To have the ability to squat to full depth while staying as upright as possible and keeping the centre of mass over the foot you will require a significant amount of range of motion through the hips, knees and ankles.
This three part series will go over the best mobility exercises to hit the three main areas that restrict trainees ability to squat ass to grass. Over the next three blog posts we will cover:
- Part One: Freeing you Hips: Attacking hip extension.
Here we hit the anterior structures of the hips which include the dominant hip flexors: psoas major, iliacus muscle, rectus femurs, sartorius and TFL.
Here we focus on the tissues affecting the ability to push the knees outwards over the toes and allow for the hips to drop below parallel.
Ankle ROM is mainly restricted by tight calfs, achilles and soft tissues of the lower leg and foot. To allow the knees to travel out over the toes when squatting and to avoid your squat turning into a good morning, you need good ankle ROM.
Part One: Freeing your hips: Attacking hip extension
99% of population are over restricted through the hip flexors. This is simply due to the modern world where everyone generally sits on their ass too much.
Think about the average persons day:
-They wake up
-They sit down to eat their breakfast
-They sit down to put on their shoes
-They sit down on the toilet
-They sit down for 20-60 minutes on the commute to work
-They sit down at a desk for 8 hours at work
-They sit down for 20-60 minutes on the commute home from work
-They sit down to eat dinner
-They sit down to watch TV
-They go to bed, and then repeat, day after day, week after week, year after year.
Now hopefully if you are reading this you aren't one of those people, and you try to stay on your feet as much as you can, you train most days and do some kind of mobility practice. Thats great, you get a gold star.
I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but that still isn't going to cut it in most cases.
Sitting is accepted as the norm now in the Western World, and your seen as "weird" for instance if you have a standing desk, or if you go into a full squat position in a waiting room, airport or supermarket.
Things are beginning to change though, and I want you to be apart of that change by not being afraid or embarrassed to have a standing desk or to get into a full squat position while you're in the waiting room at the dentist.
Doing these little habits daily will allow you not to just improve your squat mechanics but to live a better life where you move well your whole time on this earth and not just the first 20 years while remaining injury and pain free and just kick ass at life in general.
If you just sit to drive and eat you would still be sitting 2-4 hours per day, and thats 2-4 hours where your hips are in a shorted position that your body begins to adapt to. Now I know 2-4 hours a day doesn't sound too concerning but if you add that up you are sitting for 1460 hours per year, that works out to be 8.7 weeks of sitting per year!
Now you tell me if you sat down for 8.7 weeks, do you think your hips would be tight?
So this is why even those who don't work desk jobs still need to be aggressively attacking their hips and trying to sit for as minimal time possible every single day. And for those who do work desk jobs, you're are justing fighting an uphill battle and I would recommend getting yourself a standing desk.
Cheap affordable ways to make a standing desk can be found here.
1. Wall Hip Flexor Stretch.
This stretch in gnarly and I can't say I know of any better static stretch to hit the hip flexors. If you haven't tried this one before your in for a treat.
We recommend for every hour of sitting daily that you hit each leg for two minutes. Start off slow and progress up, maybe start at 30 seconds per leg and simply add 10 seconds per day. This one can be part of a daily mobility practice as its just awesome. You can thank Kelly Starrett from Mobility WOD for this great stretch he calls the couch stretch. Check out the video below for full instruction on how to give it a crack.
2. Split Squat
This is exercise when performed correctly provides a delicious dynamic stretch through the hips flexor and groin area of the back non working leg. Aim to go low, where your hamstring covers your calfs and your knee comes out past your toes.
Incorporate Split squats into your training program by having them as a primary or assistance exercise or simply just adding them to your warm up. Start with 4 sets of 10-12 reps per leg with a smooth 4010 tempo and your front foot elevated. As your hip range improves progress to being flat and then rear foot elevated for advanced trainees. Click on the video below for full instruction.
3. Banded hip Flexor Stretch
This one is great for variation or to go along side the wall hip flexor stretch. Aim to hit each leg for a minimum therapeutic dose of 2-3 minutes to see some tremendous improvements is hip range or motion and squat positions. Click the video below to see how to set up and perform the mobilisation.
4. Kettle Bell Hip/Gut Smash
Now we have stretched out the all the soft tissues, its time to get in there and smash up any adhesions, knots or scar tissue and regain those nice sliding surfaces. Grab yourself a kettle bell or even a farmers walk handle and get stuck in to those hot spots. Start up above the hip bone hitting the deep psoas muscle and search around of any tender points. Then move down on the medial side of the supra-iliac crest (hip bone) and get stuck into the transverse abdominis and lower psoas, finally get right in on top the hip and shoot for any tight spots.
Shoot for 3-5 minutes work on each hip and be warned this may make you feel a little nauseas. Check out the video below for a demonstration.
Hoped you gained some helpful information from this article and you are ready to apply it and see better results in your squat positions. Stay tuned for Part 2: Hip External Rotation: Freeing up the adductors and groin.
Stay Mobile, Keep moving.