Improve Your Squat Depth, Mobility, and Flexibility With These Squat Mobility Exercises and Stretches to get a Full ROM, Pain-Free and Strain-Free, Rock-Bottom, ATG Squat
For some reason, most people have trouble achieving a deep squat – let alone being able to rest comfortably in this position.
Even though the squat is a natural human movement (and a very rudimentary one, at that!), the combination of deep ankle, knee, and hip flexion has become a very difficult position for most people to attain. The good news is that with a little practice, most people can dramatically improve their squat range of motion over a few weeks time.
So, whether you just want to get a little deeper in your squat range of motion, or achieve a full, rock-bottom, ATG squat, this post will teach you how to improve your squat flexibility and increase your squat depth with some simple exercises so that you can squat as deep as your structure will allow – and be able to do it comfortably, without straining.
Let’s start with some short-term solutions…
Start Here: 5 Exercise Hacks For Deep Squats
The video below will provide a few squat fixes along with an introduction to some mobility and flexibility exercises to help you achieve a deep squat. If you experience good results from the exercises, be sure to look into the longer list of mobility exercises in the additional videos below.
5 Quick-Fixes for a Deeper Squat:
- Experiment with your squat technique – particularly foot placement (e.g. narrower, wider, feet turned out, feet straight, etc.).
- Hold a weight in front of you (e.g. goblet squat or front squat).
- Put something underneath your heels (e.g. flat board) to elevate them slightly.
- Try the following mobility exercises: shoulder retraction, thoracic extension, hip extension, partial squat external rotation (i.e. pushing on inside of knees with elbows), ankle flexion. If you see results from practicing these, try the other mobility exercises in the list below.
- Try these stretches: standing clasped hands shoulder retraction, shoulder bridge, kneeling hip flexor stretch, camel, downward dog. If you see results from practicing these, try the other flexibility exercises in the list below.
And when in doubt, take some weight off of the bar or just hold onto something for assistance.
Going Deeper: How to Squat Deep
The following exercises include elements of mobility, flexibility, strength, and skill-specific practice that will help you to increase your squat depth.
Watch the video below for a brief demo of all the exercises. Then refer to the exercise instructions below for additional information.
Note: this is not an exhaustive list of exercises to remedy a poor squat since everyone’s needs are different.
3 Minutes to Deeper Squats (Squat Depth 2.0 VIDEO)
Squat Mobility Exercises – The Basics
If you have very poor mobility or if the following exercises are difficult to perform smoothly and slowly, start with these and focus on them for at least 2-4 weeks before moving onto the others:
Pelvic hip circles – Standing tall, roll your hips around in a circle (e.g. like a hula dancer), being sure to fully tuck your tailbone and fully arch your lower back.
Hip circles – Maintaining good posture, press your hips forward and begin to roll them around in a circle, passing through a shallow squat in the rear position.
Lumbar spine circles – Standing tall with feet in a shoulder-width stance, bend at your lower back and roll your torso around in a circle.
Leg swings (front) – Perform slow and controlled swings with knee locked and toes pulled back, and then perform dynamic swings with leg loose and relaxed.
Leg swings (laterally) – Perform slow and controlled swings to your sides, being sure to cross your centerline, and then perform dynamic swings to the side.
Hip internal/external rotation – Rotate at the hips as far externally and then internally as you can.
Note: Here’s a video where I coach you through all of the mobility exercises listed above (and a few other good ones that didn’t make this list, but would absolutely be useful for those looking to improve their squats!).
Ankle flexion/extension and circles – With foot raised, draw a circle with your toes – being sure to fully flex and extend your ankle.
Toe pulls – Put a little bit of weight on the top side of your foot – can be held for time or gently rolled over for reps.
Note: If you suspect that your ankle mobility and/or flexibility may be hindering your squat, click here for a thorough tutorial on mobilizing and strengthening your ankles: TLC Exercises to Build Strong and Mobile Ankles and Feet.
Additional Squat Mobility Exercises & Stretches
The following squat mobility exercises and stretches go a little deeper and/or put a little more stress into the range of motion. They are also a little more specific for improving your squat mobility. You can think of these as the best bang for your buck squat mobility exercises.
Fire hydrant leg circles – On hands and knees, lift one leg and swoop it around in one big circle out to your side.
Lying bent-knee hip circles (one or two legs) – On your back, raise one or both legs until you achieve full hip and knee flexion and then move your leg(s) around in small circles to mobilize the hips.
Wind removing pose – On your back, pull your knees into your chest while trying to reach your tailbone down to the ground (hold for time).
Windshield wipers – Seated on the ground with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, and keeping your feet in place, drop your knees to one side, then the other.
Note: here is a detailed tutorial on the Windshield Wipers exercise (and some others that are also great squat mobility exercises):
Alternating low lateral lunges – From a low side lunge position, shift from one side lunge to the other.
Cossack squat switches – From a deep squat position, drop one knee internally and touch the inside of your knee and your inside ankle to the ground – keeping the inside of your foot flat against the ground, heel down.
Note: Cossack Squats are covered briefly in this tutorial on Shin Rolls, which is another exercise that may be helpful, particularly for those with ankle issues:
Rocking – On hands and the balls of your feet (and knees down), while maintaining a lengthened spine, rock forward and backward by reaching the hips forward and backward as far as your range of motion will allow (note: this is also a great diagnostic tool to determine your potential squat depth).
Child pose – From kneeling with forehead resting on the ground in front of you, press your hands into the floor in front of you to press your bum towards your heels.
Rocking in frog stance – Same as the rocking exercise above, except in the frog stance with legs externally rotated.
Frog pose – Same as the child pose above, except with legs externally rotated (and resting on the insides of your knees and ankles).
Kneeling split-leg hip flexor stretch – From a split-leg kneeling position, with one knee down, tuck your tailbone to tilt your pelvis to the rear. Squeeze your glutes, and press forward for an additional stretch.
Assisted squats – Hold onto something for support while performing squats to whatever depth you’re comfortable with.
Active squat hold – Squat as low as you can while maintaining a lengthened spine (i.e. without lumbar spine rounding), and hold for time.
Rock-bottom, deep squat – Squat all the way down until your hamstrings are resting on your calves and your bum is just above the ground.
- Try all of the exercises.
- Practice the ones that are difficult for you often, and multiple times a day, if possible.
- Squat deeper.
If you practice these exercises for just a few minutes every day, you’ll likely notice a dramatic improvement in your squat mobility within 2-4 weeks.
Everyone can squat. And everyone should be able to achieve a deep squat with a little practice. Of course, everyone is built differently, and some people will naturally have a deeper squat than others. Regardless, if you want to be able to squat both properly and effortlessly, the key is to achieve a good balance of mobility, flexibility, strength, and stability. And that only comes with the strategic practice of movements and exercises like the ones above.
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Health-First Fitness Coach
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