Ankle flexibility affecting squats

Step 1

Stand six inches from a wall with your left leg behind you and your weight on your right leg. Your right knee should be slightly bent and the heel of your right foot planted firmly on the ground. Place your hands flat on the wall at shoulder height.

Video

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Ankle Flexibility Exercise: ƒFreestyle Squat Pushups

Start with your feet under your body like above and lift knees off the ground, pushing upward with legs and straight back to a stand. Stay on the tops of your feet until you absolutely have to flip them over. In the beginning, assist yourself with your hands pushing off the ground. Within days or weeks you should be able to push yourself up to a stand with no assistance. The higher you can go before you flip your feet over, the better.

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Frequently Asked Questions?

How can I Squat more weight?

If you want to Squat bigger weights, here’s what you should do:

  1. Squat low bar. Use a lower bar position, where the bar sits at the top of your shoulder-blades. This instantly allows you to Squat at least 10% more weight.
  2. Use a belt. Wear a weight lifting belt that is the same width all around. This increases torso strength by giving your abs something to push against. Another 10% increase.
  3. Use the Power Rack. And set the safety pins to catch the weights. This increases confidence under the bar so you go after more reps without being afraid of failure.
  4. Do Pause Squats. Once do Squats where you stop at the bottom for two seconds before coming back up. This builds strength in the hardest part of the Squat.
  5. Improve your form. The more effective your form, the shorter the movement and the more muscles engaged. Tape yourself and improve your form.

How can I increase my Squat Max?

If you Squat mostly sets of five or eight reps, and you want to increase your 1 repetition max, then you need to do more singles (sets of one reps).

The easiest way is to do a heavy single before you do your sets of fives. Warmup, work towards a heavy single, then lower the weight and do your sets of fives.

Doing more singles will get you used to unracking and Squatting heavier weights. Your skill will improve which will increase your Squat max.

How many times a week should I Squat?

At least two times a week, ideally two times. One time is not enough as that’s not enough practice. It’s hard to improve your Squat technique when you only do it once a week. Twice a week is better as you get double the practice. I Squat three times a week.

How many reps should I do on Squats?

Beginners who Squat less than 140kg/300lb and want to get stronger fast, should focus on Squatting mostly sets of five reps. Check my StrongLifts 5×5 workout for an example.

How do I achieve perfect Squat form?

Do Squats as often as you can, ideally three times a week. Record your Squats so you can see what you’re doing. Review your form against the tips in this article. Correct mistakes that you find yourself doing.

Do Squats make your bum bigger?

Squats work your legs, including your butt and things. Those muscles will get stronger and bigger from Squatting bigger weights. Most guys find they have to buy bigger jeans after a few months, as their previous pair got tight around the thighs (but loose at the belly).

Do Squats make your hips wider?

No. Hip width is determined by your bone structure. There’s not much muscles on the sides of your hips. Nothing can get bigger there. Your glutes will get bigger, but they mostly grow to the back, not the sides. Most guys find their waist decrease from Squatting (because their abs get stronger). Squat don’t cause wide hips – that’s a myth.

What can I do instead of Squats?

You can do high bar squats if low bar squats hurt your shoulders.

But not exercise works your body through the same range of motion and with maximal weights like Squats. Substituting Squats will always mean working with less weight (glute bridges, lunges, dumbbell Squat), a shorter range of motion (Deadlifts) or without the need for balance (Smith Squats, leg press).

There’s no substitute for Squats. That’s why Squats are king for strength and size.

Can you do Squats if you have bad knees?

Many guys with bad knees have told me their knees feel better since they started to Squat. This s because Squats strengthen your leg muscles which provides your knee joint more support. The key is to start light, use proper form, and progress slowly (check StrongLifts 5×5). As long as your knees feel fine, keep going.

Wearing knee sleeves for Squats can help you if you have bad knees. The knee sleeves will keep your knee joint warm, and lubricate them. Knee sleeves can also act like mental support, making you more confident to Squat.

Why do my knees pop when I Squat?

Nothing to worry about. It’s like when you crack your knuckles. Just gas bubbles popping in your joint form the change in pressure. There is no evidence that popping joints will cause arthritis. My knees, shoulders and back pop sometimes when I lift. It’s not an issue. Just warmup properly, and make sure you Squat with proper form.

What if I hate Squats?

Squat more. Most people who hate Squats are bad at Squats. That’s why they hate Squatting. So they avoid Squatting which makes them hate Squats even more. Because you can’t get good at Squats if you don’t Squats. You have to Squat to get better at Squat.

