How to Squat Deeper

How to squat deeper

Let’s face it, many athletes have a hard time squatting to proper depth. Some athletes will squat to parallel but their lower back will round and their chest will pitch forward. Other athletes will just do quarter squats with their knees-caving in. Either way it can get pretty ugly and will eventually lead to an injury. In order to avoid these circumstances, simple drills can be done to help you squat deeper and improve your performance.  Below, Coach Steve Rizzo and I share our top 5 tips to help your squat deeper and more efficiently.

1. Manual Soft Tissue work on IT Bands, Quads, Glutes, Ankles and Calves

Manual soft tissue work is like the poor man’s massage. All it requires is a foam roller and a lacrosse ball (baseball or any other small circular object will do just fine). The goal of soft tissue work is to improve tissue quality by breaking up scar tissue and muscle adhesions that build up over time. Think of your muscle tissue as a rubber band. If there is a knot in the rubber band, the band will be constricted and “tight”. After your remove the knot from the band , the band will elongate and much more pliable. This is how your muscles work. By performing soft tissue work on a regular basis, especially before you squat, your range of motion will be much better and you won’t feel as “tight”.
In order to achieve proper depth in the squat be sure to use the foam roller to roll out your:
  • IT Band
  • Quads
  • Adductors

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  • Thoracic Spine

Use the lacrosse ball to roll out your:

  • Calves
  • Ankles
  • Psoas
  • Glutes

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2. Improve Ankle Mobility

One of the most common issues in athletes and non-athletes alike is poor ankle mobility.  A lack of ankle mobility, in many cases a lack of dorsiflexion and too much eversion, will cause major problems in the squat and potentially in the knees as well. Other factors that lead to poor ankle mobility include restrictive shoes and sitting in a knee flexed position for long periods of times.
Proper Ankle Mobility is important for many reasons:
  • Too much eversion will cause the knees to cave in (valgus stress) and shorten the medial hamstring (semitendinosus).
  • Eliminates the power of the posterior musculature, reducing the ability to stay upright, and eliminating the maximal contractibility of the semitendinosus.
  • Tight gastrocnemius limits dorsiflexion, which can affect the heel-strike of gait, potentially causing problems at the knee.
  • Without proper dorsiflexion (ankle mobility) your lower back will round and make it impossible for you to achieve proper depth in the squat.

How will improved ankle mobility help your squat depth and performance?

  • Increasing dorsiflexion and inversion at the ankle will allow the lifter to stay more upright.
  • Protect the knees from valgus stress (possible MCL and knee-tracking problems).
  • Allow natural dorsiflexion to occur (some people will be better off letting their shins angle forward and out).
  • Allow optimal use of all three hamstring muscles.

Here are 4 mobility drills that will help you improve ankle mobility and dorsiflexion:

  • Wall ankle mobilization

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  • Downward dog calf mobilization
  • Bodyweight-loaded dorsiflexion

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  • Lateral circular movement

3. Improve Hip Mobility

The hips are of utmost importance in the squat. The squat requires the ability to flex and externally rotate the hips in order to achieve depth, followed by extension of the knees and hips. Unfortunately, many athletes have terrible hip mobility from sitting in a flexed hip position all day. Poor hip mobility can lead to low back tightness and pain, knee pain, ankle/foot pain, even shoulder and neck pain.
Proper hip mobility is important for many reasons:
  • The ability to push the knees out laterally helps the lifter achieve depth more easily and also helps to keep the low back stable and upright. Keeping the knees-out over the toes allows optimal stretching of muscles so that they can maximally contract. Many athletes allow their knees to cave in while they squat. Not only will this limit their squat depth, but more importantly, knee-caving will leave the athlete vulnerable to injury.
  • Hip mobilization is critical to being able to perform everyday activities safely, efficiently, and pain-free, while still being able to go heavy in the gym.
  • Improving hip internal rotation will help the lifter avoid pain due to muscular imbalances, increase internal rotation ability, less chance of back injury/pain.
  • Hip mobility will also help to prevent chronic pelvic tilting (anterior more commonly).

How will improved hip mobility help your squat depth and performance?

  • Ability to maintain a upright posture throughout
  • Allow your knees to track out over your toes to avoid knee pain problems
  • Prevention of hip impingement
  • Increased stability out of the hole
  • Maximally use the muscle of the hip to get the most out of your squat
  • Healthy hips + heavy/deep squats = strength, power, speed = INCREASED ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

Here are 10 mobility drills that will help you improve hip mobility:

  • Supine knee-to-knee mobilization
  • Fire hydrants
  • Side-lying Clams
  • Glute bridge variations
  • Cossack squat

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  • Lunge w/ Reach
  • Squat to Stand

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  • Cradle Walk
  • Supine leg raise
  • Goblet Squats

4. Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

Thoracic Spine Mobility is an afterthought to many athletes. Much like hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility is usually awful in most athletes from sitting way too much. Sitting at a desk or computer all day promotes a kyphotic posture which is detrimental to athletic performance and your squat!
How do you know if you need more thoracic spine mobility?
  • Inability to get the elbows directly under the bar
  • Forced shoulder external rotation
  • You are falling forward in the squat
  • You are turning the squat into a good morning

How will improved thoracic spine mobility help your squat depth and performance?

  • Allow your shoulders to get into the proper position
  • Ability to keep your upper back extremely tight and increased stability throughout the squat
  • Ability to maintain proper position throughout the squat and avoid the chest from caving forward

Here are 5 mobility drills that will help you improve thoracic spine mobility:

  • Thoracic extensions
  • Quadruped t spine rotation

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  • Squat to stand w/ rotation
  • Wall Slides
  • Lunge w/ Rotation

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5. Static Stretching

Static stretches aren’t the most sexy thing to do, in fact you will probably hate doing it and want to skip it, BUT it can help make a huge difference in your squat depth. Static stretches should be done on off days as often as possible and during the post-workout phase. For individuals who are extremely tight, I do think there is some merit in doing it before the training session. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds on each side for 2-3 rounds.
What Stretches should you do to help you squat deeper?
  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Seated 90/90 stretch

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  • Supine knee-to-knee stretch
  • Calve stretch
  • Pec Stretch
  • Prayer Squat

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Start including these drills into your warm-up and as fillers in-between your main lifts. We guarantee that you will start to squat deeper and more much efficiently.

P.S If you want to more awesome tips on how to get stronger and build muscle? Just fill out the form below to download your FREE Muscle Building Cheat Sheets

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