We’re always trying to get stronger, but that is incredibly hard to do if you do not possess the necessary mobility to do so. Believe me, I know. When I first started CrossFit I had never done a squat, at least not to depth, and I had a rough time learning. I’ve definitely had my fair share of frustration and I’ll be the first to admit that I was very impatient about wanting to improve my squat. It’s hard to see the changes as they are happening. I want to share the transformation in my squat to show that if you work hard enough on mobility, change is possible. Here are some of my favorite squat mobility and strengthening exercises.
1. Wall Squat – Place your feet up against the wall as if you are doing a full depth squat, only horizontal. Make sure you press your lower back into the ground so you don’t overextend your spine. This will form good habits for squatting as well as receiving the bar at the bottom of a clean or a snatch. This stretch can be done with or without a band for increased tension or you can just press with your elbows to drive the knees out. As Eric is demonstrating, it’s a great time to close your eyes and think about all the weight you will be able to squat after you’re done.
2. Squat Therapy - This one probably looks pretty familiar. Try to get as close to the wall as you can with your hands up in the air and squat while maintaining an upright torso. Make sure to keep your toes as straight as possible. If you cannot reach depth take a small step backward. If it is too easy, move closer to the wall. Unlike most things in CrossFit, this is not for time. So take it slow in order to really feel the stretch working. Another variation of this involves holding a barbell or a piece of PVC and doing an overhead squat against the wall to target hip and shoulder mobility.
3. Banded Squat Therapy - This one is my favorite. Coach Erika Snyder showed me this and I feel like it is the biggest contributor to the change in my squat. By looping your arms through the band it pulls your torso up as you squat, kind of like squatting with training wheels. To start I had tough time with this one so had to hold onto the band and could not squat directly under the band. As you get more flexible remove your hands from the band and work towards squatting directly under where the band is located.
4. Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats - This one also probably looks familiar. We have done these in class before and I’ll never forget how sore I was after the first time we did them. They can be weighted or unweighted; with your back leg resting on a bench or box lower your rear knee to touch the ground. Make sure your front leg’s knee tracks directly over your ankle and does not come too far out over your toe. Single leg squat work is great for developing strength, and elevating the rear leg helps work on having an upright torso. It also develops the outside of your hip and quad which helps fight to keep knees out on heavy squats.
Before/After - The picture to the left below is from a couple years ago at the old box. On the right is from this past week. All of the squatting and mobility has helped me feel more comfortable with squatting (even front squatting) and allowed me to get stronger. I’m looking forward to improving more and continuing the progress I have already started. Oh and I almost forgot! The last and most important drill to improving your squat? Squat more.
Odd: 50′ Slead Push (25′ up & back)
Even: 5 Heavy Kettlebell Swings + 5 Burpees
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