T Nation

Squat Depth

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]kpsnap wrote:

[quote]jeromeo wrote:
I do get a tight feeling where my hip flexors are when I squat bellow parallel so just assumed it was them.[/quote]
Do you squat narrow or wide stance? Since switching to wide stance, I have noticed significant soreness in the psoas region after taxing squat days. I’m not an expert on muscles, but I find it hard to believe that the hip flexors aren’t recruited in some fashion in wide-stance squats.[/quote]
Tell me why you would think they play a part in wide-stance, but not narrow-stance.[/quote]

I’m only speaking from personal experience. I have very flexible hips and don’t feel much strain in the hip flexors when narrow stance squatting. But I can drop to the floor because of my flexibility. When I squat wide stance, I definitely feel my hip flexors come into play and keep me from dropping too deep. I have the same experience with DL: increasing strain in the psoas region the wider my feet are on sumo stance but no hip flexor pain when I pull conventionally.

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:
*Squat barefoot or in socks. No idea why, but as soon as I did this, my squat depth has inreased with no pain
[/quote]

Be very careful giving this out as advice. In someone with poor ankle mobility, this is going to make the problem worse, not better.

You were prolly squatting in squishy shoes. Barefoot made you more solid and stable.[/quote]

Really? I wasnt aware of that. I was wearing Nike Frees without the soles before that. But I’m not crazy knowledgeable with stuff like this, just figured I’d give him the info I used to help me and hopefully he’d try it out and see what works for him[/quote]
I love my Nike Frees, but they’re horrible for squatting. The best thing, of course, is Oly weightlifting shoes. Next best is barefoot or Chuck Taylors, but someone with ankle mobility problems is going to have to put plates or a 2x4 under their heels until they get their ankles sorted out.

If the knees can’t travel far enough forward (poor ankle mobility), then the hip has to close more to get to the bottom of the squat. When the hip closes more, the pelvis will tend to rotate posteriorly due to the extra pull from the hamstrings and glutes (mainly), causing you to lose your arch.

(sorry VTTrainer I noticed you posted while I was editing)

I do understand that sometimes cues that are helpful are anatomically incorrect. Imagining my scorpian tail reaching up from my butt helps me maintain my lumbar curve, too, but of course I know I don’t really have a scorpian tail.

I did think that there was more to ‘sitting into your hip flexors’ than that, however. Though I am starting to think that it might be more about recruitment than stretch. But still… I still really feel that there is some kind of stretch going on (that is very different from quad stretches that most people try and do to sort out the hip flexor issue).

I have never had to worry about ‘pulling myself down’. The weight does that for me. Focusing on controlling the descent while not slowing it down much…

Yes. Controlled descent. I think that might be another way of saying the same thing. The idea is to pull yourself down in a controlled fashion rather than letting the weight crush you at the speed of gravity.

pull your knees up farther toward your chest (that’s what hip flexors do). There are two things you’ll notice:

  1. It didn’t do diddly shit for your squat, except maybe pull you down deeper into the hole (not where you want to be).
  1. You will likely lose your lumbar arch.

This is how I squat:

I actually DO want to hit the lowest possible bottom position (while maintaining lumbar arch / tension of course).

You will also notice my squat looks weird. That is because I have almost no ankle dorsiflexion (still rehabbing old injury) so my butt has to sit back behind my mid-foot rather than over it. 2x standard Oly heel raise allows my ass to be back behind my center of gravity without my falling over backwards.

I’ve experimented with wide stance squats and with low bar back squats. every kind of squat I’ve tried (maintaining lumbar arch of course and only going as low as I can go while maintaining it - but breaking parallel each time) is something that I feel mostly in my hip flexors.

VTTrainer - I read that the reason why plate loaded front squats might help sort out a lot of issues for people is that the front loading gets them activating their abdominals properly.

It still is puzzling to me (in that it still feels like it is the case) that sitting into a squat (while maintaining lumbar arch) actually stretches something that attaches the front of the hip to the lumbar spine. The psoas looked like the likely candidate… But the stretch feeling in squats is different from quad stretches and so on…

-Jay and Alexus
The hip flexors wont help with the squat very much, you need symmetry in general, but… I think the idea of pulling yourself down (think knee raise, hip flexor and trunk stabilizer/flexors are hard at work) helps those with poor mobility.

The typical gym rat has tight hip flexors from crunches and sitting too much, with the latter being the main issue. Most of the time the sit up kings and queens are really just working their hip flexors more than their abdominals. When you work one you will work the other, but one is usually stronger, the hip flexors usually win unless you train and stretch smart.

