will have a hard time squatting heavy weights.
Plus, you will greatly increase your chances of getting injured.
You see, when the upper back rounds, it makes it harder for the obliques to stabilize the spine and as a result your lower back will start to round as well.
That is not good! If that weight gets heavy, you are looking at a herniated disc. I have personally seen this happen to plenty of lifters and it ended their career.
So the first thing you want to work on is thoracic extension. This allows you to fully straighten your thoracic spine and get into a good position.
Most of us sit way too much and get a rounded upper back so you need to mobilize this FIRST!
This video should help:
In addition to this, you also want to decompress the vertebrae in your thoracic spine. Between sitting and placing heavy weights on your spine, your discs need to decompress. Both for mobility and for long term spinal health.
Be sure to also read my article on Back Decompression as well. It will give you some helpful advice. Also, the shoulders are tied into the thoracic spine. If you need thoracic mobility, then chances are you need shoulder mobility as well. Refer to my shoulder mobility article as well.
In summary, most of you can learn the squat very easily. But somewhere along the line you run into roadblock after roadblock. For most people those roadblocks are from mobility problems.
It’s not that you can’t squat but you can’t actually get into the correct positions to squat effectively.
As long as you followed along with this article from start to finish, then you should be well on your way to squatting better.
But before you actually start squatting again, you may want to practice your form with a few goblet squats for high reps. This will help get the form greased up for the barbell weights.
Once you fix your hidden weaknesses, get back out there and start kicking some ass again.