The squat is quite possibly the most used and rated lower body exercise ever. Do you have to squat to see results? No of course not. It is however a very useful exercise that builds muscle, burns calories and improves lower body strength. Being a much more technical exercise than most initially take it for, if you’re going to squat, do it right. One of the areas people tend to struggle with is achieving full depth with the squat. Follow the mobility routine outlined below to almost instantly see improvements and achieve a deeper squat.
Hip flexor stretch with external rotation bias
Take a look at my right leg in the image. The position is basically replicating how the leg would look during the bottom position of a full/deeper squat. You’ll also notice my right elbow is driving my thigh out which not only biases external rotation, it also gets an effective stretch through the adductor muscles of the hip. Shifting our attention to the left leg the hips are being effectively opened. This stretch through the hip flexors is great if you spend a lot of time in a seated position. Spend 60 secs per side with this stretch.
Plantar surface SMR
For a moment let’s take a look at the human body in a little more depth that just muscles and bones. Fascia is also worth discussing if we’re looking at the human body as one entity. Fascia can be described as multi-dimensional connective tissue fabrics that attach, encase and separate muscles and other internal organs. Strong fascial connections run the entire length of the body. These lines of fascia will all be loaded differently according to the movement patterns placed upon them. Your traditional back squat heavily loads the superficial back line which runs the entire length of the posterior chain from the plantar surfaces of the foot to the top of the head.
The plantar surface of the foot is often a source of trouble which communicates up the back line. Issues here often correlate with limited ankle range, tight hamstrings and lumbar lordosis. You don’t need a degree in exercise biomechanics to see how these problems will interfere with optimum squat mechanics! Tackling issues with the plantar surface of the foot can easily be done by taking a massage ball or other tool to the foot. Explore around for 2 minutes per foot and hunt out any tight spots.
Perform this routine as part of your movement prep/warm up for a squat session. Or use it between workouts as a recovery session. It’s also worth mentioning there’s many more factors other than mobility to consider if you’re striving for a technically sound deeper squat. Being mobile enough however is a good place to start.