Anyway, the guy in the video is probably one with tight hip flexors, so by pulling himself down he is using his hip flexors and rectus. The activated rectus can now stabilize his back.

Also, the insertion point for the hip flexors on the femur explains why swinging your leg out on a wide squat puts it in a stretched position, or more-so anyway.

[quote]kpsnap wrote:

I’m only speaking from personal experience. I have very flexible hips and don’t feel much strain in the hip flexors when narrow stance squatting. But I can drop to the floor because of my flexibility. When I squat wide stance, I definitely feel my hip flexors come into play and keep me from dropping too deep. I have the same experience with DL: increasing strain in the psoas region the wider my feet are on sumo stance but no hip flexor pain when I pull conventionally.[/quote]
Ahhh… See, that’s not your hip flexors. I don’t know of anyone who can ATG wide stance. Some Oly lifters take a bit wider stance and go ATG, but I wouldn’t recommend it due to the twisting stress on the knees and hips (just looking at the pictures makes me cringe). It’s just basic body structure.

The strain you’re feeling along the inner thigh is your adductors. They stretch more the farther you arch your lumbar spine, and the farther your knees are apart.

and the adductors are hip flexors (that is what you said before anyway. it makes sense that standing with your legs further apart would stretch them more. it also makes sense (to me anyway) that holding your lumbar arch would stretch your psoas more.

I don’t know of anyone who can ATG wide stance.

Jay - meet kpsnap. If she doesn’t quite get it ATG she gets it freaking close. When she feels like it, anyway.

I wouldn’t recommend it due to the twisting stress on the knees and hips (just looking at the pictures makes me cringe). It’s just basic body structure.

?

Doesn’t it depend on your anatomy? Women have wider pelvises so it would make sense that a wider stance would be more natural for them… Also… The way the femur wants to swivel depends a bit on the peculiarities of your femur head / pelvis socket structures…

I don’t know where you get ‘twisting stress’ from…

eventually we are going to edit to consensus i think (i hope). i’ve been trying to make sense of this hip flexor and squatting issue for a while.

@Alexus: You definitely need more ankle flexion. Shins vertical is not something you want in a full ROM squat. Angle your feet out slightly and let your knees drift forward a bit, and you’ll find more mobility almost instantly. The angle of your femur should be the same as the angle of your foot (eliminates twisting stress on the knee).

In the attached pic, she’s got it just about right. She might benefit from a slightly narrower stance, putting her heels directly under her butt, but as long as her knees and hips can handle the torque they’re under, she’ll be fine.

Work on that ankle mobility, it’ll help tons. What injury are you recovering from, BTW?

@VTTrainer: Completely agree except for one point. As soon as you break at the hips, the psoas shortens, so it’s impossible to stretch it while squatting.

And Tom Platz agrees with me, so mnyah!

:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

i think there are some funny almost paradoxical things with squatting.

i’ve been working hard on my squat for about a year now. didn’t have the mobility to sit in a relaxed asian squat (never mind about lumbar arch) to start with. took a long time for that to be comfortable. then a long time working on lumbar curve. some strange (to me anyway) things:

  • i did a lot of sit ups when i first started out (hangs head in shame). i wasn’t using my abs properly. the standard thought is that my hip flexors were strong / overactive so i was using them instead.

  • but when i lay on my back on the floor i didn’t have the strength (in my left leg in particular) to lift my leg up from the floor. so… weak hip flexors?


  • i had trouble pushing my knees out hard in squats (they would want to cave in). worked on bad girl movements and external leg rotation. didn’t really help.

  • working on good girl movements and internal leg rotation improved my ability to keep my knees out.


  • lots of people seem to think they need to stretch their hamstrings and quads to fix up their squat. i’ll admit i haven’t seen anyone with this strategy improve their squat overly much.

  • not many people seem to think that rolling the crap out of their feet, lower leg, upper leg, muscles around the hip joint and glutes will help. or ankle dorsiflexion and hip internal rotation. the ones who do this seem to improve, however.

paradoxical? dunno…

You definitely need more ankle flexion.

I know. I’ve been working on this almost daily for a year.

Let your knees drift forward a bit, and you’ll find more mobility almost instantly.

