Muscle for life

How to Improve Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

How to Improve Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

Squatting properly requires good balance and quite a bit of hip, ankle, and shoulder flexibility and mobility. This article shows how to get there.


The squat is an incredibly effective exercise for training your entire lower body and core…

…if it’s done correctly.

And there are many ways to do it wrong.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that doing it right isn’t necessarily easy.

In fact, many people lack the flexibility to squat properly. They couldn’t do a single perfect rep even if they wanted to.

This is especially true for people that have been squatting incorrectly for long periods of time because it can, in the case of half-repping, reduce flexibility and range of motion, and otherwise ingrain poor movement patterns that are hard to change.

Well, in this article, we’re going to talk about how to get to being able to squat properly and comfortably.

We’re going to look at the mechanics of the squat and how it should look, and how to use hip and ankle flexibility and mobility exercises to overcome common obstacles that prevent people from squatting like they should.

Let’s start with what a good squat actually looks like.

What a Proper Squat Looks Like

squat mobility exercises

The most common squat mistake we see is the partial squat.

You know, this kind of nonsense:

My knees ache just watching that!

Ironically, the partial squat does have valid uses, but are most relevant to strength training programs and are never used exclusively.

The majority of your squatting should be either of the parallel or full variety.

Here’s what the parallel squat looks like:

As you can see, his legs are reaching (and going a little deeper than) the parallel (to the ground) position, and this requires a fair amount of hip and ankle flexibility to do properly.

Here’s what the full squat looks like:

As you can see, the legs break the parallel plane and the butt comes to within a few inches of the floor at the bottom of each rep.

This requires significant lower body flexibility to do safely.

Now, it’s not directly related to mobility and flexibility, but let’s take a quick detour to address a very common squatting question:

Are parallel or full squats better?

Well, in terms of working your legs, the deeper you go, the more effective the squat, so the full squat is technically the best for building lower body strength and size.

That said, it also requires a large amount of lower body flexibility to do correctly. So much so that I generally recommend that people master the parallel squat first and then gradually work their way into the full squat.

And there’s nothing wrong with never full squatting, either.

If your goal is simply to build a strong, muscular lower body, you don’t need to full squat. In fact, I’d say that it probably won’t even get you to your goal faster. Parallel squatting will get the job done just fine.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How to Improve Hip Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

squat mobility test

Lack of hip flexibility is probably the most common problem that prevents people from squatting properly.

The big problem many people run into has to do with hip flexion, which is the technical term for a decrease in the angle between the thigh and pelvis (as your knee rises, hip flexion occurs).

There are several small muscles involved in hip flexion, and if they can’t move through a full range of motion, you are going to have a lot of trouble squatting correctly.

Fortunately, there are several stretching exercises that you can do to improve hip flexibility. Here are my favorites:

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

This is one of the best stretches for releasing hip flexor tightness.


Work on this for 2-3 minutes per leg, and then move on to the next stretch below.

Psoas Quad Stretch

The psoas major is a pelvic muscle that plays a key role in hip flexion. Here’s what it looks like:


When this muscle is too tight, squatting can be a nightmare.

Here’s a great stretch for releasing the psoas, which looks simple but can be quite uncomfortable if you’re lacking flexibility:

You perform this stretch by assuming the position, and then driving your knee into the ground and leaning forward, getting a good stretch, followed by releasing.

Perform this drive and release pattern for 2-3 minutes for each leg.

Your Weekly Hip Flexibility and Mobility Routine

If you do those stretches as described 3-4 times per week, you should see marked improvements within a few weeks.

How to Improve Ankle Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

squat mobility progression

Ankle flexibility can affect your squat, you’re wondering?


If your heels want to lift off the ground as you’re descending toward the bottom of the squat, or if you tend to shift the weight forward onto your toes, then your ankles are probably tight.

Loosen them up and you’ll probably find that you can drop into the bottom of the squat much easier, with the weight solidly on your heels and your spine in a neutral position.

To improve your ankle flexibility and mobility, you can mash up and stretch the tissues of your feet, ankles, and calves.

Here’s a great video from MobilityWOD showing how to do it properly:

As you can see, you’ll need a lacrosse ball for this (size 1 or 2), which can be used to perform quite a few mobility exercises.

Here’s a simple one I use:
lacrosse ball


Your Weekly Ankle Flexibility and Mobility Routine

Do the ankle routine outlined the video above several times per week (in addition to your hip work), and the improvements should be noticeable within several weeks.

How to Practice Proper Squat Form

squat flexibility

As you improve your hip and ankle flexibility and mobility, you’ll find it easier and easier to squat properly.

In order to get the squat form down so perfectly that you don’t even have to think about it, I recommend you do the following squat drill at the end of each of your flexibility and mobility sessions.

It will teach you proper squat form through repetition and also show how much the stretching exercises are helping.

