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Building Better Mobility for Squats

sandbag exercises

 

If you guys liked our discussion of how we build smarter workouts that we posted HERE yesterday, don’t worry, I’ll continue to build off that tomorrow, but thought some of your brains could use a break. Plus, we want you to actually use the information make sure to ask us lots of questions at our Facebook group HERE. Today though I wanted to address the daunting issue of building better squats. 

I was actually inspired to write about squats after seeing a social media post where a well meaning physical therapist was making fixing bad squats seem so overwhelming that I felt like giving up. There was a lot of the “mobilize this”, “stretch that”, use this corrective strategy, and so forth. Ultimately there was a lot of discussion about squats and ankles. 

Building Better Mobility for Squats

Mostly, the therapist was saying how we need to really isolate the foot/ankle to create more mobility to that we can achieve better squats. Now, in theory, I can’t argue that having better mobility in the foot/ankle isn’t anything BUT great. However, like most things, it just comes in our approach. 

This is also a personal topic for me because as I have written before, my feet are DESTROYED!!! (not shocked right?) Mostly because I played competitive basketball for a decade. That meant lots of sprained ankles, being taped for many years restricting my movement, high tops (yes, they were super popular), and running and jumping almost year round for that time. 

Of course in typical Josh fashion that also meant stress fractures (which I played almost an entire season my senior of high school on), ripping everything that was in my right ankle when I was 14 after landing on a crack on the concrete basketball court, and having some motor control loss due to my spinal issues. My feet are so bad that when I went to a podiatrist, he asked me, “when did your talus bone get fused?” I didn’t know that happened, but apparently at one point I broke this bone and didn’t know it, kept playing and it eventually fused. 

So, if ANYONE can understand what it is like to have foot/ankle issues and how they can impact your squats it is me! In fact, for the first several years of me training I hated to squat and if I did I always did so on the Smith Machine so I could try to bypass my horrible feet (which years later I would realize how much of terrible idea that was). 

It wasn’t till the first time I had someone do some really deep soft-tissue work in my lower leg and feet and then felt my ability to perform squats so much better did I even become aware of the connection (genius I know). With that in mind, how could I NOT be all about creating more mobility in your feet for your squats?

Well, I am not against it, I am not even against spending specific time upon developing better mobility in the feet/ankles. However, to me there are really two issues. For one, you aren’t going to get the “magic” in improving your squats just after a few sessions of working on your feet/ankles, it takes time to really make those changes. Second, many people have limited time to train, so how can we focus on even BIGGER ideas to help people improve in their squats so they can benefit more from the limited time they have?

Proximal Stability

If you have followed our DVRT blogs for any period of time you have heard me use the physical therapy program PNF’s idea of “proximal stability for distal mobility”. Most times that has been in the context of if we create more core stability our shoulders and hips will move better. That’s how we have so much “magic” in DVRT. However, it doesn’t JUST apply to your core. 

Another concept we discussed is strength coach, Mike Boyle, and physical therapist, Gray Cook’s, model of the “Joint by Joint Approach”. This is where we look at if a joint in the body has a dominance towards stability or mobility. 

stronger knees

If we look at the model you will see how everything starts with the feet, that stability is geared towards the foot and mobility to the ankle. Makes sense right? However, when most people perform their squats they pay no attention to these concepts. Most people don’t cue what is happening at the feet even though that is the foundation for squats, we are often taught what to do with our knees and hips, but almost never with our feet. 

When we create “active feet” as Jessica shows we begin to create that stability in the foot, if the foot creates the stability it is suppose to, then guess what happens to the mobility at the ankle? It improves! You can see this chain reaction as if you stand in the position as though you are going to squat and “grab the ground” with your feet your knees slightly turn out which turns on your glutes. All of a sudden you have a much better position, stability, and mobility to perform your squats. 

If we add in core stability to increase the mobility of the hips, then we can have some DVRT “magic” with squats as I show you myself going from being ice cold to using Press Out and Bear Hug Squats. I’m focusing on what is happening with my feet and how I engage my core through deliberate tension of trying to “rip apart” the Ultimate Sandbag. That’s pretty good mobility by a 6’4 lifter with absolutely horrible feet right?

 

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Discussing squats in this manner can change them from being the most hated exercise because they hurt or are frustrating into a movement where people actually enjoy performing them because they feel strong and successful. That is why we believe the concepts of DVRT can be so transformative for coach and lifter alike. 

Want to find out more how we use DVRT to improve squats and so many more functional movements? Check out our DVRT online education programs HERE for 25% off with coupon code “fall” or DVRT Masters, Greg Perlaki’s program  or dynamic warm-up or Cory Cripe’s movement strength HERE