Exercises to Improve Your Squat
Squatting is one of the most beneficial and functional movements that we can do, but despite this, it is many people's least favorite movement. However, squatting is my favorite exercise! For me, there is nothing like hitting some heavy squats to help me feel strong and put me in a better mood 😉 Despite it being my favorite exercise lets look at the benefits of squatting:
Functional strength/movement: squatting is a movement that we do everyday. We squat to sit down on a chair or the toilet, we squat to pick things up from the floor, we squat to get down on the floor to play with our children or grandchildren, etc. It is a movement that we need to be able to do for life.
Compound exercise: meaning that it works a number of different areas of the body from our feet and legs and to our core and even our upper back. We can use this one exercise to target strength and stability in multiple areas of the body.
Mobility: squatting requires good ankle, hip, and shoulder mobility. So by working on squats, we are naturally working on improving mobility in these joints. Improving mobility helps keep us active, reduces our risk of injury, and improves our ability to move as we age.
So if I haven't convinced you that squats are a great exercise and that you should be incorporating them into your workouts, let's take a closer look at how you can improve your ability to perform squats. By improving your form and mechanics with squatting, it can will help make the exercise easier to perform, likely improving your desire to perform them 😉
Throughout the rest of this blog, we are going to look at 4 different exercises that you can perform to help you improve both your mobility and strength for squats. These exercises can easily be incorporated into part of your warm-up routine or be used as accessory exercises for your strength programming.
As mentioned above squats require sufficient hip and ankle mobility to perform correctly. If you have limitations in either of these joints, it can make performing squats more difficult and also impacts your form. By focusing on specific mobility drills for the hip and ankle, it can help you improve your mechanics and form while also improving your overall performance.
First, let's look at the Standing Hip Rotation. This is a great drill to help address hip mobility deficits and also to improve control through your hip joint. Improving hip mobility helps to improve the depth of your squat and creates a better foundation for the movement. Perform 5-8 reps/side as part of your warm-up before you squat to prime your hips for the movement ahead.
Second, we will look at the Banded Ankle Mobilization. The ankles are often an overlooked joint when looking at mobility for the squat. However, without sufficient ankle mobility, you will have difficulty getting good depth in your squats. Limited ankle mobility can also lead to increased stress and strain on your low back. Check out our previous blog "The Butt Wink and What to Do About it" to learn more about the importance of ankle mobility for proper squatting. We recommend performing the banded ankle mobilization by holding for 30-60sec and then performing 10-15 end range oscillations. Put this exercise into you squat warm-up routine to help increase you ankle mobility prior to squatting for better mechanics and performance.
For our stability exercises, we are going to look at 2 drills that address single leg stability, hip/core stability, and eccentric quad strength. Both of our stability exercises are single leg drills. The reason we suggest performing single leg exercises is that it takes away the ability of your body to compensate in a double leg position and really forces you to focus and address inconsistencies that you have side to side. Improving your strength and control in single limb exercises translates very well to increased performance and injury prevention with squatting.
Let's take a look at the Single Leg RDL for our first stability movement. This is a challenging, but great movement to help address balance, hip control, and core stability. This is also an exercise that we often see performed incorrectly. Make sure that you watch this video closely as we outline how to perform this exercise with proper technique. Performing this with proper technique allows you to unlock all of the benefits of this exercise. We recommend that you perform 8-12 reps/side anywhere from 1-3 sets. This exercise could be used as part of your warm-up or as an accessory movement.
The last exercise that we are going to look at today is the Star Drill/3 Way Balance Reach. Again, this is a single leg exercises that focuses on balance, dynamic control, and eccentric quad strength. We discussed the benefits of single leg training above, but let's look at the importance of eccentric strength. Eccentric strength is the ability of a muscle to contract while it is also lengthening. Typically, we only think of a muscle lengthening while it is being stretched; however, our muscles must also be able to lengthen while they are contracting or under tension. This type of contraction happens to be the most difficult for a muscle to perform, but is essential in being able to control the descent of your squat. Adding this exercise in as part of your warm-up or accessory work will help you increase your control and performance of your squat. We recommend doing 5-8 reps/side for 1-3 sets.
Wrapping It Up
Squatting has great benefits for our overall strength and functional mobility and is a movement that we need to be able to perform for life. With that being said, it is a complex movement and can be difficult to perform. However, that should not keep you from doing the movement. Start working on these 4 exercises to help improve you form and mechanics with squatting and also to improve your overall performance!
If you are dealing with pain or an injury that is keeping you from being able to squat or squat as heavy as you would like, reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help. We also offer customized mobility programs that can help you improve your squat or sport performance. Call 515-985-9038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!