Rule of thumb: whenever you hate an exercise, that probably means you’re not good at it. The proper response is to do that exercise more until you get better at it. Your technique will improve, your strength will improve, and this will make you start enjoying it.

Fix Your Ankle Stability:

After you have created some range of motion, you need to train your brain to trust your ankle with this added responsibility. Without trust you will fall back into the same habits of having “tight ankles”. I love this Talus Tracking exercise. It’s simple and it feels really nice (whilst being deceptively hard to execute properly, the sign of any good exercise).

  • Grab a broomstick, and start off in a lunge position with the broomstick on the outside of your littlest toe.
  • keeping even pressure through your foot tripod (base of big toe, base of little toes, and your heel bone), slowly and smoothly glide your knee to the outside of the broomstick.
  • Pause here for one second (you can take a breath if you like as it helps reinforce your control of this position), then slowly and smoothly bring the knee back so that it’s in the same starting position with the knee above the ankle.
  • Repeat 10-20x (you want to do a lot of reps to make this movement pattern automatic)

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Equipment

Power Rack Alternatives

Squat Racks look like a half Power Rack. They have uprights to safely get the bar on and off your upper-back. But they don’t always have horizontal safety pins. The one that do often have non-adjustable safety pins that can be too high or low for your build. I used a Squat Rack the first five years when I trained in a gym. It works fine if you know what you’re doing. But the Power Rack is safer for Squatting heavy alone.

Squat Stands are two vertical poles with uprights. They’re usually not connected so you can easily move them and save space. But Squat Stands rarely have stable safety pins. They’re made for experienced Olympic Lifters who use bumper plates and throw the bar on the floor when they fail. You’ll get the bar on your back with Squat Stands. The Issue is getting away from the bar when you fail to Squat without spotter or safety pins.

Saw horses can serve as safety pins for your Squat Stands. You can get adjustable ones that handle 450kg/1000lb in most hardware stores (they’re cheap). Put the pair next to your Squat Stands to catch the bar if you fail. Just make sure the bar doesn’t roll off the safety pins and crash on your floor. Squatting with Squat Stands and saw horses works if you know what you’re doing. But again, using the Power Rack is always safer.

Cleaning the bar doesn’t work. You can pull light weights from the floor to your shoulders and even behind your head. But the heavier the weight, the harder it will be to clean and the more this will limit your Squat. You’ll be tired before you even Squat, or fail to clean the bar. Whatever you clean, you can Squat more. So you’re never Squatting heavy. And you never have safety pins to catch the bar if you fail to Squat the weight up.

Don’t Use Machines. Squatting in the Smith Machine forces you into a fixed bar path because the bar is attached on rails. This can hurt your lower back and knees. It’s also ineffective to gain strength and muscle fast because the machine balances the weight. Same deal with the Leg Press, plus the weight moves, you don’t. Machines are no substitutes for Squatting heavy with free weights. Don’t expect the same results.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility Exercises

Eccentric Calf Raises

Eccentrics have been shown in research to help change the structural make up of muscles for improved flexibility and are very high on my list of ankle mobility musts. The athlete should start on a box on one leg with their knee straight, raised onto the ball of his or her feet. Then I have the athlete lower down into a deep stretch followed by unlocking the knee and pushing the knee forward. This results in both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles being eccentrically loaded. Then place the other foot down and return to upright.

Dorsiflexion PAILS/RAILS

The Functional Range Conditioning crew has some great mobility movements, and their PAILS / RAILS (Progression & Regressive Angular Isometric Loading) can rapidly improve dorsiflexion. Using these principles for improving the range of motion is a great one!

Goblet Squats with a Dorsiflexion Emphasis 

Goblet squats are great for correcting many squat faults. And by performing them with a focus on pushing the knees forward to work on ankle dorsiflexion mobility can be a great way to help athletes squat with a more upright torso, which is helpful for front and overhead squats.

Band Mobilization

Banded ankle mobilizations are great for those that feel their ankle dorsiflexion mobility is limited more by a pinching or a block in the anterior ankle. But this exercise is often done with the band positioned incorrectly. See the video for the proper way!

Split Squats with a Forward Knee Emphasis

Loading your bodyweight through the ankle with mobility work is important as your Achilles tendon is very stiff. This stiffness requires heavy loading to get range of motion improvements.  This split squat variation is great for ankle flexibility.

Lateral Tibial Glide

I’ve written about lateral tibial glide in the past, as it is a great way to make RAPID changes in ankle mobility when this movement is restricted. If you’ve been trying to improve your ankle mobility for a while and not making progress, then test this NOW!

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