Do you struggle with your squat technique?
Is it difficult to get to the bottom of the squat?
Do your feet turn out at a certain depth?
Do you experience early butt wink?
Do squats cause you pain or stiffness?
Have you plateaued?
In my experience, many people begin exercising or attempt a new fitness goal (such as running a marathon or doing a handstand) without the proper prerequisite movement required to do said task.
The squat may seem like a basic movement (I mean we learn how to do it as a baby), but many people train the squat and can't do a good one with their body weight.
If this is you, there are 2 areas you should focus your mobility training on to ensure you can get "ass to grass":
1) Hip Flexion - In order to get parallel or lower in your squat, you need adequate hip flexion range of motion. If you cannot actively flex your hip a minimum of 90 degrees, and preferably a hell of a lot more, then you will struggle squatting.
Why does it need to be active?
Lack of active control means you are unable to control that part of a range of motion. If you go lower then what you can actively control you will be supported by passive structures (ie. ligaments and tendons and not your muscles.) This will cause you to have to compensate to finish the movement.
Try this drill to improve your hip flexion.
- Pull your knee actively towards your chest.
- Put your hands on your knees.
- Push your knee into your hands as hard as you can (resist with your hands and don't let your leg move).
- Hold the contraction for 10 seconds.
- After 10 seconds, pull your knee into your chest (without the help of your hands) for 10 more seconds.
- Repeat this process 2-3 times.
2) Ankle Dorsiflexion - When descending into a squat our ankles go into dorsiflexion (lifting your foot up towards your shin bone). If there is a limitation here, you will have to compensate in order to get deep into your squat.
Here are some signs of lack of dorsiflexion: early butt wink, turning out your feet, trunk falling forward and/or your knees pointing inward.
How much dorsiflexion do you need? About 5 inches. Check out my blog post here about how to test and improve your ankle mobility.
If these areas are severely limited, you shouldn't load your squat. There are plenty of other exercises out there that can help you attain a training effect.
By improving these two aspects of your mobility, you will see improved movement capabilities and better ability to squat. This will allow you to safely and efficiently squat so you can continue to build upon your fitness goals.
Move Well, Stay Strong!