3 Areas to Mobilize to Improve Your Squat

The squat is one of the most functional exercises that you can do. While it is a great exercise, it also is a great assessment tool because it requires both mobility and stability of most joints in the body. This post will touch on some of the most common compensations we see with squatting and mobility solutions to those problems. 

There are many different variations of squatting patterns. For the purpose of the this post, we will use the standardized criteria to determine what a proper squatting pattern should be. The criteria for a proper squatting pattern are: 

  • Feet be pointed straight forward through the whole motion. 
  • Knees should track over the second toe. 
  • Hips should go below the knees. 
  • Angle between the torso and shin should be parallel.

While this is generally the criteria we use for squatting, it should be noted that everyone’s anatomy is slightly different. For example, if you have a deep hip socket, it will be more difficult for you to flex the hip past 90º before hitting the rim. Also, the orientation of the hip in the socket will determine what a “neutral” hip is for you. If your hip is rotated forward, then your neutral hip would cause your feet to be pointed in and vice versa if your hip is rotated backwards. 

If you are squatting for sport or fitness, I recommend that patients squat according to their individualized anatomy. This will allow you to produce the most force while maximizing your bony alignment. It is still important to have good mobility and stability in the standardized squat pattern within your anatomical limits. 

If you don’t have the proper stability or mobility, your body will compensate to perform the squat. Some common compensations include: 

  • The trunk leaning forward
    More often than not, this is a result of poor posture. Many of us have a locked up mid-back and can’t extend, which causes us to lean forward when squatting. 
  • Knees collapsing together
    This is often the result of poor motor control at the hip. But if there is a restriction in the hip or ankle joints, the knee will collapse inward to provide more mobility to the lower extremity. 
  • Falling of the inside arch of the foot
    This can be caused by poor mobility at the ankle joint. Because the ankle joint can’t move forward, then arch will collapse to provide pseudo ankle dorsiflexion. 

When addressing the squat, we typically see three problematic areas from a mobility standpoint: ankle dorsiflexion, hip flexion, and thoracic extension. 

Ankle Mobility

Often we are restricted in dorsiflexion of the foot. In the video, Dr. Michael will demonstrate a band mobilization for the tibia on the talus as well as some self-myofascial work for the calf muscles. 

 

Hip mobility

For the squatting motion, hip flexion can be the limiting factor. Most of our days are spent with the hip either flexed to 90º or extended, so we lose the ability to move past 90º. The video demonstrates another banded distraction for the hip joint as well as some self-myofascial work for the gluteal muscles.

 

Thoracic mobility

 If you are reading this stop slouching (just kidding, but seriously). In this video, a foam roller will be used to increase thoracic (mid-back) extension. 

Give these mobility exercises a shot and see if they improve your squat pattern. It is important to remember that mobility is only one piece of squatting. Stability is an equally important component of squatting.