In the last post, we talked about mobility and tried to shed some light on what we mean by it and why it's so important. In this post, we'll talk about mobility requirements for one of the most basic functional movements and one we see a lot of in CrossFit, the squat.
So first, let's talk about the biomechanics of the squat. The hip, knee, and ankle simultaneously flex allowing the athlete to descend, while keeping the center of mass over the midfoot. The degree to which your joints will be required to flex depends on where the load is placed. Generally speaking, the more anterior (in front of the body) the load, the less hip motion required, while there is a greater demand for knee and ankle motion. Take a look at these photos and see if you can spot the differences.
Now that you understand the mobility demands of the squat, let's show you ways to actually assess your mobility. This is important because you don't want to guess and then waste time working on the wrong thing. Here are my favorite assessments:
Hip mobility Assessment
Quadruped Rockback (from elbows) for hip and knee flexion
This test virtually takes the squat and flips it 90 degrees. Without having to work against gravity in this position, we can get a good sense of where we bottom out. The key here is to maintain a neutral spine as you sit your hips toward your heels, and to stop at the point at which you begin to feel or see motion at your lower back (this may take some practice and having someone to watch you and give you feedback is helpful). If the spine flexes/rounds, we are no longer getting a true test of hip mobility. The goal is to see the hip crease go past the knees.
This is also a great position to determine the best stance width for your squat. Play around with bringing your knees closer together and further apart to see where you are able to sit back the furthest and most comfortably. Then adopt that stance the next time you get under a barbell.
Ankle Mobility Assessment
Half Kneeling Ankle Dorsiflexion Test
Start with your foot about a hand-width away from the wall (including your thumb). Push your knee forward reaching for the wall without letting your heel come up. You should be able to touch the wall. If you can't, this may limit you in the squat, especially the front squat and olympic lifts where the barbell is more anterior.
Go Try 'em out
Give these simple assessments a shot and then come back here soon for some exercises I'll be showing to help you improve your mobility in these areas.
Appreciate any feedback, comments, or questions!
Joby Philip, PT, DPT