T Nation

Mobility Help

heya. long story short, ive been lifting on and off for a while, squat form has been terrible so i stopped ifting about 2 months ago, and decided to sort out mobility and flexibility and all that, until my form is better.

ive bought magnificent mobility dvd and have been doing some of the mobility drills every morning, ive also got a foam roller and foam roll almost all of my muscles daily, and i stretch most of my muscles everyday after foam rolling (3 x 30 secs). ive done this for almost 2 weeks now.

i found this link on this site

the guy in the suit is pretty much about as far as i can squat (i tried holding a 3rd world squat by holding onto my power rack, as soon as i let go i tumble backwards, and my back suddenly rounds, my head and shoulders lean forward and i end up looking pretty stupid overall.

-any idea on roughly how long itd take before i see enough progress to be able to squat to parallel at least? (given that i stretch/foam roll/do mobility work once a day)

-should i also start trying to hold a 3rd world squat for longer periods of time, as suggested in the article?

-i think its smarter to stay away from weight training until my mobility is to a point where i can lift safely. any contradictions to this?

-any other help would be appreciated. i know its alot to read, but im desperate to try anything to improve my mobility. willing to offer any more info required, just lemme know.


I dunno, you kinda seem genuine…

In the article is suggests that you hold the position actually holding onto something, rocking around, up and down, trying to break parallel.

Do this every chance you get, not just once a day.

To improve my flexibility, I did-

Dynamic stretching in the morning
Dynamic stretching before my workout
Static stretching after my workout
Static stretching before bed

And held the squat postion for at least a minute or two with good posture every couple of hours.

Flexibility still isn’t perfect. But improving.
Continue to do what you are doing and more. You should see results immediately. And you will probably be able to do a beautiful atg squat within a month or so. But that depends on how immobile you are at the moment.

I think rip suggests that if you are not flexible enough to do a proper full squat, that you just continue and limit the depth to where you can maintain good form, and just keep trying to reach deeper. I doubt that you are lifting weights heavy enough at the moment to do yourself any damage. Guys quarter squat with 3xbw and get away with it. Just don’t go crazy and try reach for good depth.

Box squats might be a good option for you.

I also found that front-squats were easier to hit depth with, and built up alot of mobility that was useful for back squats.

thanks a million, just the reply i was waiting for :smiley:

(and no, im not a troll) :slight_smile:

By the way, what program are you on?

or more specifically, how often do you squat?

And what’s your typical way of warming up?

Please keep in mind that many people would suggest not squatting until your mobility improves. I gave you the reasoning behind my advocating continuing to squat.
Plus, squatting can actually help you improve your ability to squat deeper, as shown by doing “third world” squats.
Please listen to your body. If you experience undue lower back pain, or knee pain, I would suggest quitting the squats. No need for paranoia.

Also I forgot to mention that Isometric stretching helped/is helping my mobility alot. It’s not very well known, but can be very useful. Although most people experience alot of DOMS using this method.

i currently perform a few mobility drills for my ankles, hips and thoracic spine in the morning, followed by a few sets of the third world squat (holding onto my power rack, each hold lasts about a minute, and on the last set i tend to move around at the bottom of the hold, as suggested).

i also foam roll and then stretch the muscles in the afternoon or evening, (calves, quads, hams, IT band, hip flexors, glutes, groin, lats, pecs) and again follow with third world squat holds.

either in the afternoon or evening ill again hold the third world squats with the help of my rack for quite a few sets, sometimes 10, each for about a minute, with movement, as suggested.

im not on any weightlifting program as of yet, id rather improve mobility and be able to squat fine and then go onto it. when i do start again, ill use starting strength. I used to just warm up by knocking a few warm up sets, but i know to get some dynamic stretching/mobility drills in before a workout.

-i wasnt able to squat ass to grass in the third world squat, even by holding onto a rack, but ive gradually moved further down and now, after 2-3 holds for a minute, i can get ass to grass (still gotta hold the rack for dear life, if i let go, i tumble back).

-also was reading up and found somewhere where it tells you to use your elbows to drive your knees outwards when in the squat hold, ive been doing this and its helped me sink down into the hole a little easier. i still cant hold the position without the aid of power rack to hold onto, but im hoping mobility/flexibility will increase enough for me to at least hit parallel without holding anything, so i can start squatting.

