Mobility Progress! and a question about hip extension/flexion

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 02, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Why does stretching my hip flexors improve the bottom position of my squat?

My squat position (barbell, overhead, and "third world") has improved immensely since stretching the heck out of my hip flexors every day. I've looked through a couple of anatomy textbooks, and it still doesn't make sense to me. I would also think that practicing my squats would SHORTEN my hip flexors, which it doesn't seem to do.

Every Day

2 minutes overhead squat

10 minutes hip flexor stretch (5 each side)

10 minutes shoulder stretch (5 each side)

2 minutes overhead squat

For my hip flexors, I lunge with my back shin against the wall (Mobility WOD Episode 2). For my shoulders, I stretch with a bent arm against a wall. I'm a month into it, and my mobility has improved more than I ever thought possible.

All suggestions welcome.



on July 17, 2013
at 04:50 PM

@BGottfried: Have you checked out box squats (a la Louie Simmons) before? You may also be interested in some of the compression work used in gymnastics in order to strengthen your high-bar squat and bench. May ask why you have chosen to include squats, bench, and pullups to the exclusion of other movements?



on June 13, 2013
at 06:00 PM

This is excellent. I need to get on this, because I've got terribly tight hip flexors and am trying to improve my max squat. Any other recommendations on Mobility WODs for squats? Or general lifting? (Routine currently is barbell back squat [high bar], bench, and pull-ups)

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3 Answers


on July 17, 2013
at 04:47 PM

Stretching your hip flexors will improve the depth of your squat because it will allow greater hip flexion (a decrease in the joint angle between the pelvis and the femur). As counter intuitive as it may seem, hip flexion requires a great deal of extension among the myriad muscles of the hips.

'Deep' hip f lexion is (among other things) essentially what is occurring when you do a full ATG squat; when your hips aren't primed to be able to engage in full flexion, most people end up compensating by placing the load on the lumbar and the knees, in order to force a full squat.

Such is (IMO) the origin of the adage to "never let your toes track over your knees when you squat". Indeed, if this maxim refers to an actual inability to distribute the force properly across your body, then yes, this is likely a marker of poor squatting form, as the knees will be compensating for poor hip (and other) mobility. However, I'm certain that any of us who have properly squatted (with or without weight) understand that the issue is not neccesarily where your toes are, but how you align and mobilize your body to transition between the eccentric and concentric.

Your mobility 'regime' (at least, for hips) looks like its okay. I would start doing the 'couch stretch' immediately, like RK suggested, in addition to some active lunges and simply holding a deep squat, with no additional weight. You may be interested in the 'cossack squat': I've found that it really improved my general mobility, but particularly for hips, back, and ankles.

Diesel Crew has an article on cossacks here: http://www.dieselcrew.com/build-muscle-for-legs-with-cossack-squats-improve-hip-mobility , complete with some other exercises and tips for hip mobility. I would stick to doing them with just bodyweight for now and go very slowly when building these up. Otherwise, keep doing what you're doing, and let me know how your training goes!


on May 30, 2013
at 03:24 PM

When you stretch your hip flexors, you are stretching both your illiopsoas and rectus femoris. In addition to flexing the hip, the rectus femoris also extends the knee. So, it would make sense that you would get improved knee flexion (thus a deeper squat) when you stretch your rectus femoris.



on May 30, 2013
at 03:55 PM

Couch stretch. Love that one! I have also found that in addition to what you mentioned, my adductors are really tight and I have a hard time getting my knees out when I squat.

Here is great, and even relaxing stretch for it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sps_ljjAwmE

(There's a similar one on MWod, but I can't find it).

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