Squat mobility exercises is something that I searched the internet, seeked out the best crossfit coaches, mobility coaches, and etc when I first
really started to squat and get into crossfit.
My mobility sucked and quite honestly the depth that was required was not what I grew up hearing or what any of the next books would talk
Not even going to talk about how bad my overhead squat was when I first started.
In this blog post I’m going to talk about:
- Why You Can’t Get Into A Deep Squat
- What Does A Perfect Squat Look Like?
- Squat Mobility Exercises/Drills & Stretches To Improve Your Squat Depth & Prevent Injury
- How To Improve Squat Mobility
We believe that having full range of motion in your squat (and all joints) will reduce your chance of injury, optimize positioning and that will lead to more fun and better performances in your workouts. We help others improve their mobility with our classes. Want to try a class?
Why You Can’t Get Into A Deep Squat
When I first started working out I didn’t ever really think about “form” or “activating” my muscles.
I just did them.
Squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges, etc.
I wasn’t thinking about “creating torque” and getting my hips to be locked and in spreading the floor with my feet.
None of that.
In fact I train people here in Nashville, TN and just about every time I meet someone new they aren’t either.
Which means in most cases they (and probably you) are having a hard time activating your muscles and aren’t optimizing your positioning.
…that’s why you are here.
Let’s talk about why you can’t get into a deep squat.
#1 Potential Awareness & Safety Concerns?
I remember hearing for years from it seemed like everyone and every text book read for my training education talked about:
“Don’t let your knees go over your toes and don’t squat below 90 degree”.
I know you have heard this.
Years later studying under the great Kelly Starrett and doing my own experiments for years I have learned that this is not true and actually puts
more stress on your back.
Let me teach you the right way to squat (and I’ll show you modifications) further in the blog and as I promise squat mobility exercises.
#2 Your Muscles & Joints Are Locked Up
In most cases your ankles are stiff, hip flexors are tight and you don’t know how to release your glutes so just CAN’T get into a position without
compensating in your back.
Because that’s what happens.
If you can’t get into a full deep squat you are going to compensate somewhere.
To get into a deep squat position you want to:
- have mobile ankles
- good open hips (this will help you be more upright)
To be more specific you want:
- massive amounts of ankle dorsiflexion
- be able to create mad torque and external rotation in your hips (from your feet)
- have solid hip extension
^^^ don’t worry about that too much. I’ll be giving you the exact recipe shortly. I’ll give you the recipe for success and awesome squat mobility
#3 Your Femur length
Our anatomy can vary so many things. Femur length, hip socket, long torso, short torso and so much more right?
That’s why it’s “easier” for some to get into a better squat position with a more upright torso.
One things that remains the same regardless of your body type:
- The bar remains over the mid foot.
If you have a long femur you are going to have a lot more forward learn regardless of how good your ankle mobility is.
The lever angle is just different and low bar squatting may be better suited for you.
…regardless of your femur length and all of that jazz I believe everyone can benefit from:
- hip mobility
- glutes that actually “turn on” or are being used when squatting (screwing in the floor and other things to help “turn on”)
- improved ankle mobility and dorsiflexion
- learning how to brace properly
And much more. Let’s talk about what a perfect squat should look like:
Squat Mobility What Does A Good Squat Look Like
Well there are a ton of different variations of squatting.
Let me give you some progressions and different squatting variations:
- bodyweight squat
- goblet squat
- double kettlebell front squat
- barbell front squat
- barbell back squat
In most of my inquires people are referring to the back squat.
Let’s break down the proper squat mechanics.
Shortly in the blog I’m going to discuss what you need to do if you still struggle getting into good squat depth.
But it’s crucial to have the squat mechanics we talked about in the video:
- test different squat positions (feet slighted turned out and turned out a little bit more)
- screw your feet into the floor
- brace your abs
Squat Mobility Exercises & Drills To Improve Squat Depth & Prevent Injury
Squat mobility is something I wish more people would take pride in.
Both of those will benefit you.
Let’s get into the best squat mobility exercises that you can do!
Squat Mobility Exercise #1
These next several exercises I’ll give you a step by step progression of exactly how to improve your squat mobility.
Throughout this entire process I would encourage you to…
…test this retest.
- perform a squat
- do the mobility exercise
- perform the same squat again
- check for improvement
The objective is to see which squat mobility exercise gives you the most bang for your buck.
Okay, okay, #1
Release your calves.
Foam rolling won’t actually break up muscle tissue but it will reduce some muscle tension.
Which will allow you to get into a greater stretch.
We talk about this a lot in our ankle mobility exercises.
Spend two minutes per side.
Squat Mobility Exercise #2
After you broke down some muscle tension stretch your calves.
Basic stuff at first.
But hey, most people don’t do this and often times it is the easiest way to get into a better position.
We will get into more exercises and drills shortly below that will challenge you a bit more.
BUT we have to allow our body to get into the right position first that way we don’t train poor mechanics and a bad position.
Spend 2 minutes per side.
Later I’m going to talk about the benefits of active stretching as opposed to static stretching.
Static stretching is what we are doing in this photo.
Jump camping out, breathing, and as we breathe try to get deeper and deeper into the
Squat Mobility Exercise #3
Sometimes it’s not your muscles that are restricting you but your joints.
Try this banded ankle distraction and see if this gets you more bang for your buck.