Wall Squat

The wall squat is a simple but effective way to assess and improve your squat form. Here’s how it works:

  • Face the wall about a foot width away, with your feet shoulder width apart and turned slightly out.
  • Fully extend your arms above your head and place your palms against the wall, arms parallel with each other.
  • Push your hips back and lower yourself down into a full squat position (or as low as you can go), with your hands remaining on the wall. Don’t allow your head, knees, or torso to touch the wall.
  • Focus on keeping your knees in line with your toes (pushed out), and your chest up. Keep your spine in a neutral position (no pronounced rounding or arching).
  • If your head, knees, or torso touch the wall, stop at this point, fix your form, and hold the position. Move around a bit to get a good stretch.

Here’s a video that shows how to do it:

The Bottom Line on Improving Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

squat mobility warm up

Squatting with good form isn’t as easy as it looks.

It requires above average lower body flexibility, good balance, and a fair amount of kinesthetic awareness. It is, in many ways, an acquired skill.

One of the biggest obstacles to acquiring that skill is tight muscles, ligaments, and tendons, which, unfortunately, don’t necessarily get better with more squatting.

That’s why many people should be doing special exercises like those outlined in this article.

So if you’re having trouble with the fundamentals of the squat, like reaching proper depth, keeping the weight on your heels, or preventing your knees from buckling in, start doing this mobility routine and you should see a rapid and dramatic improvement in your squatting.


What do you think about this flexibility and mobility routine for squatting? Have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Kate

    I’m super excited to try these! I didn’t realize I was just above parallel until my husband videotaped me. Seemed as hard as I tried I couldn’t go any lower and when I tried it hurt pretty badly. Very frustrating. Looking forward to increasing flexibility and finally getting a** to grass 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kate! Let me know how it goes!

  • James

    I sometimes find it very difficult to go down as far as the guy doing the full squat. However, I see that in both videos they are wearing weightlifting shoes which makes the back of their feet higher off the ground. I sometimes use some small weight plates underneath my heels to achieve the same effect but remember asking mike about this before although he did not recommend it. But is there a major difference between using shoes or small plates?

    • Michael Matthews

      Proper shoes definitely help. You want your feet flat on the ground. The only reason to raise your heels would be if you lack the flexibility to squat properly with your feet flat on the ground. But it’s better to correct the flexibility issue.

  • rayray

    Really great article. It has a great range of exercises helping to mobilising for a technically better squat 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad you liked it!

  • Shanna Reinhardt

    Would it be more effective to do full squat or paralell squat when you can only have about half the weight for a full?

    • Michael Matthews

      I actually like to do both in my workouts. You can start with full squats, and then do parallel squats, followed by 1-2 more exercises.

  • Gilberto Gil

    OMG it is like you read my mind…which by the way is blown. I have been struggling/looking to improve my form on squats. This was a tremendously helpful and valuable.

    • Gilberto Gil

      PS tried the hip flexor stretch and it is MONEY!!!

      • Michael Matthews


    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks Gilberto. This should definitely help. Let me know how it goes!

      • Gilberto Gil

        Noticing a lot of improvement with my range. Getting to parallel is a lot easier now. w00t w00t.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome! Keep it up!

  • António Alves

    This definitely comes in handy, since I feel I really need to improve the flexibility of my legs!
    By the way, I noticed this guy wasn’t using any clamps when he was squatting. One of the gyms I used to go they didn’t even have a squat rack ( only a smith machine), but for the bench press, they always used clamps. In my new gym, I have only seen people use clamps when performing bicep curls. I would like to use them more often, but I just hate those “spring” clamps if that’s what they’re called. Its horrible to take em’ out! Nevertheless, I have been doing my lifts without clamps, I haven’t hurt myself and neither has anyone else, but what do you think of this? Should clamps always be used?

    • Michael Matthews


      I like to use clamps on my squats and curls. Never had an issue of losing balance but might as well I guess. You don’t have to use them if you don’t want to though.

  • Bad Z

    Great article, I don’t suppose you could do one for lunges too?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! It would be the same really.

  • Derrek

    This is just a suggestion but it would really be nice to have videos of the exercises with proper form. It is easier if I can see someone doing it. Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      There are videos embedded in the article…

    • Derrek

      I appreciate that. Thanks. I’m just talking more in regards to the exercises in your program. Like the Romanian deadlift, and some others that you don’t go over the form in detail. Its just a suggestion. Thanks and have a great rest of your day!

      • Michael Matthews

        YW! Oh okay. Did you download the bonus report? There are links to videos for each exercise in the program. Hope this helps!

  • Derrek

    Does it cost anything and if not, how do I access it?

    • Michael Matthews


  • Derrek

    For the bonus reports and how to download them.

    • Michael Matthews

      There are links in the back of each book.

