T Nation

Stretch to Assist Squat Depth


Hello T-Nation.

Long-time reader, first time correspondent.

Can anyone recommend a stretch which can help me to go lower in the squat?

Currently, I can only just go under parallel before my heels have to raise or I have to bend forwards.

I have injured my back several times (even with heel blocks) by ending up with my back parallel to the ground whilst picking up modest weights from the floor.


Have you tried simply doing bodyweight squats?
I spread my feet as if I were about to squat and let myself sink all the way down; rest my elbows on my knees with the arms straight out, and rock forward and backward and side-to-side to loosen any tightness around the hips and quads and knees.
If you can't get into this position, or it's uncomfortable, then you are VERY tight and need to do this a lot to get ready for rock-bottom squats.

I'm sure there are more things to do, but this always helps prepare me.


There could be a number of tight muscle groups at fault for not being able to squat more deeply, and it's tough to say without actually seeing you squat. Try to catch Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, or another coach on Prime Time and post your question to them.

That said, I agree with the other poster in saying bodyweight squats (or deep knee bends) are an excellent way to dynamically stretch out any sneaky tightness prior to actually loading the bar. After your training sessions, give extra attention to stretching the inner thighs, hamstrings, and calves.


Thanks for the replies - some good points there.

I will try the bodyweight squats to stretch.

I've posted the same question at the end of Eric Cressley's last Prime Time.


One of the more common reasons I see for the heals lifting is because of limitation in dorsiflexion from the ankle.

Start with lengthening the calves. Use static stretching on both the Gastrocnemius and Soleus. I prefer to stretch using a board tat 45 drgrees for support. Remember when stretching the Soleus to keep the patella tracking between the second and third toe. Hold each stretch for at least 60 seconds and repeat each stretch at least twice.

You could even stretch between sets for a few weeks to aid in mobility if there is a huge restriction. Be careful with loading though. You should reduce your load for the new rage of movement allowing all structures to adapt to this new ROM.


I've been working on this myself. Now I already squat below parallel, but I my squat to more closely resemble Chakarov's(sp). I have been doing some stretches that have helped me in just 2 weeks time. First I found that the main reason I can't go deeper without rounding my back is that my hamstrings were too tight and prevented the hip flexion that is necessary to maintain an arched back.

So naturally I began stretching my hams. I do these not by just bending over and trying to touch my toes but by keeping my back arched and focussing on hip flexion(kind of like a SLDL with out the weight). Second I thought that if I wanted a deeper squat, that I needed to practice that position. So I do I place one foot up on a bench (in the very bottom position of a step up) and placing all my weight on that foot I grab the bench and try to pull myself deeper. I really focus on my hip flexion which causes me feel a stretch in my hams.

Later I added in some two different types of stretches for the glutes, ankles and quads. I do this stretching "circuit" a couple of sets 3-5 times a day. But never before a workout. It has really helped in just a couple of weeks.


More good advice.

I do hope you realise that calf stretches are the most painful thing you can ask the human body to do.


Are your toes pointed outward? This may be a stance related issue NOT a flexibility issue.



If they are that bad then you should use the foam roller also.... then you'll know pain... or better yet get some deep tissue work done on them, just don't expect to walk for a few days.

Another thing to note is that limited dorsiflexion can contribute to lower back pain.


Beef's got a great point. Didn't even think of that aspect. Excessive toeing out (say, beyond 11 and and 1, to, um, 10 and 2 or something) would definitely cause squatting woes.


I agree. This is one of the most important things I learned about how to full squat with my bodytype. I learned it by looking at the picture at the end of Dan John's Overhead Squat Article. Look how his toes and knees are pointed out.


Tried calf stretches, glute stretches, psoas stretches and pulling myself down further into the squat position.

Unfortunately, none of the above increased the squat depth.

I normally have my feet at a 45 degree angle, I think increasing this angle and having a wider stance will definitely give me more depth (certainly more than the stretches will).


Two things here

First it will take time to improve your flexibility

Second it also could be a srength issue




Stretching hip flexors and calves is definetely way to go! If you sit a lot in your job/school, I think you should stretch them daily. You don't need any routine, just get in the position and squeeze your butt.

Also, free squatting is different then squatting with bar on your back. Heavy weight will actually help get into proper position. My form is better when I do heavy low reps, which may be a problem for a beginner who's still learning.

Dan John suggests doing 3-4x8 with 1 min rest or similar to learn proper form. Short rest periods will make last set (or two) very hard, so just think "ass down, chest up" and let your body do the rest. Unfortunately, I can't seem to remember where he suggested that (could be GetUp or on Prime Time).


Listen, it will take time to improve. I actually think that 45 degrees is too much, it should be more like 30. Going wider then shoulder width isn't advisable on full squats. Most likely, you just need more practice.

Key thing to remember is to "sit between legs". I posted more tips in this old thread:



Ah, I just had to post this pic once again. It's 265kg for a double. Ivan Chakarov, 91kg. Apparently, he did 270kg x 3 with no belt, no wraps and no spotters.


I like overhead squats as a mobility drill. Alot of times before I deadlift or squat I'll do a couple of warm up sets of OH squats with an empty bar, then I stretch the hip flexors.

Actually, I do alot of stuff for mobility/activation at the hip. Seems to me like alot of people have dysfunctional hips. Ever watch people try to dance on Friday night...but I digress. Try adding stuff like one leg DB deadlift (LIGHT!, combined dumbells approx. 25% of your 1rm) and light one leg good mornings.

Also, make sure your spinal erectors are sufficiently strong to keep the correct curve in your lower back when you're down in the hole.

Good Luck.



Thanks again for the help guys.

I will definitely continue the calf and hip stretches.