I try. Unfortunately at present the best I can do with ‘letting’ my knees drift forward a bit is for me to jam them forwards with the assistance of a 20kg plate. I’m hoping that the persistent jamming, rolling, and stretching will help stretch the achilles etc and basically all the tendons / fascia / muscles / whatthehellever under my feet and up the back of my lower leg and result in dorsiflexion mobilization eventually.

I continue to work on it. There is a little corner in the back of my mind that tells me it might never be possible for me, though.

(Of course I believe it is possible. But I’ll admit I feel a little snarky when people think there might be a quick fix. Of course there might be and I am open to that but I’ve been researching the hell out of this issue over the last year and putting the time and effort into doing it for not much improvement at all).

[quote]alexus wrote:
and the adductors are hip flexors (that is what you said before anyway. it makes sense that standing with your legs further apart would stretch them more. it also makes sense (to me anyway) that holding your lumbar arch would stretch your psoas more.[/quote]

I most certainly did not say the adductors were hip flexors, because they’re not.

[quote]> I don’t know of anyone who can ATG wide stance.

Jay - meet kpsnap. If she doesn’t quite get it ATG she gets it freaking close. When she feels like it, anyway.[/quote]
I’ll have to try watching some of her vids from her ‘strong little snapper’ thread again later. My computer is being bitchy.

[quote]> I wouldn’t recommend it due to the twisting stress on the knees and hips (just looking at the pictures makes me cringe). It’s just basic body structure.

?

Doesn’t it depend on your anatomy? [/quote]
Absolutely. I completely recommend finding a good coach who knows his stuff to help you for at least a couple of sessions.

I don’t quite know how else to put it. Imagine squatting down and then moving your foot four inches to the outside. When you move your foot, your femur is going to twist (internal rotation). Now apply a load to it, and push back upward? None for me, thanks.

I am glad I put my shitty 2 cents in here. I am learning a whole bunch of stuff. Good stuff.

-Zep

@Alexus- I found one kinda neat “trick” for the ankles. Find any set of stairs or a very sturdy box pressed against the wall. From there just get into a proper oly squat and press your ass against the step/stair, using your arms to force a deep arch. If you do it right you should have a huge stretch in the calves. You can progress by adding stuff under your toes to help with the stretch.

[quote]alexus wrote:

  • i did a lot of sit ups when i first started out (hangs head in shame). i wasn’t using my abs properly. the standard thought is that my hip flexors were strong / overactive so i was using them instead.[/quote]
    It’s really hard for most people to focus on abs simply because it’s difficult to deload the movement to the point where your hip flexors don’t take over. Doing situps backward on a slightly inclined ab board (with your feet on the low end) helps. Over time, you lower the board until you’re doing flat situps, and then start working up facing the other way.

Maybe just short hip flexors. A muscle that’s stretched to it’s limit can’t contract very well. Strong with the hips flexed and weak with the hips extended would indicate to me that the psoas need flexibility work.

[quote]- i had trouble pushing my knees out hard in squats (they would want to cave in). worked on bad girl movements and external leg rotation. didn’t really help.

  • working on good girl movements and internal leg rotation improved my ability to keep my knees out. [/quote]
    Could have been an adductor flexibility problem, and while that was being corrected, you unconsciously learned how to get your glutes involved. I know it sounds like grasping at straws, but when you’re working really hard at something, things tend to fall into place. Your brain can figure out how to do things without you really even knowing it.

[quote]- lots of people seem to think they need to stretch their hamstrings and quads to fix up their squat. i’ll admit i haven’t seen anyone with this strategy improve their squat overly much.

  • not many people seem to think that rolling the crap out of their feet, lower leg, upper leg, muscles around the hip joint and glutes will help. or ankle dorsiflexion and hip internal rotation. the ones who do this seem to improve, however.

paradoxical? dunno… [/quote]
I agree completely. Hams are the first thing everyone goes for when it comes to squatting flexibility, but they’re probably the least of your worries. Stretching the glutes helps, but everyone I’ve pre-habbed with this has had a wow moment:

Roll plantar fascia
High-box single-leg soleus stretch
Glute stretch
Goblet squat groin stretch (pushing the knees out with the elbows)
Goblet squat hip extensor stretch (pulling the knees into the armpits while arching)
Goblet squat ‘Big chest-Buddha belly’

Then go squat and see what happens. These all need to be done in this specific order because one stretch leads to another. If you want me to explain in detail, I’ll be more than happy to.

Just for the sake of ending the hijacking of this thread (Sorry, Jeromeo), I’ve started another thread just for our discussion: