The squat is arguably the cornerstone of athletic ability. Perform correctly and you have the keys to unlocking your athletic prowess. Harnessing your true squat depth potential is not going to guarantee you legs like Chris Hoy... it is however going to enable you push harder, be stronger & develop you into a much more rounded athlete. I use the term athlete in the broadest sense - we're all athletes, we were born to move, jump & run. Whether you choose to maximise these tools is up to you.
The hips play an unequivocal role in enabling you to squat to depth. Immobile hips & tight hip flexors? You'll struggle massively to get down let alone hit 90 degrees... Warming up your hips will only get you so far. If you want to really harness your true squat depth potential & unleash your inner beast in the gym you'll need to invest sufficient time in your mobility & active end range. Why mobility & active end range as opposed to flexibility you may ask? As Hunter Cook (@hunterfitess), one of my favourite movement guru's, aptly puts "having flexibility allows me to use an outside force to push my joint(s) into position. This might make a pretty yoga photo but it does't translate into movement". He then goes on to say "mobility or having active control of the joints in said positions translates much more into movement. Having neurological control means I can produce/absorb force there. It means I can create the movement. I can actively bring my joint into and out of the position".
More mobility - a greater degree of freedom.
More mobility - more movement variability.
How does this relate to our squat? Well if more mobility equals a greater degree of freedom then more freedom technically equates to a greater depth of squat. I wasn't blessed with the loosest of hips, I always struggled in rugby to get into the low positions required to pass the ball off the floor, however over time as I've applied myself more and more to my mobility & active end range work ons I can safely say my hips are now the loosest they've ever been. Still far perfect, here are my 3 top drills to get you going.
#1 Hip 'CAR's' (controlled articular rotations)
What are 'CAR's? The functional range conditioning definition, as espoused by Dr. Andreo Spina, states controlled articular rotations are "active, rotational movements at the outlet limits of articular motion". In this drill below, I'm trying to rotate my hips through the biggest range of motion possible with tension and control. But why? It all starts with the joint capsule. The joint capsule is the first line of communication between the joint and the brain, rotation is the best way to interact with the capsule. In essence we want our joint capsules healthy, sending messages to the brain to enable our joints to produce & control large ranges of motion.
#2 Cook Squat & Rotation
Probably my favourite weighted mobility drill. The anterior load allows you to sit deep into your squat whilst the rotational element really opens up your t(thoracic)-spine. As you rotate upwards with one arm, transfer the Kettlebell to the opposite foot for maximum affect.
#3 Hip Internal Rotations
My nemesis! I find this movement at the hip the hardest, however I'm starting to see some progressions, slowly... If you haven't tried internally rotating your hips whilst sat on the floor - do, it's an extremely challenging move. To progress the 2nd part of the move place your hands on your shoulders & then rotate.
I hope this has been an insightful & informative post. Get cracking with the exercises mentioned and please don't hesitate to shout if you have any queries or questions. Stay tune for part #2 of this blog - "5 cues to a better squat".