The squat is a very natural movement for humans – all you need to do is watch a toddler pick something up off the floor or study something on the ground, and you’ll see that the position they take up to do so, is a squat. And a perfectly formed one at that. But somewhere between our toddler years, and our adult years, a lot of us lose that perfect squat form, and one of the biggest factors we can thank for that, is sitting.
Sitting vs. The Squat?
When we sit, we shorten the flexors of the hips (circled below). When we sit for long periods of time, these muscles become tight, and it is this tightness that is a main cause of Lordosis (curvature of the lower back – think sway back). It is also a big cause of lower back pain, and the ‘butt wink’ in a squat.
As well as tightening the hip flexors, sitting also binds up the external rotators of the legs, so not only are your hips tight from the front, they also become tight from the sides. If you then squat, it pulls on your lower back and pulls everything out of balance, limiting not only your range of motion, but sabotaging a safe and correct technique.
Ways that you are able to increase your mobility in a squat are as follows:
1. Include split squats in your training program
Performing these will help stretch out your hip flexors, and will help to reintegrate proper movement of the hip, knee and ankle. It will also stretch the soft tissue and external rotators of the hip. On top of all of that, it’s also a great exercise to help correct any structural and strength imbalances that we’re all prone to having.
2. Work on upper-back mobility
As well as tight hip flexors, sitting for prolonged periods of time over months and years is also the cause of poor posture in the upper back. A rounded upper back will limit your mobility in a squat so soft tissue work, stretching of the obliques, and exercises to work the thoracic spine (such as superman holds) should also be included in your training program.
3. Improve your ankle flexibility
Limited ankle flexibility and mobility is another limiting factor in performing the perfect squat. As with most things in life, if we don’t use it, we lose it, and how often do you test our ankle limitations without being forced to? Increasing range of motion in your ankles will allow you to get deeper into a well-formed squat – which is where the magic happens!
Now remember, the squat should be considered an advanced movement and shouldn’t be performed unless you are able to do so safely and with good form. You may have to spend some time ‘priming’ yourself to perform squats, but the benefits of doing so are well worth it!