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Flexibility/Mobility Issue


Hey guys, first time poster/long time lurker yadayadaya...

Started oly weightlifting with a coach last week, discovered I couldn't get into a full ATG squat without my feet going from toes being slightly pointed out to fully pointed out ie toes facing my arms.

I was a powerlifter before so would always squat to parallel.

Any suggestions on issues it may be and the solutions to them?

I have good hamstring and quad flexibility, my groin flexibility is okay, and before squatting i do ankle mobility exercises, so this has me stumped. :confused:


you want to do squat mobility / stretches.

like this:

use a dumbbell or weight plate instead of a kettlebell if you need to.

mobilityWOD also suggests spending 10 minutes in a deep squat position. get comfy. feet together. feet a bit wider. toes pointing in different directions. see what feels comfortable for you. come up on your toes if you like and give your feet a stretch. wiggle around. stretch out your hips. recruit things then relax.

the position and the movement will get a lot more comfortable in time.


The exercises suggested by Alexus sound good... In regards to what issues you're having:

One of the biggest requirements in regards to maintaining good position in a squat is the ability to externally rotate your hips (ideally through a full range of motion). From what you've described, it sounds like this is what you're missing. Your feet kicking out to the side is your bodies way of compensating for this lack of mobility in your hips.

A test: sit on a chair, or on the edge of your bed, or anywhere where the joints (hip and knee) form roughly a 90 deg angle. Cross one leg over the other, so that your ankle is resting on your quad, just behind the knee. Make sure you keep nice and upright, with the spine in a neutral position (the temptation will be to either lean back or away from the leg you're crossing). The knee of this crossed over leg SHOULD fall easily to parallel with the floor/perpendicular to the floor. If it doesn't, boom - there's your missing external rotation. How far away from parallel is roughly how much you're missing.

The stretch: Keep this position, and now do one of two things: Place your hand on the knee of your crossed leg. Push the knee downwards towards the floor until you get to the end of your ROM and hold. The longer you hold, the further you should be able to push it down. OR, you can maintain the neutral, perpendicular with the floor position of your spine, and fold forwards at the hips. If you're doing it right you should feel a "good" stretch in the outside part of your arse.



yep, that is good too. using a tennis ball and eventually a hard plastic ball on that part of your arse should help things along, too.


I struggled with flexibility and mobility issues for over a year. This fixed it in about a month. Be diligent and do this stuff every time you are in the gym. It takes a little bit of time but mobility is a killer in weightlifting.



do the lifts with a brush for squillions of reps.


Whilst it is obviously difficult to say over the interwebz, or indeed in person, exactly what causes issues such as those you describe, luckily there are a fairly general set of recommendations made to most people:

1). Soft tissue work - if you aren't doing it, start doing it, every top S&C coach in the world recommends it to virtually everybody.
2). Joint mobility - thinking in terms of individual muscle 'flexibility' is no really an optimal means to visualise the problem. Using something like Magnificent Mobility/Assess and Correct/getting an FMS done on you will help to point you in the right direction.
3). Activation work - for muscles than commonly lack proper function in a lot of people - glute max and med, lower traps etc.
4). Stability work - no all joints are meant to be mobile. Read Mike Boyle or Gray Cook on the 'Joint by Joint' approach. You need to develop stability in the 'core' (lumbar spine).

Cookie cutter recommendations about doing this stretch or that stretch are not all that helpful in a lot of instances as they don't recognise that often these issues are caused by a number of factors, not just one. People don't want to hear it but quite often just doing the lifts whilst stretching is not the best means to improve functionality.


General recommendations are helpful in general. I agree that anyone doing weightlifting (or indeed, people in general) should be working on the above 4 areas you list. But, I don't think it's wrong to offer specific advice about a specific problem the OP is asking about. I also think it's wrong to assume that people are just throwing cookie-cutter recommendations to the OP. Granted, as you said, doing lots of lifts the wrong way is not going to suddenly make OP's problem go way. But, squatting involves hip flexion and hip external-rotation. If either of those movements are limited, the body will compensate for it in some way. Feet splaying out to the side is overwhelmingly a sign of compensation for limited external-rotation.

If the OP tests his external-rotation, and is missing external-rotation then he should work on that. There are many, many ways to do this. Most people are missing mobility all over. But no need to make every case a complicated, overly holistic one.


an interesting thing in my own case:

my external rotation was limited so I worked really hard on improving my external rotation. I got kinda stuck and things didn't seem to be improving... perhaps paradoxially when I started working on my internal rotation my external rotation improved immensely.

finding the same thing now... my ankle dorsiflexion is extremely limited. have worked that pretty hard for a while now. just started working harder on my ankle plantarflexion and what do you know? dorsiflexion is improving.

Sometimes i think our bodies limit the ROM in one plane if they are fearful of lack of strength in the opposite plane.



Thanks for the responses guys, some great recommendations and I have alot to consider work on. :slightly_smiling:


In a way (note - recognize I'm totally highjacking this thread but it's a really interesting topic to me!)... Our bodies are set up to have a full range of motion in all directions. If range is missing, our body HAS to compensate in some way otherwise we cannot get into whatever position we need to be in. Overextending the spine when putting arms overhead is a classic one. As is letting the core collapse when in hip flexion.

People who are missing internal rotation in their hips often compensate to the point where their neutral set-up is in a slightly internally rotated position (think of the hoards of people who have weak glutes, complain about collapsed arches in their feet, and are somewhat knock-kneed). That means that valuable external-rotation is being lost by getting the hip (and leg) back to a neutral position before you then get into an externally rotated position. Which is why when you worked on your internal-rotation your external-rotation improved. Your set-up was better at the start, so there was less need for your body to compensate.

So, while it's not necessarily a deficiency in strength that limits our ROM in a particular plane, it is very often a deficiency in position, or our bodies ease in which we can attain certain positions...

My two cents! haha


thanks for that! i found that really very interesting indeed.

totally agree with you on it being about mobility / position problem rather than strength. not quite sure why i mentioned strength...

i think i hear what you are saying about having a slightly internally rotated natural set-up. it really doesn't do me any favors for oly lifting where i need to develop a slightly externally rotated set-up (in order to clear the knees and keep my chest up / hips down). of course (i'm starting to realize) it is even more of a problem for females because of the wider pelvis / greater relative femur length / sharper q angle.

i'm just starting to learn what it really means to drive the knees out / pull the hips through. damn... i feel like i need to work on my femur rotation, indeed... just got some micro-bands and finding it very fatiguing to drive the knees out hard even on an air squat. doing x band side walks. go go glute medius :slightly_smiling: