Squatting is a simple but complex movement that requires not only just strength, but more importantly, mobility. A glaring issue that many athletes face are tight or "stiff" hips that cause a myriad of issues not only in just squatting itself but any and all movements involving a squat (thrusters, wall balls, overhead squats, squat cleans etc). There are so many movements in the world of CrossFit that require the ability to squat. If you are one who struggles squatting because of tight hips, here are some tips to help open things on up!
Hip Mobility Moves for Better Squatting
This exercise more or less takes your body through a full squat, only instead of standing you do it on all fours. The floor supports your body, making the movement very stable and therefore easier to train through a full range of motion. It’s a good way to familiarize your body with what a full-range squat feels like, and teaches you to maintain head, spine, and pelvis alignment.
– Get on all fours. Your palms should be directly under your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Tuck your toes so they point into the floor.
– Now push your butt back toward your heels, keeping your back and hips in a straight line. Ideally, you’ll be able to bring your butt and heels together, but don’t force it. Exhale as you push back.
– Rock back forward to the starting position, inhaling deeply into your abdomen as you go.
Beware of the “butt wink” when you do these—the tendency for your tailbone to tuck under as you rock back to your heels. Go back only as far as you can control. If you sense your pelvis is about to tuck, stop there and return to the starting position. Perform 60 seconds of the squat rock daily if you like, but at least four times per week.
2. Frog Rock
Same idea here as in the squat rock, but we’re upping the ante by adding a deep groin stretch.
– From the all-fours position, turn your feet out to the sides so the inside edges of your feet are flush with the floor. If you can’t do that, just practice sitting in this position until you can.
– Exhale as you push your hips back to your heels while keeping your butt elevated. Once again, do not allow any butt wink. Stay within the range of motion you can control. When you get to the point where you’re about to tuck, hold it five seconds while tensing your muscles hard as if you were spreading the floor apart with your knees. Then release and rock back to the start position. You can do 60 seconds every day, but four times per week minimum.
When coaches troubleshoot someone’s squat, we often hear the cue “knees out” used to help the squatter get his knees and feet to line up outside of hip width and improve his squat depth. This is fine, but it’s only one part of the equation. The internal rotator muscles—the ones that pull the knees inward—need some work too. By solving this muscle imbalance, you create better stability in the hips and, therefore, a more mobile squat.
– Get into the deepest squat you can manage while keeping your chest pointing forward and your head, spine, and pelvis aligned (remember, no tucking).
– Lean slightly to your left side, shifting your weight to that foot. Now turn your right leg inward and lower the inside edge of your knee to the floor until it touches. Think about initiating the movement from the top of your thigh where it meets the hip. The inside of that foot should end up flush with the floor as well.
– Now return to your squat position and repeat on the opposite side. Never alter your squat mechanics to extend your range—so if you can’t touch the floor with one or both knees without falling forward or twisting, just go as far as you can. Breathe in a controlled fashion through your nose—don’t try to sync your breath with the movement, but don’t hold your breath either.
Do 10 knee collapses on each side every day, or at least four times per week.
4. The 5/5 Squat
This is where it all comes together. Perform a squat with a slow tempo—five seconds down, and five seconds back up. You must keep good form throughout. When you hit the range your body doesn’t want to be in, you’ll feel the need to speed up or bounce out of it, but doing the squat slowly won’t let you. If it’s too hard to perform on your own, you can hold on to a rack or other sturdy object for stability. If it’s too easy, try a goblet squat or, if you feel you’re ready for it, squat with a bar on your back.
To review, here’s how a good squat is done:
– Stand with feet at shoulder width and toes turned slightly out. Without letting your feet actually move, try to screw both legs into the floor as if you were standing on grass and wanted to twist it up—you’ll feel your glutes tighten and the arches in your feet rise.
– Take a deep breath into your belly and lower your body down. Push your knees out as you descend. Go as low as you can while keeping your head, spine, and pelvis aligned, and then extend your hips and knees to return to standing.
Squatting very slowly is the ultimate test for having the strength to control the range of motion. Any tightness or weakness that can cause you to lose position will be exposed. You might be able to perform a decent-looking rep or two dive-bomb style, but you can’t fake good form when you go slowly. Start by doing 6 reps. When you can do 10 reps, you can progress to a loaded squat of your choice. Do these only twice per week.