What does your squat say about you? (Part Two)

Andrew Cullinane (MISCP) here and as I discussed in my previous blog, people are struggling to squat with proper form and technique. While assessing people’s squat in the clinic there are two problems or patterns I see very frequently. These are very easy to identify in the clinic as people display obvious compensatory patterns:

  • Lack of ankle range of motion
  • Lack of thoracic range of motion (particularly evident when performing overhead squat)

Lack of Ankle Mobility

[one_half]squat[/one_half] [one_half_last]squat[/one_half_last]

The two images above show the contrast between very limited ankle mobility on the left versus a good amount of range of motion on the right. As a result of this lack of movement, the person is forced to flex (bend forward) the trunk in order to stay upright and complete the squat. As a general rule of thumb, when squatting we ideally want our tibia (shin bone) to be parallel with our trunk/torso. Another quick way to see if your ankles could be the problem is if your heels lift off the floor as you squat deep. This is also an indicator that there is a block to your ankle mobility. The key muscles at fault here are your calf muscles – known as the gastrocnemius and soleus. Simple stretching exercises for these muscles can be seen on these videos below:

[one_half][/one_half] [one_half_last][/one_half_last]

While you work on your ankle mobility and you still want to keep squatting (particularly if it’s part of your gym routine/workout programme), you can stand with your heels on a small wedge (1.25-2.5kg dumbbells work well here too). This is a quick fix and a cheat to trick/give your body more ankle dorsiflexion. Finally a nice quick warm up exercise you can do at the gym is seen below. You don’t need a foam roller or any equipment, simply lunge forward on one knee. The key is to keep your heel down and in contact with the ground at all times. Spend 30-45 seconds on each side, slowly rocking forwards and backwards.

[one_half]squat[/one_half]  [one_half_last]squat[/one_half_last]

The image on the left below shows not only poor thoracic mobility but the knock on effect it has on shoulder mobility and position in particular. I mentioned in part one something in particular that has a huge impact on our thoracic mobility – our lifestyle. We spend so much time sitting, and generally sitting in poor postures that over time our joints stiffen and muscles shorten and tighten.

[one_half]squat[/one_half]  [one_half_last]squat[/one_half_last]

Below are some nice step-by-step exercises to help improve your thoracic mobility:


A quick way of freeing up your back before a workout is to take out your foam roller and simply roll out your back. I would only spend a minute or two doing this. Don’t be alarmed if your back clicks and pops as you do it. A nice tip to make sure you target the whole back is to move your arms from by your side to across your chest and finally overhead as you roll out.

So if you feel you feel like your squat is like the ones pictured above give these exercises a try before you start loading up the weights in the squat rack. I would recommend doing goblet squats before returning to any squatting with a barbell until your form improves. Goblets squats are a great exercise because they essentially retrain your squat movement, all the while allowing you to get some load through the muscles and joints. Here’s a quick video demonstrating them:

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