For many of us, squatting peach to grass is not easy. Many different factors cause this: lack of mobility, pain in knee or hips, or ego (doing quarter squats with too much weight). Either way, there is a way to become one of the few who squat deep and not be in pain while doing it. The goal is to get the most out of each lift, so getting low in the squat has to be a must. Here are five ways you can work on that squat depth.
You know, that thing you never use because the one time you did try it, you got “hurt”. The foam roller is the key to staying healthy while lifting heavy. Let’s break this down, when you weight train, you break down muscle. The body rebuilds itself at night while you sleep. However, as time goes on you can build up scar tissue. Scar tissue is the connective tissue forming a scar and composed chiefly of fibroblasts in recent scars and largely of dense collagenous fibers in old scars (merriam-webster.com). Just like during a deep tissue massage, the masseuse is using their leverage to break apart the scar tissue in the muscles. This is what a good form rolling will do, on a smaller level. While the masseuse is able to use angles and go with the flow of the blood flow, the foam roller just hits everything. This does work! If you are in the need for a fix now because of bad mobility, try foam rolling three times a day. The morning, after (or before your work out), and before bed. After or before your work out is kind of up to you, it depends on who you are. I always say before bed because you are going to sleep and recovering all night. Might as well break up the scar tissue and then let the body repair its self. Last morning, this is because you have just been asleep and not moving for eight hours. Roll 30 seconds each muscle, each side of the body: Quadriceps / Hip Flexors, I.T Band, Hamstring, Adductors, Calves, and Glutes.
The dynamic movements fall into your warm-up, as in you better be doing a warm-up. If not, it’s time to start. When I say a warm-up I don’t mean grab some heavy dumbbells and throw them around a little. I am talking about bodyweight movements done in a way to warm up the body, i.e. get the blood flowing a little faster. Say its lower body day, before you throw weight on the bar for some squats you would want to get the blood moving in the lower extremities. Here are a few basic movements you can throw into your warmup. Dynamic lunge: rather than just do the movement, work on taking a long step and getting a stretch in the front legs gluts and the back legs quad/hip flexor. You can even add in a twist to the leg that’s up for a little extra stretch. Glute Bridge: While on your back, with your feet as close to your butt as they can be, push your hips up until you feel the glute muscles activate and/or you feel a stretch in your hip flexors. You can hold it at the top for a second or two if you like. Donkey Kick: while on your hands and knees, lift one of you lefts to the sky. The key is to really like to activate the gluts and if you can, try to get a stretch in the hip flexor. The goal when warming up the lower body is to do a full range of motion movements and try to activate the hips. To just do the movements is a waste of time, get something out of it.
We are only going to look at two muscles: the hip flexors (iliopsoas, the Psoas & Iliacus) and piriformis muscles. If you don’t know what the hip flexors do, they are the ‘bully muscle’ of the abs. when the lower abs get tired at all, the hip flexors that over. It is the only muscle that attaches the backside of the body to the front, from the lumbar spine to the top of the femur bone. This muscle will start the pull the hip out of aliment and put a stretch on the hamstring muscles. The piriformis is a deep muscle butt and can cause sciatic nerve problems. That is why we are going to look that these two muscles, they give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to stretching for hip mobility. First, the hip flexor is stretched by going in a lunge position, keeping the back toes digging into the ground, chest up, and keeping the glut flexed. To add even more of a stretch, lift the hand on the side of the front leg over your head, this opens up the Psoas more. You won’t really feel a difference, but it works. Now the piriformis, lie face down and bend one leg under your stomach, with the other behind you, and then lean towards the ground going forward. Try not to force it and use your heads to hold yourself up, if needed.
Wide Stance Squats
This might be something many of you have never thought of. I had an older guy, an old-time powerlifter, at the gym tell me about this one day when I was squatting heavy. We started talking about hip mobility and how many people are forgetting about it. He asked if I ever did sumo squats, I said no. then we went on to talk about even wider then sumo stance squats. You stand as wide as you can while still being able to squat. It is not about going heavy in weight or, at first even super deep. Just try one set of 25 reps with a lightweight. The bar too, maybe, 135 pounds. Go as low as you can then come back up and just bounce up and down. You might feel that your gluts or hip flexors are externally tight and that’s okay. Work this in after your work out and after one set, just try a normal squat with the same weight, then you’ll understand why the wide stance squats help.
Trigger Point Work
Finally, trigger point work, which could be some of the hardest things to do to yourself. Get a tennis ball or a ball like that, and try it out on your piriformis. You sit on the ball, knees by your chest, and find a spot on one of your gluts that sore. Learn to the side where the ball is and then roll around the ball, to massage the muscle. This will bring some pain, if it is too much, stop. After about 30 seconds, internally and externally rotate your leg while still sitting on the ball go five ways each direction. That’s just one of the many spots you can work.
The point of all this is that there are many ways to gain hip mobility. A bonus one is holding on to the side of the squat rack, or anything sturdy, and squat down to parallel (or lower). Hold that for three-plus minutes. This will feel like a workout but it does help with being about to sit in the hole during a squat. Let us know how any of the tips work for you in our comments. Squat deep and get them tree legs.
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