Figure Out Why You Can't Squat...And What To Do About It

In the second episode of Next Level PT TV, we discussed how to break down the squat to identify where you need to focus your corrective work to improve this challenging pattern of movement.

If you missed that video, >>be sure to watch it here<< before going further into this post.

Here, we provide actual corrective exercise recommendations to start fixing the pattern.

***IMPORTANT NOTE: The squat pattern is usually the last fundamental movement pattern we will attempt to correct in people (whether they’re training or rehabbing with us).

It is a complicated pattern because it requires your lower body and upper body to move in different directions, and you need adequate mobility and control at a lot of joints to perform it competently.

So if you struggle to touch your toes, bend backwards, or rotate fully, we would typically start by fixing those issues prior to attacking the squat.


Hip Flexion Restriction

If you are unable to get your thighs to your chest without your tailbone popping off the table, then you have a hip flexion mobility limitation, which is going to limit your squat. While deeper assessment of this is usually necessary, here are some common things we use to fix hip flexion mobility issues.

Banded Hip Flexion Mobilization

Modified All Four Belly Lift with One Hand Lift

Knee Flexion Restriction

knee flexion limitations are rare in active people, but if you happen to have one, it usually happens as a result of decreased rotation between the femur (upper leg bone), and the tibia (lower leg bone). Here’s how you fix it:

Self-Tibial IR MWM

Ankle Dorsiflexion Restriction

If you are unable to bend your ankle forward at least 40 degrees (roughly one fist length away from a wall), then you have restricted ankle mobility. This is one of the more common things we’ll find in people with restricted squats. While further assessment is usually required to treat this limitation are some common things we prescribe to fix it:

Standing Gastroc/Soleus Stretch

Quadruped Gastroc Inhibition

Banded Ankle Dorsiflexion MWM

Banded Ankle Distraction

Thoracic Extension/Rotation Restriction

If you are unable to extend/rotate your upper back >50 degrees on your hands and knees, then you lack adequate mid-back mobility. Usually deeper assessment is required to determine the root cause of that limitation, but here are some common things we prescribe to help address this:

Bench T-Spine Extension

T-Spine Mobility

Band Assisted Quadruped Rotation

Squat Pattern (Stability / Motor Control) Dysfunction

If you are able to check off everything above (i.e. you have all of the parts necessary to squat), but are still struggling with your squat, the you need to bring the parts together and pattern them. There are a ton of different ways to do this, and a lot of them involve different postures (such as hands-and-knees)…but here are some ways to pattern the squat.

Toe Touch Squat Progression

Overhead RNT Squat

Lateral Shift RNT Squat

Hope this helps!

Dr. Mike

(We never take credit for ideas that aren’t ours. The content of this article is heavily influenced by the Functional Movement Systems group).