  • Tom

    Do an article on running faster

    • Michael Matthews

      Not a bad idea. 🙂

  • Ahmed

    You should write a book on streching/flexibility!!!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      I really like this one! Hard to do better:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /recommendations/books-recommendations/becoming-a-supple-leopard-by-kelly-starrett/

  • Josey

    Great article, Mike! I think the majority of us forget to stretch anyway! 😛

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Josey! Yeah I know, haha. I’ve been guilty of that!

  • Eirik

    Wow! Great article! I am a third year physio student trying to teach fellow students how to do proper squats and this just gave me a completely new and great perspective! You have a new follower!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Eirik! I really appreciate it!

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  • Kirstie

    Hi, is it better to squat with less weight fuller range of movement or heavy weight /smaller range of movement? I have been squatting with about 30 kg but watching this not sure I’m going low enough? Also is 40kg a reasonable weight for a 5ft 1 female? I’m not sure what I should be aiming for

    • Michael Matthews

      You want to make sure you reach parallel at least, so if you need to drop weight, that’s totally fine. Yeah, 40 kg is great!

  • chris w

    Hey Mike,do you sell your nutrition supplements in thenUK?
    Chris w

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup we ship to the UK!

  • chris w

    Hey mike do you sell your supplements in the Uk?

  • brolol

    you seem to completely ignore the fact that the antagonist to hip flexion are the hip extensors and tightness of these are the limiting factor when it comes to deep squat ROM limitations.

    • Michael Matthews

      The hip extensors consist of the glutes and hamstrings, which are adequately stretched in the flexor stretch.

  • Dave

    Do you recommend any exercises to help the muscles activate while squatting, especially the glutes?

    • Michael Matthews

      Not really. If you’re squatting with proper form you can’t help but involve your hams and glutes…

      • obhealth.com

        try hip clams with a thera band above the knees done on your side separating knees in steady motion or and even band above knees and light squatting keeping knees over toes- both with aid in training glute med thus add to hip stability in squatting.

        • Michael Matthews

          Good tip!

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  • halevi

    Thanks Mike. I’m having terrible problems with hip flexibility that I didn’t have when I originally read this article. I keep inventing new stretches in a desperate attempt to stretch out my hips, but nothing works well enough. I’ll try out these exercises.

    • Michael Matthews

      Definitely try these. I think they will help.

  • Trace

    Hey Mike, I’ve been lifting for over a year and was pretty happy with my increasing squat weight and range. I follow your articles and they have helped me so much. I’ve recently returned to the workforce full time which now requires a majority of my working day sitting at a computer… Disappointed in myself for not realising that my posture and the prolonged sitting would affect my weight training – especially in my lower back… I’ve since researched ways to help protect my lower back from possible injury (pinched nerves etc) but it wasn’t an easy task… What I’m getting to is that this would be a major problem for a lot of people wanting to do weights but are afraid to hurt themselves because they have immobile jobs- yes we get instructed to maintain good posture and usually neck and wrist stretches – but no one really knows of the why or other helpful exercises to concentrate on, even days prior to ‘leg day’…. Hoping that you may have an article tucked away in there for the typical office worker?

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! I’m glad to hear it.

      I totally agree. I’m actually careful to keep proper posture all day while I work and I stand up and stretch my legs and hips every 30 minutes or so.

      Would make a good article. On the list it goes. 🙂

  • ls

    Hi Mike, I’ve been training for many years. I like the muscular endurance workouts. I am now pregnant. Is it Ok for me to still do Squats? I noticed I had to drop my weight to half of what I used to do. I’m careful with my stretching and I’m a big fan of the foam roller. I love weight training and I really would like to keep it up. Is it safe for me to do it?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool! Congrats on the pregnancy! Yes you can still squat, but I do recommend you find a trainer that specializes in training pregnant women. He’ll/she’ll be able to keep you working out all the way through your final trimester.

  • Joel

    I was looking for an “I Want This” button under Sarah Grace.

    • Michael Matthews


  • Andrew

    Hey Mike, I’m noticing that at the bottom of my squats and even when dropping into deadlift starting position, my pelvis rotates inwards towards my stomach, creating a lot of stress on my lower back (specifically on the right side). Are there any specific stretches I need to look into performing?


  • Giorgio

    Great article! Just one question. I squat three times per week, and wanted to know when would be the best time to do this mobility/flexibility routine in relation to my work outs. Should I do them right before I work out? On off days? After a work out? Any help is appreciated!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Good question. I would do them after workouts personally.

      • Giorgio

        Thanks for the quick response. I also appreciate your shoulder flexibility/mobility article as well!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW and great! 🙂

  • Alan

    Hi Mike
    In a couple of the videos demonstrating the parallel squat the guy shown is doing pretty impressive squats with his head looking down. Is head position important?

