Squatting is one of the most fundamental human movement patterns requiring balance, stability, mobility and strength. So what happens when an athlete lacks one of these? Their squatmay feel more taxing, uncomfortable or just not right.

As coaches one aspect of the squat we focus on is mobility, particularly ankle mobility. Though the squat may seem like a hip or knee dominant movement, the ankle joint needs to be mobile in the sagittal plane to help perform the movement. According to Gray Cook and Mike Boyle in the Joint by Joint Approach, if the ankle is not mobile, then other adjacent areas such as the midfoot or knee can and will compensate to adjust for lack of mobility.

One quick and easy way to test your level of mobility is to perform the following simple test:

1. Place your foot on a tape strip that is 4 inches away from the wall (facing the wall)

2. With your feet in a neutral position and heel planted on the ground, attempt to touch your knee to the wall (without letting your knee press out or cave in)

3. If you can perform this without letting your knee move side to side and can keep your heel planted on the ground then you have sufficient ankle mobility.

What will your coaches be looking for in your squat:

o Depth – are you squatting below parallel (crease of your hip below your knee)

o Heels – is your weight in your heels, are you shifting to your toes

o Upright torso – is your torso upright or are you hinging at the hips, is your lower body (your beautiful derriere) raising before your torso

o Knee valgus – are you pressing your knees out or are they caving in

If we establish there is an issue with something above, what are we going to do about it:

o Reduce the weight or do another squat variation – Mechanics, consistency then intensity

o Squat to an object – you may be asked to squat to an object such as a ball or box to assist with hitting a consistent depth to allow your body to not only feel that depth but assist with mobility

o Shoes off – a coach may ask you to remove your shoes to further assess your ankle mobility as well as allow you to feel the ground. This is an important partof your squat and many shoes don’t allow you to feel the ground

o Heels elevated – you may be asked to place your heels on small change plates to assist with ankle mobility to allow you to get to the bottom of your squat

If you are someone who struggles with ankle mobility, all hope is not lost! There are stretches and ROM drills that you can do to help with mobility. Ask a coach if you are looking for extra stretches or drills to help with your ankle mobility.

You may also see some people in the gym lifting in a different type of shoe. These shoes are Olympic lifting shoes, often called lifters or oly shoes. They are designed specifically for Olympic lifting (clean and jerk and snatch) as well as can be used for other lifts such as squats. Some aspects of their unique design include:

o Hard flat sole – this will help an athlete get as much force off the ground as possible. 

o Elevated heel – helps with a greater range of motion and getting to the proper depth of your squat. 

o Straps – helps with snug fit

These shoes are not required for squatting; however they can assist if you are looking to be competitive.  

Now that you know what is necessary for a proper squat, what your coaches are looking for, and how to help fix it we hope you are more comfortable in your squat and plan to see many personal records in your future!

As the great American powerlifter and strength coach Louis Simmons says, “Don’t have a 10 cent squat with $100 shoes”

Author: Kelcie Thoennes

Anna Soland