T Nation

Squat Limited Range of Motion


After a little searching in the forum history I couldn't find anything that's specific to
my question.

I can squat fine no problem in the smith rack or by holding on to something in front of my such as doing a body weight squat while holding on to the bar from above inside the power rack and my range of motion is great. As soon as I get the bar on my back in a power rack attempting a free weight squat no matter or light or how heavy I can't go down even half way without standing on my toes. I've even tried taking my shoes off to see if it was the soles putting me on my toes and the same problem came up. I adjusted the "stoppers on each side and even had someone stand behind me to make sure it wasn't me just mentally psyching myself out from being afraid to fall if I didn't balance right. A friend of mine who's pretty good at squatting told me to trust myself on my heels and I'm trying to just wondering if it's something more complicated.

This is where I need your help or at least a link to more info. Appreciate it.


Are you able to do front squats properly? At home also practice doing bodyweight squats without holding on to anything. Hold yourself at the bottom position and make sure you feel balanced before going back up. I kind of feel awkward doing them myself but a warmup gets me past that. I always start by stretching then lowering into a squat position while holding onto the rack, then bodyweight squats without holding on.


you tube..elite fts channel..search for wall squat. If you get on your toes you'll scrape your face on the wall.

Sounds like you need to listen to your friend and need to learn to sit back. It's kind of like when you sit onto a toilet. You stand in front of the bowl, you then sit back and down. You don't go straight down like you would in a ghey smith machine squat.

Get out of the smith machine.It will wreck your back and the form it locks you into will most likely fuck you up at some point. Do regular squats in a power rack if you have one or a squat rack..use just the bar if you have to to learn the form. Hell often times I start with just the bar and work up from there. Good luck


I haven't tried front squats to be honest but I will. That's a good idea. I'll look into those wall squats too. Do you think it could be a flexibility issue or no since I can hit the rom in the smith. I will stay out of the smith, just wondering what you all think on this. Thanks in advance.


Found this on an orthopedic website. Thanks for all your help. Just thought I'd paste this in case someone searches it down the road.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Inflexibility

Dorsiflexion flexibility is required during the lower phases of the squat and leg press, so Ankle Dorsiflexion inflexibility can make it difficult to perform squat and leg press exercises in full range of motion. If the range of motion of the ankle is limited, hip flexion may be exaggerated and knee flexion is often inhibited. To maintain normal range of motion in both the hip and knee, the heel may have a tendency to leave the floor or platform.

* Examples of affected exercises with suggestions for affected individuals until range of motion is restored
      o Leg Press: place feet higher on the platform
      o Squats: wider stance or elevate heels slightly on board or weight plates
      o Range of motion may need to be restricted so heels do not raise at lower portion of exercise 
* Example Assessments
      o Deep Squat
      o Active Bent Knee Foot Raise Test 
* Example preventative / corrective exercises:
      o Gastrocnemius Stretch
      o Soleus Stretch
      o Calf Raise
      o Calf Press


Honestly just sounds like your Gastrocnemius and your Soleus are tight...
Try Squatting with your heels raised on a 10 lb plate
and then stretching your calves in both the straight and bent knee position EVERYDAY...


That's because the machine has got you locked into its groove vs a free squat where YOU have to balance and all that.

When on the smith rack where are your feet in relation to the bar. MOST people I see doing that are standing way out in front of the bar so that they don't get folded in half when the bar tracks straight down on it's little slide bar. Being in that position one is way on the heels.
The other bunch I see is the feet are behind the bar so as soon as the knees crack they are on the toes and look like they are doing hack squats only they can only go down about half way or they'll get folded in half.

How wide is your stance? If I stand narrow my heels want to raise no matter how much I sit back. maybe widen your stance a bit to keep the feet flat on the floor.


In the meantime, work on ankle mobility. The one I've done for ages is against a wall. Stand with your foot progressively farther from a wall and bend your ankle until your knee touches the wall without your heel coming off the ground.


learn to box squat


That's a pretty slick move O! I just tried it..my left got about 6" and my right was 5. Yeah I'm stone cold but I'm gonna have to remember this one. Thanks for the tip.


I got that one from Cressey's Maximum Strength. Where I've found it helps a lot is benching. I can pull my legs a lot farther back under me and keep my feet flat. It helps to pop a killer arch.


Sounds like a flexibility issue and probably a lack of lower back strength. Those two issues make the person feel like they are about to fall back and so they automatically stop about half way down.

Sink down in a bodyweight squat, heels flat, arms on top of head or straight in front. I see it lot when teaching people proper squat form.

Like matsm21 said, practice box squats.


I did about 3... probably why I have trouble with squats...


Well, aren't you just full of Gems! Awesome...



I think this will help....it's been helping me.


Thanks, you guys are awesome. I'll get rollin on this right away.


After you've done this stretch, roll the sole of your foot on a tennis ball. It's basically a "foam roller" for your tendons. Then redo the stretch and you should have a little more mobility.


OP - I agree with StrengthDawg. Given that you can full squat in a smith machine, mobility/flexibility likely isn't the main reason. It's likely two things; 1) technique and 2) confidence.

I'd say start with front squats and/or goblet squats. Take the time and watch this:


Then you just need to learn to sit back. I'd put money on it that your knees are likely over your toes before your half way down. Don't believe me, either try the wall squat or squat in front of a sofa with your toes touching it and see when your knees hit it.


Not that I am a great squatter (755@242, 18 y/o) but use a box as a teaching tool. That is how I teach people.
I scare them into sitting back. I make them do it, and pull the box back, and tell them if they don't push their hips back to where they need to be, then they will miss the box and fall.

Of course I wouldn't let that happen, but they don't know that. I suggest you sit the box far enough back that if you do not sit back enough, you will miss it, then just instinct will tell you to sit back to the box.

Also wall squats are a great tool. Furthermore, give up the crutches of holding onto stuff or using the smith machine. If you keep doing it, then it will make it harder to learn how to squat the right way, IMO.

The front squats may be a good idea, but not really sure about that. It has helped some people.Generally I do not sit BACK as far on front squats, so I don't know if it will help that issue, but it will definitely make it to where you will dump if you get on your toes... so it may be another tool.

Elitefts.com is your best source for info.