"Boost Your Squat Performance With These Easy Steps"

Are you looking to optimize your squat function? The first step to promote pain/injury free training is to perform movement screens for ankle mobility, hip mobility, and core control in order to better understand what you may need to work on as an individual athlete. 

Let's start by breaking down some terminology:

  • Flexibility: Ability to move a muscle through full Range of Motion (ROM)

  • Mobility: Ability to move a joint through full ROM 

  • Stability/motor control: Ability to control movement through full ROM

  • Strength: Ability to produce force through full ROM 


  • START HERE STEP 1: Overhead deep squat screen (global test of mobility/stability)

    • Check out our Video on Instagram @changethegamept

    • Common faults: Excessive forward lean of the torso/bar not remaining over midfoot, knee(s) caving in, toes shift outward to achieve depth, weight shift and/or rotation

  • STEP 2: Are you able to perform an air squat w/o the faults you saw during overhead squat? 

    • Screen your thoracic spine (mid back) extension/rotation mobility, which becomes particularly important during overhead squats and for olympic lifting. Look for feelings of stiffness (less than ~50 deg) or significant asymmetries side to side with this screen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7rxIYo6Z64 

  • STEP 3: How is your ankle mobility? 

    • Does elevating your heels clear up the overhead squat pattern? If so, ankle mobility is likely limiting. Double check with this screen below. 

    • Half kneel test at wall  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xstkGPBLa7w 

    • If you find (+) test for limited ankle mobility, begin to address it! 

  • STEP 4: I passed the screen for ankle mobility, and I am still unsure what is limiting my overhead squat. How is your hip mobility?

    • Hip rotation seated: looking for 30 deg or more internal rotation and 40 deg or more of external rotation   

    • Lying hip flexion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9CpNu5HEFo 

    • If you find (+) screen here, begin to look into addressing hip mobility to improve squat depth and quality. 

  • STEP 5: My hip mobility was sufficient. Move on to screening an assisted squat and single leg stance/single leg squat (Movement control issue when weight bearing?) 

    • Assisted squat: Are you able to perform a full deep squat with solid positioning while holding onto a squat rack or other stable support? 

    • Single leg squat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b82MENAPrQA 

      • Look for excessive knee wobble or asymmetrical weakness

Points of performance to “optimize” your squat as you also consider the results of your self movement screen: 

  • Squat set-up, including stance width, toe out variance, and depth all depend upon anatomy and the goals of the athlete. However, an optimal toe out angle of ~5-7 degrees can mechanically improve torque production from the hips in the execution of the squat. Often, excessive external rotation (excessive toe out) may be in part d/t limited hip internal rotation. 

  • Create a “Tripod” base with the feet: Maintain a good arch with 3 main points of contact through the heel, base of the 1st toe, and the base of the 5th toe!

  • Set up with a “neutral” lumbopelvic position, although it is safe for this position to change slightly throughout execution of a full deep squat. 

  • Utilize braced breathing mechanics. Anytime you are moving weight, you should have a braced position with your rib cage down. 

  • Bar path stays over midfoot (don’t shift excessively onto toes or heels)

  • Focus on actively pulling with hamstrings during descent

  • Load the posterior chain prior to ascending (w/o shifting too far back onto heels)

What’s next?

  • If you have a positive test for 1 or more of these self screens, the next step is to incorporate appropriate corrective exercises that focus on YOUR specific asymmetries or limitations. 

  • Take the time to address your deficits in mobility/stability before loading up heavy. 

  • If you are experiencing pain during any part of this self screen, come see a Doctor of Physical Therapy to perform a more detailed movement assessment! 

  • Stay tuned for another blog post covering rehabilitation considerations, education on a squat hierarchy, and exercise correctives that will help you optimize your training!