Duncan Ogilvie (MSc, CSCS, ASCC) – Director of DO Training
If you read our recent article on “Want to back squat??? Then deep squat!!!” you will know that in order to deep squat you will need amongst other things, adequate ankle/hip mobility and flexibility. Coach Dan Gable once said “if it is important, do it every day”; a statement that has since been used by many of today’s top coaches This article and accompanying videos will show you several warm up exercises, mobility drills and stretches, which we at DoTraining find very important, so we do them every day. Over the past two years we have incorporated the following exercises into each and every one of our athletes’ workouts. . So read on and try them out and you will find that they will help to improve mobility, flexibility and strength in the ankle and hips, which could help give you the ability to squat ‘Ass to Grass”.
First let’s look at the ankle.
It’s important that you get adequate ankle mobility, most notably Dorsi flexion in order to deep squat. Ankle mobility is essential for not only squatting but also lunge patterns and sprinting, essential for all athletes. A lack of ankle mobility in the squat will cause your heels to rise off the ground as you get deeper and this will cause a compounding effect of undesirable compensatory adjustments in the ankle, knee, hip, lumbar and thoracic spine. Lack of mobility can be caused by things such as an old sprained ankle that didn’t rehab effectively, or something as trivial as walking around with raised/high heels. Some very simple mobility and strengthening drills that you can add to your warm up and workout routine are shown below.
Ankle Mobility – Position yourself in a kneeling stance with your toes a few inches away from a wall. Dorsi flex your ankle so your knee moves forward towards the wall. Aim to touch your knee on the wall and rock back to the starting position; do not hold this stretch, rock back and forth. Ensure that your heel does not rise from the floor when moving the knee forwards. Aim to get the toes 4 inches from the wall, this will show adequate ankle mobility in dorsi flexion. (Courtesy of Omi Iwasaki, Director of PT at Athletes Performance).
Downward Facing Dog – A popular yoga pose, we use this as a staple in our dynamic warm up. Start in a quadruped position, lift your knees away from the floor, raising your hips vertically and pushing up and back with your arms. Push your shoulders and thighs back and stretch your heels down towards the floor. While keeping your legs straight, aim to have a flat foot on the floor, really push your heels back and down; in essence creating a triangle with your body. You will feel a great stretch on the soleus in your calf and as a result achieve a good range of dorsi flexion. Return to the starting position and repeat. Again don’t hold the stretch. Try to achieve extension through your lumbar spine (Slight lumber curve is shown in the video – this is undesirable).
Dorsi Flexion strengthening – anchor a band and stretch it out tightly as shown, loop it over your foot with a straight leg (we placed a roller under our knee to ensure the ankle is off the floor). Plantar flex your ankle resisting pull from band, dorsi flex as far as possible working against the resistance of the band. To isolate the tibialis anterior, eliminate the toe extensors by crunching your toes. You will see by the face of the athlete this makes it a lot more demanding on the tib ant.
Multi-planar Ankle Strength – Position the band around the foot as shown and pull to an adequate resistance. (Coaching tip – wrap the band twice around foot to avoid it flying off towards you, which is not a good look). Go through all planes of movement resisting the pull of the band. We get our athletes to draw the alphabet with their toes; this ensures moving through all planes.
The last two exercises are simple and great at strengthening the ankle complex to help reduce injury and create a more robust ankle.
Mobility at the Hip.
It’s important for athletes to have good hip mobility and if wanting to deep squat , it’s essential. Great hip mobility is something we are born with, just look at the picture of this baby squatting, she shows perfect form. If you can’t deep squat then you must have lost your joint mobility through modern day activity and living as you had it as a baby. So in the case of the hip, you must regain what was lost not invent something new. The hip is a triaxial joint, meaning it allows movement in all three planes; the hip is therefore designed to be mobile. As mentioned in the previous article “Want to back squat??? Then squat low!!!” a lack of mobility in the hip will result in undesirable compensatory mobility in proximal joints, the knee and lumbar spine, (these joints are designed to be stable). Some very simple mobility and strengthening drills that you can add to your warm up and workout routine are shown below.
Hip Hurdles – Ideally perform these alternately on high and low hurdles, in the video it shows how we utilise our power rack to accomplish the same thing. Step over the hurdle with one leg and then bring the trailing leg over. Try to keep your upper body facing straight with your spine extended; to help with this, we position both hands behind the head, pulling elbows back. Go over all the hurdles/bar with the lead leg first and then repeat with your other leg in the lead position. Ensure you rotate from the hip not torso, drive the knee straight up and open the hip up when stepping over.
Stepping under the hurdle/bar, reach the leg under the bar as far as possible and squat low. Ensure to keep your chest up and get as low as possible. Shift your body under the bar and bring the trail leg through. Avoid excessive lumber and thoracic flexion, if this occurs make the hurdle or bar higher until you can accomplish the correct technique.
Stationary Spiderman – Start with your body in a rigid push up position keeping your hands underneath your shoulders. Keeping your hips low, bring your left foot forward towards the outside of your left hand, as far as you can advance, aiming to bring the foot next to or forward of the hand and ensuring your foot is flat on the floor. In this position push hips down and raise torso. Return to the start and repeat with other leg. (There are several progressions of this that we use with our athletes that will be shown in future videos.)
Squat to Stand (Frog Squat) – This is a great exercise to improve hip mobility as well as thoracic mobility. Stand tall with a stance wider than shoulder width. Perform a toe touch with straight legs, grab your toes and squat down while pushing your knees out (push elbows gently against knees to increase stretch) keep your chest up and butt down with feet flat on the floor. Raise arms one at a time directly over head and return to the start position.
Multi-planar Proprioceptive Hip Mobility – This is a great active stretch to add to your warm up and cool down; we use the band to increase stretch capacity. Attaching a band around one foot lie back and perform a straight leg raise, allow the leg to drop out to the side, increasing the stretch as needed with use of the band. Return to the start position and rotate over body to the opposite side. Try to limit movement of your torso and resting leg, ensuring that the active leg remains straight throughout all exercise.
So there you have it; a few simple and effective exercises and drills to add to your workouts. Try them out before your workouts and see how you get on. And as always comment, share, like and re-tweet.