If you’re looking to push big weight, these four stretches will most definitely help your squat.
Stretching is a word that makes some people in the strength and conditioning world jump like they just hit the buzzer in Operation. People, just like the squat, either love it or hate it. Personally I’m a HA-UGE fan of stretching, and I think it’s the most over looked aspect in training athletes today. Every time my athlete’s step into the weight room they stretch. We even pair most of the exercises we do with a stretch too. In this article we’re going to go over some of my favorites that we use on squat day and/or pair with the squat. Two are static stretches, and 2 are mobility exercises that help you “move better” through the range of motion needed.
Stretches -These two stretches are performed both before we start squatting in the warm up and after each set. Typically I have my athletes perform both before, and one during the work out, but occasionally they hit them both if they’re feeling tight.
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
There are many ways to stretch your hip flexors. I choose to use what some people refer to as the warrior lunge, or the lunge hip flexor stretch. To perform this stretch, simply get in a lunge position with one knee down on the ground and the other foot out in front of you so your knee is at a greater angle than 90 degrees. From here push your hips up and forward, and squeeze your glute. Once you feel the stretch reach up to the ceiling and hold for at least a 10 count. You can change it up by either leaning over to the side or reaching up and back like a soccer goal keeper diving for a ball. This stretch will help you get deeper when you squat, and feel more comfortable when you’re squatting
2. Downward Facing Dog
Most people are tight all the way through their “posterior chain,” from their calves up to the back of their neck. The best stretch for this huge area of the body is actually a Yoga position called the Downward Facing Dog. To perform this stretch you’ll start in a push up position. From there push your heels and hands into the ground and your hips up. Whatever portion of your posterior chain is tight is where you’ll feel it most. As you stretch keep pushing your hands and heels down and keep your knees straight. A lot of people initially feel this in their calves, but as you start to loosen up you’ll feel this movement stretch your hamstrings and upper back.
Mobility Drills -These will help you squat better, period.
3. Ankle Mobs
Due to the constraints of certain footwear, ankle braces, taping and so on, a lot of athletes’ ankles are “locked up.” What I mean by this is you don’t have the same range of motion you once did, which, believe it or not, is a HUGE restriction in squatting form. If your ankles don’t dorsiflex (meaning bend forward) you’ll end out on the balls of your feet, or your toes. You can’t produce force and be stable when you’re pushing through your toes instead of through your heels. If that’s not reason enough, it’s also just not safe.
To improve ankle mobility find a wall and back up about four inches from it. From there set your body by putting your right foot forward, left foot back, while keeping your hips square to the wall. Push your right knee towards the wall while keeping your heel on the ground. Go as far as possible, but don’t let your heel come off the ground. If you can touch the wall, just back up a few inches and work your ankles to a greater angle.
4. Wall Squats
This is a great mobility exercise and a great way to learn how to squat better. Walk up to a wall until you are about 6 inches from it. Put your hands on your lower back and squat down. The biggest thing to remember here is that you want to “pull” yourself into your squat. By “pull” yourself into the squat, I mean pull your hips back with your hip flexors and go as far as you can without hitting the wall or falling. Hit a few reps and if you can get good depth move a little closer.
Stretching has received a lot of negative attention, but I can tell you from experience that these four movements have made me, and my athletes become better, safer, squatters. So the next time you plan on squatting, give these bad boys a try. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
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