I’ve been in the same position as you… trying to improve mobility but seeing little no improvements. Part of the problem was that I was a college basketball player who had accumulated a TON of microtrauma within my quads and hips especially.

Here is what worked for me: instead of using the foam roller I used the stick (aka t-stick) to break up these scar tissue adhesions within the muscle. The stick works much better than foam roller when used properly. By properly I mean this: place your target muscle in a stretched position, ie if you were to use the stick on your calves/achilles, you’d dorsiflex your foot, if you were doing your quads/hips you’d get on your knees.

This “exposes” the muscle and allows to be much easier to work with and break up the scar tissue. The key from here then is to use SHORT and REPEATED strokes to break up any “knots” or scar tissue. This can get very painful, and if you’re doing it right you will have redness in the area (blood moving in there) as well as some bruising of the areas with the worst microtrauma (bruising in this case is a good sign).

Simply put the stick is much better at breaking up scar tissue than a foam roller, IMO. This can be done once per day or twice if tolerated (I had trouble doing my hips twice a day, too painful).

Otherwise your mobility work looks good. Use the stick before, stretch after. The only other thing I’d suggest is a toe touch to deep squat progression:

once you get good you can do the deep squat:

The key to all this is breaking up the scar tissue with the stick. No one ever teaches you how to use the stick properly, but once you break up that scar tissue your flexibility will really begin to improve.

As for me? After years of being known as the guy who was stiff as a board (people even questioned if I could wipe my own ass), I was able to do a “3rd World Squat” in 2 1/2 weeks after using these protocols.

Good luck

not really sure what "“the stick” is. im gonna take a random guess and assume its some sort of hard pipe/pole that you roll with, instead of a cushioned foam roller?

if its not, it brings my next question- would foam rolling with a harder object(pvc pipe/steel rod) have an increased effect, or would it just cause damage? ive tried it with a pipe and you really feel it alot more, some parts were just too painful though. but if it works better than a cushioned rolled, ill gladly switch to it.

PS: thanks for the video links, and for your help.

[quote]simpyindi wrote:
not really sure what "“the stick” is. im gonna take a random guess and assume its some sort of hard pipe/pole that you roll with, instead of a cushioned foam roller?

if its not, it brings my next question- would foam rolling with a harder object(pvc pipe/steel rod) have an increased effect, or would it just cause damage? ive tried it with a pipe and you really feel it alot more, some parts were just too painful though. but if it works better than a cushioned rolled, ill gladly switch to it.

PS: thanks for the video links, and for your help.[/quote]

The harder the foam roller the greater the effect. But of course most people are not ready for pvc or the like right away (or maybe never will be). I would say use it where you can, but a foam roller won’t hurt either way.

here’s a link for the stick:

there’s a ton of info on the site about myofascial release.
As for the hard foam roller, I definitely think it can be a good option as the stick isn’t the best for getting areas like the IT band. However, I think the stick has it’s advantages where as you can repeatedly go over certain “knots” and really break down the scar tissue, opposed to just sitting on one of these spots while on a roller. It’s a bit difficult for me to explain, but take a look at the site and hopefully you’ll develop a better understanding of what I’m trying to get across.

update: ive been using a pvc pipe for my foam rolling for every muscle excluding T-spine, seen good progress.
stretches are also going well, ive gone from just being able to touch my fingertips to my toes in a hamstring stretch to just being able to get my knuckles down on the floor. i still dont see any real improvements with the 3rd world squat though. ive been able to drop lower into the squat whilst holding onto something, but still, as soon as i let go i just fall backwards.

ill also try to flex the muscles whilst im rolling them with the pvc pipe, the pipe is pretty handy, it digs in pretty nicely.

just to add, should have mentioned in 1st post but i guess i just didnt realise/remember, my hips also kinda tilt downwards from the front, i think its called anterior pelvics tilt. would this also have an impact on my squatting ability, or should i still be able to squat fully down?

i’m also a noob, APT might mean that your glutes are weak, which might hurt your performance getting out of squats. I’d guess.

I’m also working on my flexibility in squats, and I’ve found improvement by just keep. working. at it. Bodyweight reps in the morning before the shower, etc.