    • Michael Matthews

      Lot of opinions here but a neutral position seems to be most commonly recommended.

  • saveourskills

    Just noting that in first 2 videos these guys step outside the safety bars… weird

    • Michael Matthews

      True 🙂

  • Dan

    Thanks very much for all your articles on proper squat form, I’m really trying to perfect this exercise with the aim being to do perfect full squats eventually.

    I’m planning on doing this flexibility routine at home, separate from workouts (although perhaps before squatiing), and was wondering if a short warmup should be done before the stretches, and if so what would you recommend? jumping jacks perhaps?

    Also, I did the routine for the first time just now and when doing the wall squat, i can go to parallel with my arms by my sides but when i have my arms raised my hips feel tight just above parallel and i feel myself falling backwards if I try to push further, any thoughts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thank you!

      Yeah something to bring some blood in and raise body temp would be fine.

      It sounds like you just need to work on the position and flexibility. That’s a good sign. Easy to fix.

      • Dan

        Thanks very much for replying, I’m doing the routine every couple of days now.

        I’ve only been squatting correctly (to parallel) for a couple months now, doing 3 sets of 6 with 70kg after my warmupsets. Would you recommend sticking at this weight and gradually squatting lower – if my aim is to do full squats – or would it be better to stick to parallel, or just below, and increase the weight for a bit longer?


        • Michael Matthews

          Personally I don’t ATG because it requires a LOT of mobility and I don’t really see a reason to. You can make great gains with a parallel or slightly lower than parallel squat.

          • Dan

            Hi Mike,

            Thanks again for your reply, I’ll stick at slightly below parrallel and see how I get on. Today I again went with 70kg with the aim to squat slightly lower than parallel, doing 3 sets (as per the Bigger leaner stronger workout) at 7,5,4. While I could do the reps nicely below parallel and could move up weight on the first set next week, I noticed a bit of an issue.

            On pushing up, I noticed in the mirror that my hips slide slightly to the right, I thought perhaps this is due to the left hand side being slightly weaker? I’m a bit hesistent to up the weight next week if this is something I need to work on and resolve at a lower weight first.

            I was hoping you could give me some advice.

          • Michael Matthews

            I’ve had this happen before and it was usually because I simply wasn’t paying enough attention to keep everything stable–I was just blasting up as hard as I could, haha.

          • Dan

            haha well hopefully it’s just a concentration thing, making sure i’m doing everything right. Cheers.

          • Michael Matthews

            Cool LMK 🙂

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  • Stuart

    wow that wall squat is magic. it took me 6 months to figure out the squat by myself, and this drill forces a quality squat instantly. thank you for writing this article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Stuart! It’s definitely a great drill that everyone should do.

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  • Logan Davis

    When I squat deep I noticed my lower back rounds when I get a little lower than my knees then straightens back once i pass my knees. What flexibility issues is that?

    • Michael Matthews

      This is normal. Nothing to worry about.

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  • Kyle James

    Hey mike, excellent article! I’m looking to start those hip mobility exercises tomorrow! I’m wondering though: my hips feel like I have to “pop” or “crack” the ball joint of my femur in my pelvis. I’ve cracked it before by doing leg swings, or even during split stretching and I’m wondering if you are familiar with this phenomenon. I can’t “pop” my hips willfully, and when they don’t pop they feel locked, and I am left incredibly tight in the hips in every way. I’m hoping these stretches in this article help, but I want to know: can I crack my hips on command by doing certain stretches?

    • Thanks Kyle!

      No I’m not. I would see a good sports chiro personally…

  • Sean Cowhey

    Hey, thanks for the great read!
    I have some ankle issues and been working on that with the awesome lacrosse ball video so I’m already seeing improvements from that neck of the woods. On the other hand, I am noticing my knees moving inward when I perforn a parrell squat especially when I perform heavy reps (4,5,6). Is this still my ankle related issue? Or something entirely new that I am missing?

    Thanks again for the helpful article,


    • Thanks Sean! Glad to hear it.

      In my experience that’s just a matter of not FORCING your knees to stay in line with your fee, that’s all…

      • Sean Cowhey

        I appreciate the quick reply. Looking forward to reading more helpful tips from you.

  • Conrad

    Hey Mike, thanks for the great stretches. I have a question for you that might be relates to the psoas major? Not sure though. When I squat and do leg press I get a painful pinching sensation in my right hip as I reach parallel. It seems to be close to where the quadricep meets the hip. At first I thought it was because I was pushing more with the dominant leg. After working on muscle activation it improved slightly but is definitely still there. I’m going to start these stretches first thing tomorrow, but wanted to see if you had any input. Thanks

    • Hard to say exactly but yes it could be psoas. I had to work through psoas issues as I moved up in my squats. Hip flexors too. They were FUCKED for a good 4-6 weeks at one point and I had to just lower the weights and wait it out…

  • Steven

    Mike, I’ve been following your program for about 5 weeks, and really enjoying how I look and feel. I have pretty severe flexibility limitations (like I can barely put on my socks in the morning because I’m so stiff), especially in my hips, which seems to cause lower back pain (although I’ve also found that hydration plays a role). I’ve been trying some of the stretches in this article, along with using a foam roller. I can get to almost parallel in the squat, and am making progress, but I can barely do a proper deadlift because I can’t get into the right position. My questions are this: 1. How long should I avoid deadlifts? 2. In addition to stretching, do you ever recommend massage therapy? Or acupuncture? Or some other quasi-medical intervention?
    Thanks. Love your book and website.

    • Great! I’m glad to hear it.

      Massage can definitely help. I get massaged once per week and it has really helped me. Have only done acupuncture once when I pinched a nerve in my neck and it helped for that.

      I wonder if you could start with something like a sumo deadlift?

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  • Susan Johann

    I guess I got reflex contraction from doing these stretches. The day after I did them I strained my lower back. My back is OK now but I’m not sure what to do next to get back to lifting.

  • Allen

    Mike, at what weight do you put a belt on? I feel like I need it at about 1.5x body weight.

    • I never use a belt but I would if I were powerlifting and going for PRs (would use for that, not for all training).

  • Dan

    Hi Mike,
    Great article and site (I’ve read your books a while ago but only just found the site!).
    I’ve had real problems with my squat mobility and am regularly doing the stretches above before squatting. Whilst my mobility has improved a lot I’m still finding that my right foot wants to roll inward so that the outer edge of my foot comes off the floor slightly. I’m trying to rectify that by ensuring my knees travel outwards when they bend but still struggling. Do you have a view (appreciate it’s difficult without seeing it in person) as to what is causing this? I switched to squatting barefoot and it seems to help a little.

    • Thanks Dan! This may not be mobility but may be more related to strength. Forcing your knees to stay in line with your knees requires more hip flexor strength than letting them bow in.

      Does this happen when you body weight squat?

  • Cassy

    This is great but who has time to watch an hour of videos for simple stretches ? Show us already!! No one cars about your shoe brand or your lunch today we would google it if we did. Had to stop and go to another page !

  • Freddy

    Hey Mike,
    thanks for your awesome work. I really enjoy your style of writing.
    I have one question: As I have some problems with knee-stability while squatting especially when pushing the weight up again.
    I read BLS but I don’t really get how the exercise for improving this works. Do you have a video or something to clarify the form? Thanks a lot!


  • Marco A.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Ashley

    Do you recommend doing the above for a few weeks before starting to squat or is it sufficient to do all the above and then go right into the squat session the same day?

    • You can definitely do mobility work before squatting. Many people do it right before.

  • Omar

    hi, i’m really tired of my ankle i can’t do a full squats cause my ankle is too tight i tried a lot of flexibility exercises but did’t work

    • Check out Kelly Starrett’s ankle mobility stuff. It works.

    • zachary Linde

      Best exercise for ankle mobility is to squat down and put a barbell over your knees to press your ankles down. Look up “Glen Pendlay ankle mobility” on youtube.

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  • James L Robinson

    Hi Mike, great article as per. My left knee clicks when squatting and hex bar deadlifting, with subsequent swelling. I’ve had an x-ray which has ruled out osteoarthritis, now awaiting an MRI scan.

    I’m wondering whether it could, in part, be a flexibility issue:
    – The clicking stops after a heavy, effortful set of squats. In subsequent sets I feel like I can sit into the squat more and that I’ve “opened” myself up.
    – I wonder if I’m leaning forward too much on the squat ascent/deadlift ascent which is putting too much stress on my left knee. I am the long arm/long femur type.

    The swelling is likely to be a pre-existing problem as my knee stays slightly swollen after as much as 10 days with no exercise – I’m sure it’s possible that the clicking and the swelling are unrelated. But any advice to mitigate the symptoms would be much appreciated!


    • Thanks James!

      I’ve had clicking as well and it was related to tight muscles. For me it was my peroneals.

      I also have a bit of crepitis, which just is what it is.

      Are you doing any mobility work? Taking anything for your joints?

      • James L Robinson

        Hi Mike,

        Had an MRi on my swollen knee. The cartilage is fine, the doc thinks it’s just remnants of a condition I had when I was younger and recommended physio.

        I’m considering buying Supple Leopard but hesitant because the author is associated with CrossFit – is this a legitimate concern?


  • Marah Traub

    Hi mike. I am getting back into shape after a long hiatus. Now when I squat low enough for my hips to break the parallel plane, my tummy fat makes my back round, and if I keep my back in position, my center of gravity moves towards my heels and I fall over(I have the video to prove it). Do I just squat as low as I can or is there another strategy?

