T Nation

Mobility Issues With Squats


I was doin squats today and this guy came up to me and noticed my form was off. he told me to put 5lb plates under my heels to correct my form. it instantly felt more "natural" and i could easily put up more weight. i also felt like i didnt have as much forward lean. whats the deal? I didnt have a chance to talk to him, but i'm assuming my ankles lack mobility? also, i noticed it feels alot more "natural" and smooth (excuse the lack of a better word) when i do front squats vs back squats.

(i squat in barefeet, should i go back to shoes?)



i'd say the majority of people lack good ankle mobility..

instead of giving you a bunch of b.s. drills to try and obtain it, i'd just buy olympic lifting shoes :wink:

the plates are going to shift you forward onto your toes too much.. with oly shoes you will be able to press flat footed and still gain the extra ankle mobility from the heel lift.

you could really static stretch the ankle / calfs / hip flexors before squatting also.. that helps.

peace man


What's your bar position?


Things to try:

Widen your stance.
Move your toes out.
Olympic lifting shoes.



Thanks for the info guys.

BTW, I have a high bar stance. I have been squatting oly style ATG for a few years now. When I widen my stance and switch to low bar i feel like i lean way too far forward for whatever reason (lack of core strength?)

Anyways, Ill probably buy some oly shoes and also work on ankle mobility so that i can squat barefoot again. i really dont like shoes but thats a whole nother issue


Don't forget that elevating the heels does more than affect the ankles. It creates a greater anterior pelvic tilt (think of a woman in higher heels), which allows one to sit deeper in the squat and maintain a better arch in the low back and stay tight. I don't think many OLers lack ankle mobility. I think that most novice lifters need to learn to initiate the squat with breaking at the hips first, rather than the ankles. Emphasizing ankle mobility without hip mobility drills and learning how to 'sit-back' to squat, may actually lead to a problem of the lifter continuing the movement pattern of initiating by breaking the squat and the knees.


hmmm...that makes sense because i've always thought that i had pretty good ankle mobility. can you elaborate on the "breaking at the hips first, rather than the ankles". at the bottom of my squat my pelvis rotates under...actually now that i think about it, this is when i feel like i lose stability and lean forward. this have anything to do with it?

thanks for your help


I think ankle mobility is way overrated for guys unless you've worn nothing but basketball shoes your entire life. Men's footwear, i.e. really restrictive dress shoes, locks up the foot a lot more than the ankle in my experience.

At any rate, just go up to a wall, put your foot about 2 inches away from the wall and try to touch your knee to the wall. If you can do that, you have enough ankle mobility to do an olympic squat. It's honestly pretty rare to find this in the average dude. It's a lot bigger problem in women since they wear high heels.

What putting plates under your feet really does for most people is create artificial stability. It shifts the body into an anterior weight bearing posture which makes the nervous system more comfortable. A comfortable nervous system will in turn "loosen the reins" so to speak and dish out some extra ACTIVE mobility.

Anything you do to increase stability will make the movement feel 'better' and 'more natural. Putting the weight in front of you = more stable position, which is why front squats are feel better for a lot of people, and people that are "not mobile" that are "too tight" to back squat can knock out some deep front squats.

The Olympic squat is going to require more knee bend then a wide stance powerlifting squat. You can't just "sit back" into an olympic squat and expect to hit depth. You have to use knee bend. Olympic lifters routinely violate the old 'knee can't go over the toes' rule and don't think twice about it. That said, getting a great looking barefoot olympic back squat is not an easy feat. This is why olympic weightlifting shoes exist, and why it's a hell of a lot easier for people to use a wider stance squat.

If you don't have short femurs, a great barefoot olympic squat is going to take a lot of work. I mean, just a ridiculous amount of practice. I'm not sure I've seen enough at this point to make the call, but I'm under the impression that a deep barefoot olympic squat WITH neutral spine is something that is simply not on the table for every person out there.


Just did the wall ankle test and i can easily touch the wall while keeping the heel in place. i can actually move about 4-5 inches away and keep proper form

makes sense about the front vs back squat. can some people just not back squat properly no matter what they do? in other words, how can i get the back squat to feel as "comfortable" as the front? cause i'll tell ya, i feel so much more comfortable and mobile on front squats. BUT if i can fix something to back squat better, i definitely want to and will.

Thank you for all the valuable info...i greatly appreciate it!


well, the obvious thing you could do is open up your stance some and widen your feet. This will create more stability instantly. You don't necessarily have to go full out powerlifting squat - a hybrid stance works well for many.

If you're hell bent on olympic squatting, practice the movement a ton. if you can squat great with your heels elevated and have no ankle restrictions, your problem is simply a matter of stability and not mobility.

There are a lot of ways to go about this... unfortunately not everything lends itself to a forum discussion. A good place to start is to pick however much heel elevation you need to do some good olympic squats and slowly lower the elevation over time.

In the mean time, you can do deep bulgarian squats with a short stance (i.e. don't sit back into the movement, allow knee bend similar to a deep olympic squat) to build some strength and 'neural comfort' in that end ROM.


So i widened my stance (hybrid) and rotated my feet a little bit and it seemed to work great as far as mobility goes. However, I feel a pinching in the front of my hips (kinda where the femur meets the pelvis). On a pain scale of 1-10 it is probably a 6. Any idea what this may be? Thanks


could be a lot of things really. the top 2 contenders are anterior femoral glide syndrome and a just a general lack of activation and strength in that end ROM.

AFGS happens when you get too much pull from your hamstrings, causing the femur to slide forward in the hip socket.

also, you could just lack psoas activation and just general strength in end ROM. Does the pain go away when you decrease the weight? Since it's a new type of squatting for you you can't expect to simply switch and use the same amount of weight.. different loading patterns.


Happens with bodyweight :confused:

I notice when i "sit back" more, the pain lessens, but my depth suffers.


probably psoas then. ever had a concussion? Can you stand upright, hold a neutral spine or even some anterior tilt and lift your hip past 90 degrees of flexion (and hold it there)?


yes to concussion. re: leg raise, nope not even close...maybe 45 degrees. and i feel alot of tightness in my hamstring when doing the leg raise


let the knee bend and retry, sorry I didn't specify.


oh in that case, yes i can hold it above 90 for quite awhile.


alright, sent ya a PM, try that drill out and let me know how it goes.


When I say, "sitting back", I don't mean it in the powerlifting type of squat. When someone squats, the first part of the movement should be the hips moving to the rear. It does not have to be a lot, and some do it more than others. I suppose the height of the shoes will impact this.
Many inexperienced lifters start the squat movement with the knees bending before any motion occurs at the hips, and this in my opinion, is a technique error.
This is what I meant by breaking at the hips vs knees.

Here is a vid of my front squatting, I tend to rock back or sit back more then most, but then my OL shoes are quite high.


Vatos! People here is one of the best high bar squatters I've seen on youtube. Figures he is totally right on about hip mobility. In most people hip mobility is going to be a bigger issue than ankle. Elevating the heels can help you get around the lack of hip mobility but its not really going to fix your squat, all it will do is mask your problem.