Have you seen first third or so of the Dan John video?

simplyindi, good to see that you’re starting to use the pvc pipe… not a lot of people can handle that thing. however, i still recommend that you try to find yourself a stick for this sole purpose:

the anterior pelvic tilt which you talk about is related to having tight hips and will easily be the main limiting factor in how low you can squat (more than ankles and quads combined). yes it does mean that your glutes are weak too… because your hips are so tight and pulling downward (anterior tilt) you glutes are inhibited or “weak”. so why do i keep pumping up the stick? because you can get into your hips with it much easier than you can with any roller. after you released your hips with some soft tissue work, you’re going to want to stretch them out and after that follow up with some glute activation exercises which will fix your anterior pelvic tilt (its also important to be cognizant of your hips throughout the day, if you notice they are tilting forward consciously tilt them back to neutral). If you want some good examples of glute activation exercises just search youtube, i suggest side lying clams and fire hydrants but you can incorporate almost any exercise because the key to these is not to lift a ton of weight but to simply have the muscle fire as hard as you possibly can.

after you start being able to get deeper and deeper into the hole with your squats, you’re gonnna notice that you’ll have some forward trunk lean too… this is your t-spine (specifically your lats) pulling you forward… you’re gonna want to release this area too with some mobility work

The picture of the dude in the suit is practically at parallel. If you can squat that deep, i see no reason to not get in a weight training program (and continue to supplement with the mobility work).

^ pretty dumb comment right there… if you had someone who could only bench 1/2 the way down, would you want them to keep benching? No, because in time they’d develop muscle and movement imbalances that would lead to injury

A couple other things that should help.

  1. Get this book
    and do the spinal fascial stretches

  2. I think that to develop mobility and proper form for the squat, all those other things may be useful, but you have to squat. Start with bodyweight squats and squeeze the hams, glutes, and abductors hard on the eccentric, only as far as you can maintain good form. Also make sure your entire core is tall and tight at all times.

I find a lot of times when there is a stubborn mobility issue, there is a spinal injury, major fascial restriction, or core weakness.

great suggestions andersons! one book i’d also suggest is “Athletic Body in Balance” by Gray Cook, although it could be difficult to find.

and btw, i found the book you posted above on thepiratebay.org for anyone who knows how to download torrents.

Another tool you can use is a tennis ball. This is particularly effective for the calves, hamstrings, and glut med. Another area you can use it with is the bottom of your foot. Just step on the tennis ball and roll the ball around. Try this simple test: Standing on straight legs bend down and see how close you can come to touching the ground. Then roll a tennis ball under your feet, 2 sets of 25 rolls for each foot. Then re-test how close you can reach to the ground. You’ll be surprised how much farther you can reach with that simple trick!

Get big or die tryin’.

Charlie Cates, CPT
Self Made

-been using a tennis ball for a while for the soles of my feet and calves, a VERY effective tool.

-my hamstrings are pretty flexible, i can get knuckles onto the floor, whenever i hold the 3rd world squat i used to feel tightness in my hams and glutes, but now its much more in my quads and hip flexors.

i think once i improve flexibility in those areas, and foam roll them enough, ill be able to squat fine. (i also read about spreading the knees with your elbows when youre in the hole, my knees are always inside my feet, rather than lined up with them. ill need to stretch the groin muscles out also)

I’ve been working on this lately as well. More so since I finally got my pvc a month or two ago.

I only use a tennis ball on my lower back (two taped together). For everything else it’s not strong enough for me. For under my feet I use a golf ball. For other spots like my glutes and psoas I use a baseball since I seem to have lost my lax ball.

Instead of a stick I have a rolling pin I got at a rummage sale. Two swiffer sheets make it easy to spin in my hands since there is no axel in this pin.

been away for a while, havent done anything since i last posted (family emergency).

i haad a thought and wanted to run it by you guys. would it make sense to purchase special footwear to help with this? ie:


the heel is elevated (i elevated mine with a small plate and thee squat form was perfect!)

note: im gonna continue doing mobility work, but itd make things simpler for me (maybe having heels elevated and performing squats will help increase mobility quicker in squatting?). i dunno, would appreciate input.