  • Chris

    I’ve been exercising, more or less intense, for around 10 years and never really cared about proper position or flexibility. Now, thanks to people like Kelly Starrett or you I’m finally opening my eyes. Glad there are people always ready to share their knowledge with others 🙂

    • That’s great Chris! Happy to help. 🙂

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • KX Yorkville

    Great article! We touch on the topic on how you can improve your squat. Check out our blog http://bit.ly/how-to-improve-you-squat

  • Josh Foust

    I’ve been squatting since high school, and I’ve put up big numbers, but I didn’t realize that my depth was way off until a few months ago. Since I’ve been practicing squats at such a shallow depth and developing the muscles for that depth, it feels impossible to go any lower. How long should I expect it to take to correct this problem since I’ve been doing it wrong for so long and some muscles are overdeveloped in relation to others? I’m also concerned that while my hamstrings and quads are strong, my hip flexors will set back my progress due to being comparatively weak. My last concern is my current training. Should I continue to train squats to the fullest depth I can? Should I hold off on training with weights until my depth is where I want it to be, or should I take the weight down, train for reps, and avoid heavy squats? Any help would be greatly appreciated. I went into such detail because I really think training for mobility and attaining full depth squats will take my training to the next level. Thank you!

    • Good question. It’s probably going to be a matter of starting over from scratch and that will mean a LOT less weight on the bar.

      You will also want to work on your flexibility/mobility as discussed in this article.

      You will also want to make sure you’re doing hammy-specific training every week. My personal favorites are RDLs, hamstring curls, and split squats.

      I would also recommend incorporating front squats into your routine because they can really help train depth.


      • Josh Foust

        Thanks a lot for the quick reply! I’ve been working on holding static stretches, like the psoas quad stretch, for longer periods of time, for about the past week and I have already seen dramatic improvement in my hip mobility and my level of comfortability at the lower depths. Holding the static stretches has worked much better for increasing my mobility compared to the dynamic stretches I have using for the past months.
        I think front loading my squats will definitely help me improve my balance and depth as well. I found that with my shallow depth, I was also putting all the weight on my heels and preventing dorsiflexion of my ankle. I feel like I now have much better tools for improving my mobility all around, so I’m excited to see everything begin to come together. Thank you for all of the help!

        • YW!

          Perfect. Glad to hear it.

          Keep me posted on how things go! It sounds like you’re on the right track!

  • Tabbbatha

    Would a tennis ball suffice for these type of mobility exercises?

  • Noah Papafagos

    Great article Mike, I’ve been having trouble squatting lately. My right hip area has been acting up really badly and I was getting really concerned because it not only hurt, it was setting me back significantly. Its kind of a sharp pain, maybe in mymy mid soas area right below my hip bone. Do you think this is a matter of strengthening my hip flexors slowly through lower weight and stretching more? I’m not sure whether or not to just rest it or do some about it. Thanks.

    • Thanks!

      I’ve run into this before and I had to back off the heavy squats and do a lot of stretching and isolation work for the hip flexors. Hasn’t been a problem since.

      • Noah Papafagos

        I’ll give the exercises in the article a try then, thank you Mike!

  • Mario Micossi

    Hey man, really useful article as always. I had an excesive butt wink and i have been using these excercises to correct it. I asked a friend to film me performing some squats, I still notice some butt winking. Can you tell me if this is about right to you?


    • Your form looks great! Happy to hear the exercises were able to help correct the winking.

      • Mario Micossi

        Thank you so much bro! it must be a chore replying to all these questions. There is so much value i get from your work, I think your site and books are the #1 source of practical, ready to apply inmediately, useful knowledge for natural lifters, I recomend your stuff to all my friends.

        • YW! I’m happy to stay in touch with everybody. 🙂

          Thanks a ton for the kind words and support and thanks a lot for spreading the word!

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Christina

    I improved my flexibility and mobility by unlocking my hip flexors!! http://www.HipFlexors.info will unlock your hip flexors and restore movement the way it should be. Unlocking your hip flexors instantly breathes new life, energy, and strength into your body! I experienced immediate results. I’ve been able to loosen up my hips, decrease back tightness, and even workout harder. With so many people suffering with hip pain out there, this program is a great tool for anybody that wants to reduce pain while improving strength, performance, and overall health. Hip flexibility, mobility and strength is one of the most important things you can do to keep your overall body healthy. The video presentation and visuals in the exercise program give me confidence that I am doing the exercises correctly which for me is key with no personal trainer. The website is very complete in listing the possible causes of tight hip flexors and other factors that can lead to the issue. It has detailed, descriptive information regarding the anatomy of the hip, causes of such injuries, and a very progressive and well explained exercise and stretching schedule that will assist to re-balance the hip and pelvic region, safely stretch and strengthen the muscle group. Best of luck to you! 🙂

  • Jirui Wan

    Holy. This is the most informative article regarding squatting low I’ve ever seen. I always have that problem, and when I do 1.5 body weight squat I literally can only go a little bit above the parallel. When I attempt to do full squats, I can only do 0.8~0.9body weight. Now I see the problems. Now I see why my trainer had been stretching my Quad and hips every time after squats. Thanks for sharing this article.

