The squat is the king of the weight room. Period.
Show me someone who can squat well and squat heavy and I’ll show you someone who has developed mobile hip joint capsules, strong and flexible leg and hip muscles, and the right methods for increasing intra-abdominal pressure i.e. bracing strategies.
If you are struggling to squat deeply and safely, improving mobility is facet of improved performance in this movement.
Let’s take a look at some of the practices we encourage our clients to explore when seeking to improve their squat mobility.
After 3-5 minutes of a cyclical aerobic warmup (running, rowing, or Airbiking) we recommend our clients start their mobility routine with some foam rolling. Foam rolling improves mobility by applying pressure to the many mechanoreceptors throughout the muscle. This pressure changes the signal of the mechanoreceptor to the brain, allowing the muscle to relax from its more passively rigid state thereby granting you more range of motion.
In the video below, we recommend working on the insertion and origin points of various muscles: hamstrings, piriformis, glute med/minimus, tensor fascia latae, quadriceps, and adductors. Spend as much time as you like on each group until you feel the muscle relax as the pressure is applied via the roller. We’ve found spending at least 30 seconds in each area/muscle provides the minimum dosage.
The outer layer of joint capsules have a fibrous layer of tissue that can be a limiter of mobility. We suggest two strategies to target capsular restrictions (Credit to Drs. Quinn Hennoch and Kelly Starrett for these!)
You’ll notice that the first movement involves a single leg up on a box. The knee should higher than the hip, mimicking the bottom of the squat. Apply downward force near the proximal end of the femur, anteriorly tilt the pelvis (think about trying to stick your butt back), and grab the knee and pull it back and into the hip socket. Finally move the knee side to side focusing on holding the aforementioned positions and digging into the hip. 10 times back and forth is the recommended minimum on each side.
Upward and forward acting distraction forces are seen in the next half of the video. By kneeling into a half kneeling position the ground acts directly on the femur pushing it up into the hip socket. By placing the band behind the hip on the down leg, the band pulls the femur forward in the hip. These two forces together are yet another way of mobilizing the hip capsule tissue.
The final piece to the mobility pie is active/dynamic stretching. We do not recommend static stretching prior to weight training due to its adverse effects on the muscle’s stretch shortening cycle; the muscle needs to be able to react to high tension, but cannot do this if the mechanism used to protect from over-stretching is muted. Stretching muscles and tendons needed for athletic performance with movement is more effective compared to static stretching. We recommend
Below you will find three dynamic stretches/activations for improved squatting. We also encourage either lightly loaded goblet squats or unloaded air squats at the end of your mobility routine to integrate the movement patterns prior to your work sets.