The first couple of exercises/drills/stretches whatever you want to call them are really just to help get some things moving.
Now to improve your position we are going to start challenging you a bit more.
Squat Mobility Exercise #4
We worked on your calves a bit.
Now let’s talk about your hip flexors. Tight hip flexors want to pull your pelvis forward.
This is the BEST hip flexor stretch…
…but I’m going to give you three different variations and you see which is best for you.
- banded hip flexor stretch
- couch stretch – and three additional variations
- pails and rails couch stretch
As I mentioned above testing and retesting is going to let you know what is working best for you.
Some stretches or activation drills work better for different people.
I personally love many different variations because it keeps me engaged and keeps mobility and stretching “fun”.
If I just did the same stretch or same routine everyday it would get too boring for me.
…that’s just me.
That’s also why in our daily mobility classes we offer a different 15 minute mobility flow every single day.
Squat Mobility Exercise #5
We talked about calves and releasing your hips.
Let’s do a deeper dive into your hips now.
I have found that getting your hips to move like butter can really improve your squat depth.
The more we can “push your knees/hips out” the more upright your torso will be so these next drills will be awesome for you.
Here are two videos that show you a few different squat mobility exercises:
- This video focuses more on squat internal/external rotation
- This video focuses more on glute activation
Both videos really highlight some of the things you will need to do to improve your squat mobility.
You noticed that we aren’t just camping out in a stretch anymore though.
The exercises are asking you to really challenge yourself in different positions.
Especially the 90/90 rotations…
…my goodness those are extremely challenging.
Squat Mobility Exercise #6
There is something to be said about spending a lot of time in the bottom of your squat position too.
In fact before I know all of these drills (which will save you a ton of time) I actually would just try and spend more and more time in the bottom of
Notice in the video:
- I get my feet set into my ideal squat position
- I pull my chest up (no rounding in the back)
- DRIVE my hips our really hard by activating and recruited my external rotators or my hips
And I would spend a few minutes a day in this position.
Goal would be to gradually not use assistance.
If you notice that every time you let go of the supporting device you want to just fall back on your back it’s very likely that you ankles are what is
limiting your mobility.
The lack of ankle dorsiflexion that you have. Do these exercises to correct that.
How To Improve Squat Mobility
You want to be able to stick to a mobility routine that is going to allow you to be consistent.
I would love to go to yoga an hour a day, spend 30 minutes on mobility before I squat every time.
But that’s not just how life works.
That’s why two things:
- Test & ReTest –> find what mobility exercise gives you the best bang for your buck.
- I created I created my mobility classes.
I gave you a ton of resources and a step by step guide on which exercises to do.
To improve your squat mobility…
…actually do them.
Do them BEFORE you squat.
Then when you start squatting with your “new range of motion” focus on optimizing and improving these new position with eccentrics.
AKA using tempo work to essentially tell your brain “hey brain, this is the new range of motion that I want my body to move in!”
I’m serious though.
If you just stretch sure it will feel good. But to improve your squat you need to challenge your body to get into the new positions so it develops the
new “motor pathways.”
My mobility classes are designed to improve your mobility in just 15 minutes a day.
Each day I’ll guide you through a 15 minute mobility workout and all of my best stuff.
No reading through blogs and trying to piece together the best stuff you find on the internet.
You just click play…
…and follow along.
Learn more about our mobility classes by clicking here or if you just want my best fitness tips. Fill out the form below.
I shared with you a lot.
- What is limited you from getting into a good squat position. (Probably your ankles more than your hips)
- What a good squat looks like
- A step by step progression on the best squat mobility exercises
We talked a bit on the difference in static stretching versus active stretching, the importance of testing and retesting and what's the most effective way to improve your squat mobility which is...
- Finding which exercises work best for you
- Utilize active stretching as much as possible
- Be consistent with doing your mobility work before you train so you can strengthen your new range of motion.
The way that I have been the most consistent with mobility is with taking 15 minutes a day dedicated to active stretching. We believe that improving your mobility will improve your life. You will feel better, move better and move pain free.
If you want to move pain free and experience what I mentioned above then click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you had one piece of advise how could I improve my squat mobility the fastest?
I would encourage you to master the goblet squat and do eccentric/isometric training. The goblet squat really helps you get into a good squat position with the kettlebell counterbalancing you. Performing the exercises with an eccentric tempo and doing an isometric hold in the bottom will help you slow down and get into the proper position. Control down, screw your feet into the floor, stay really upright in your torso by opening up your hips and when you do your isometric hold...each breathe try to get a little deeper, and deeper into the exercise/position.
How long does it take to improve squat mobility?
The fastest way to improve your mobility for any position is by doing the TEST and Retest.
- Perform your squat.
- Do a mobility drill
- Re test your squat and see if there was improvement.
Your goal is to find which mobility exercises work best for you and your body. On top of that. Stay consistent and dedicate 2 minutes of stretching for every one hour of sitting that you do.
How do you do a squat mobility test?
Well, the ultimate squat mobility test is the overhead squat.
It will tell me and any coach almost everything limitation that you have in your body. Because the position is so demanding it allows us to see:
- do your arms fall forward
- is there an excessive arch in your lower back
- can you hit squat depth
The overhead squat is a BEAST of a movement. I'll be writing about how to improve your overhead squat position soon. Stay tuned
Comment with any additional comments or questions you have down below and I'm happy to help you out the best I can.