    • Thanks! Happy to make sense of everything for you. 🙂


  • LifeForMuscle

    Hi mike!

    well written article after a year of lifting i started having trouble going deep into squats hope this mobility drill would help.

    however, i get tail bone pain when i squat and dead lift what do you think the reason is?

    thank you!

    • Hey hey! LMK how it goes!

      Hmm. Not sure what’s causing the tail bone pain. The lack of mobility could be a part of the issue. Let’s also make sure you have the form down:


      If those don’t help, let’s take a break from any exercises that cause pain or discomfort and see how it’s feeling in a week or two.


  • Chris

    Hi there. I am getting back into lifting and all my upper body and leg isolation exercises are going up quickly. However, I cannot squat or deadlift without lower back pain. My friend that is a physical therapist told me to deadlift instead of squat for now, but I seem to always have the pain. My mobility is horrible everywhere…ankles, hips, shoulders to where I had problems putting the bar on my shoulders and being able to reach the bar. My ankles and hips make it so I almost end up doing good mornings. I have never been able to squat without weight and not fall backwards. So, now deadlifting I dropped the weight to 135 and started adding 5 pounds per week and still had lower back pain. I check my ego at the door, but it’s hard to be benching more than I can deadlift. I was kind of using the deadlift as a back exercise and leg warm up and also focused on my abs being tight. I was doing it without a belt due to going light, but I think that was a mistake. Thanks for the article. I think I’ll start with goblet squats based on what I read here: http://www.jtsstrength.com/articles/2014/09/04/best-damn-squat-mobility-article-period/

    My gym membership came with 3 free sessions with a “trainer.” I specifically asked for a stretching routine. The guy had me doing cross-fit type stuff and then showed me one (1) stretch which required him to do the stretch. He was trying to just make me come to him for more sessions, but he didn’t do anything I asked for.

    What do you think of this site (and the other one)?: https://gmb.io/hip-mobility/


    • Chris

      So, I saw an article that says to do a toddler squat as a stretch 10 times and hold for a minute each time. I tried that and can’t get all the way down without rounding my lower back. The article said the toddler squat will stretch all the muscles needed to squat (except for my shoulders). I’m going to do that and all the stretches in these articles for 3-4 weeks and will try squatting as soon as I can do the toddler squat fully without rounding my back. It sure does give a good stretch to my Achilles tendon, calves, hips, and all over my legs.

      • Hey Chris! Cool you’re getting back into lifting and making gains.

        Sorry to hear about the issues squatting and deadlifting. Let’s take a break from them for now. Once you’re able to do them again even with just light weight, let’s make sure your form is in:



        Also, let’s start doing some mobility work:


        If they aren’t workable for you even with good form, no worries. There are several good alternatives. 🙂 Instead of the squat, you can leg press or hack squat. Goblet squats are great too. Instead of the deadlift, you can sumo or hexbar deadlift and if neither of those work, you can do hyperextensions.

        Sorry to hear about the trainer.

        The sites seem alright. For mobility, I recommend you check out Kelly Starrett. He knows his shit.

        Sounds good on the toddler squat. LMK how it goes!

        • Chris

          Mike, Thanks for the reply!!! Right now, I’m doing leg presses, lunges, and leg curls on leg day. I stretch for 20 minutes before any of that and include the routine from one of the links I sent as well as the toddler squat. I’ll work to add some ball rolling as you have in your article and the video from Kelly Starrett. I can get pretty close to the full toddler squat, but it takes me about 15 seconds of stretching through the range of motion while not lifting my heels of winking my butt. Also, I do not butt wink on the leg press. I don’t seem to have any issues with the lunges. Again, thanks for the reply. I hope to get to squatting in a month or so…my mobility really is that bad!!!

          • Chris

            typo…not lifting my heels OR winking…

          • Welcome! That all sounds good.

            Keep up the mobility work, and it’ll improve.

            Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help. 🙂

  • James

    Hey Mike, just wanted to say thank you for this article and the great information you put out. I injured my lower back doing low bar squats (I have proportionally long femurs on a 6’6 frame) and my physio did a lot of work massaging my psoas and IT band because that was the source of my pain. I had no idea that my hip mobility was the cause of my back pain! I haven’t touched a barbell in 4 weeks as I didn’t want to risk it with doing my final exams for university, but I’m itching to get back to it now that they’re done and I’ll be using these exercises until I know I can safely squat again.

