In the last article about mobility I touched on a few of the baseline tests you should be doing to see where you stand. Every two weeks I’ll film myself going through these tests, as well as taking the same pictures I used in the Assess Yourself post. These metrics have given me a much, much better insight into how my body moved and lets me fine tune my assistance exercises and warm ups to focus on where I need to improve.
So, after you go through the three tests from the last post you can use these exercises to improve your mobility in those areas.
The best way that I’ve come across improving your squatting is…wait for it…to squat. Shocking, I know.
The key isn’t to force it though. Just because you decide to do 10,000 shitty squats (heels coming off the floor, rounding your lower back, etc) does not mean that you’ll get any better. The key is to keep your form tight, and just go down to where you’re form starts to break. IT might seem a little futile at first, but by practicing perfect body weight squats with a partial range of motion (possible for your warmup) you’ll be ingraining what feels right.
To increase the range of motion and get to the point where you can do a full squat you’ll need to focus on stretching. Specifically your gastroc/soleus, glute, and hamstrings.
Stretching your gastroc and soleus is as simple as finding something you can stand on with your toes and letting gravity push your heels down. I touched on this in the flexibility article, and there is a video here. To shift the tension to your soleus, just bend your knee.
If you have trouble getting your knees forward during the downward portion of the squat you’ll want to make sure you pay extra attention to your soleus.
To stretch your glutes, I prefer to do the “cheerleader” stretch. I’m sure it has some other, fancier, name but this is the way I’ve always seen cheerleaders sit, so it works. To do it, sit on the ground with your left knee bent at 90 degrees and your left upper leg pointed directly to the left. Your right upper leg should be pointed straight ahead, with your right knee also bent at 90 degrees and your lower leg pointing to the left. Sound confusing? Look at the picture.
Lean forward, keeping your back flat, and you should feel the stretch right on the outside of the ass check of the up leg.
Hamstring flexibility is also crucial to being able to fully squat. It’s also super important for many other things, so it’s touched on later in it’s own, special, section.
You’ve heard it all before…sitting and driving and hunching over the computer all day every day is ruining your back. Bad posture, especially when it’s held for the majority of the day, can seriously fuck up the way you’re able to move.
The good news here is that working on your thoracic extension can help to get you back into a decent posture and work out some of the issues you get from hunching over your laptop all damn day.
You can do this movement from a bent over position, from a lunge, or from all fours. The video below has me doing it from a bent over position, which I feel like lets me focus more on the movement.
Some people will say you should put your hand on your head, which isn’t necessarily wrong. My preference, though, is to keep my arm pointed straight out and to follow my hand with my eyes. This gives me a point of reference as I turn, and lets me gauge just how far I’m able to turn based on what my hand is pointing at.
Ask any person what muscle is the tightest on them and you’ll most likely hear them say their hamstrings. Now, I’ve said it before, mobility and flexibility are different parts of the athletic equation. But you can’t be mobile with out being flexible. Because of this I focus on dynamic stretching over static stretching. The differences are that instead of stretching until you feel discomfort and then holding it for 20-30 seconds like you do for a static stretch, a dynamic stretch has you moving back and forth from “normal” to the point of discomfort and holding for 3-5 seconds. The stretch will encompass 20-30 of these “pulses”.
My favorite mobility/flexibility exercise for the hamstring is the towel stretch, or seated towel stretch. To be honest with you, I don’t really know exactly what it’s call. All I know is that I had to do it for what felt like hours at a time when I was in rehab after knee surgery. Do 10-20 pulses of 3-5 seconds for each leg. Depending on just how tight you are it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run through it 2-3 times total.
The hurdler stretch is another one of my favorites because it’s much more involved than a normal seated hamstring stretch. Check out the video to see how to do it (it’s too simple) and follow the same 10-20 pulses held for 3-5 seconds as above.