Mobility Drills for a Better Squat

Whether you’re just getting started with a fitness routine or you’ve been working out for years, the squat is one of the most important exercises to master.

The squat is a compound exercise, meaning it strengthens multiple muscle groups at once. Specifically, it targets the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It also requires core stabilization and use of your back muscles to maintain proper posture. It really is a full-body exercise.

Squats are also highly functional, meaning they mimic movements that you do in everyday life. Think about it: How often do you sit down and then stand back up? Probably pretty often. Every time you do that, you’re doing a version of a squat.

This might not seem like a movement you need to practice right now. What about when you’re older, though? If you get really good at squatting now, while you’re young, you’re going to be stronger when you’re older and will be less likely to injure yourself or experience difficulty when performing a basic movement pattern.

Clearly, squats are important. It’s not enough just to squat, though. You also need to make sure you’re squatting with proper form. In order to squat with proper form, you need to work on your mobility, specifically in your upper back, shoulders, hips, and ankles.

Mobility Vs. Flexibility

Before I get into the specific drills, I want to clarify the difference between mobility and flexibility.

Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion. Mobility is the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion while also maintaining control and strength.

Think of it this way. If you have good flexibility in the hips and hamstrings, you could sit flat on the floor in the splits.

If you have good mobility in the hips and hamstrings, you can hold yourself in a split position while your feet are elevated. You not only have the flexibility to do the splits, you also have the strength and control necessary to hold yourself in a split position.

Mobility is important for exercises like squats because you need to be able to move your joints through a full range of motion, but you also need to maintain control over your muscles and feel strong while moving through that range of motion.

This becomes especially important when you start adding weight. If you have flexibility without mobility (or no flexibility or mobility, period), you’re not going to feel strong and secure when you try to squat while holding dumbbells or a barbell.

Squat Mobility Drills

Here are some great mobility exercises that will help you get warmed up and make it easier for you to squat properly:

Monkey Squat with Overhead Reach

Start by standing up straight with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hinge at the hips and reach down to grasp your toes (bend your knees as much as you need to be able to reach your toes).

Bend at the knees while holding onto your toes. When you’re in a deep squat position, release your toes and reach overhead, keeping your arms straight. Hold for a second, then grasp your toes and straighten your legs while holding onto your toes.

Repeat 8 times.

Prone Cobra

Lie on your stomach in a prone position. Extend your arms out to your sides in a “T” shape. Draw the shoulder blades together and use your lower back muscles to lift your torso off the floor. Hold the retracted position for a second, then lower your arms and torso back down to the floor.

Repeat 8 times.

90/90 Switches

Start by sitting in a 90/90 position. Bend your right knee in front of you at a 90-degree angle and bend your left leg behind you so it also forms a 90-degree angle.

Hinge at your hips and lean forward a bit to feel a stretch in your glute. Then, lift your knees, keeping your feet in the same position, and switch positions so your left knee is in front and your right knee is behind you. Hinge at the hip and lean forward a bit again.

Repeat 8 times on each side.

Kneeling Ankle Stretch

Get into a kneeling position with your right knee bent in front of you, right foot flat on the floor. You left leg should be tucked under you. Hinge at your hips and lean forward, keeping your right foot flat on the floor. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your right ankle, then sit back in the original position.

Repeat 8 times on each side.

Single-leg Plank to Downward Facing Dog

Start in a plank position with your right foot stacked on top of your left heel. Press into the floor and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Try to get your left foot flat on the floor (you can bend the knee if necessary). Hold the stretch for a second, then return to the plank position.

Repeat 8 times on each side.

Give these exercises a try before your next squat session and let me know how it goes!

Do you have a mobility routine? If so, what does it look like?

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