    • Hey James,

      I’m glad you liked the article and I’m sorry to hear about the injury.

      Yup I’ve run into that myself–a tight psoas will wreak havoc on your squatting and deadlifting.

      LMK how it goes.

  • Sam K

    Mike. Great Article!
    K. Starrett hip stretching routine is “preworkout”. Do you think that’s a good idea? Doesn’t static stretching before weightlifting decrease strength and possibly cause injury?
    I would lean towards towards doing this post-workout or on non-workout days.

    • Thanks!

      I do some dynamic stretching before lifting but yes I do my static work after.

  • Dee Hines

    What if our flexibility/mobility issues aren’t from the lower half but more from the top half? I don’t have any problems with my hip flexibility but when I get under the bar it’s very difficult to keep my chest up. There’s a lot of tightness in the shoulders and upper back.

  • Mark

    Hey mike, how would I add paused squats into the bls program. Would it help to drill from in as iam having trouble getting the from down.

  • Mel

    Hi Mike, I was wondering what your opinion is on Zercher squats? I have a short torso and longer femurs and often find myself leaning forward more during the barbell squat. I just bought your TLS book and am excited to start the program. Thanks!

    • They’re a decent exercise but hurt like shit. You’ve been warned, haha.

      Thanks for picking up the book! LMK how it goes!

      • Neurism

        The video for the kneeling hip flexor stretch is gone

  • Jen B

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for all this info! I really want to improve my squat but I struggle with hyper extension at the lower back and would love some recs on how I can avoid this so I can improve and not injure myself. I loved the wall squat drill and will definitely be incorporating that into my routine but are there any other tips or cues you can offer to help me overcome this?
    Thanks for all you do!

    • NP! The reason for hyperextention of the lower back could be for a number of reasons, but here are a few tips.

      First, if you’re high-bar back squatting, make sure to get your hips directly under you at the start so you’re not leaning forward or shooting your hips back.

      If you’re low-bar back squatting a few things to try are making sure you’re looking down so your neck and spine are aligned, make sure you’re leaning forward (not too much) and that you’re shooting your hips back on the descent (again, not too much) and lastly, try adding in some hip flexor stretching to your routine.

      Hope these help! LMK how it goes.

  • Alyssa Knight

    So I have been having a lot of pain in my wrists during front squats, is there anything to help with this? That way I can get the most out of my “leg and butt” day!

  • Jarrett Riley

    Hey Mike!
    I was wondering if my squat is deep enough and my form good. I’m trying to attach a picture of my squat at its lowest point.


    • Hey Jarrett, good stuff! Looks like you have a few more inches to go before you break parallel. Reduce the weight if needed, and if it’s tightness that’s preventing you from going lower, definitely work on your mobility.

  • This is great. Only problem is when I do the wall exercise I keep wanting to fall over backwards. Imagine what it would be like if I did it with that form with no squat rack. The bar would keep falling off by back and hitting the floor, so I won’t even try it.

    But maybe as I do the mobility exercises I will be able to do the wall exercise better? I have also put weights under my heels when squatting and that seems to help a bit.

    • Things will improve over time as you continue to be consistent with working on your mobility. Keep it up!

  • Ed

    Hey Mike,

    Great article, as usual! Do you recommend improving mobility and flexibility before including the squat in my program or is it ok to do both simultaneous?


  • Andrew Rodriguez

    Excellent article Mike. I think this is one aspect of lifting that is generally ignored but is actually super vital.

    Do you recommend doing this mobility routine pre or post workout? Or even several hours after a workout (like before bed) or on off-days?

    Thanks again for all the info!

    • Hey Andrew, good question! I recommend incorporating mobility work and stretching after your weightlifting, or at another time altogether.

      That said, one reason to include light stretching before your workout during your warm-up routine is if it helps you improve your technique. For instance, if stretching your shoulders out helps you get them in the right position for your squat, then it makes sense to do it.

      I hope this helps!

  • Good article with helpful tips but your videos are out of sequence with your topical paragraphs.

    • I’m glad you liked the article! Hmm, which video did you think was out of place?

  • Farman Irtaza

    Thanks mike appreciated it and i was right all these times doing the mobility exercises right after leg training and i feel zero presure on my knee although im training heavey and doing full squats with no belt nor knee bendages

    • Great to hear you’re doing well! Keep up the good work 🙂

  • Jeff Whited

    Thank you Mike, I am starting with my second round of reading bigger leaner stronger in two weeks. I am also truly “lifting” for the first time ever. Form is what I struggling with on my squats and this article has opened my eyes.

    • Great to hear you found the article helpful, Jeff! Let me know how it goes on the program, and please reach out if I can help with anything else!

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