Squatting is an incredibly effective exercise if done correctly. Sadly, many people end up not making the most of squats due to lack of hip flexibility. A large majority of people have almost no time for physical activity. Going from a sedentary lifestyle to a strength training routine that involves squats can, therefore, become challenging due to stiffness in lower limbs.
Several small muscle groups and the hip and knee joints should work in tandem during a full squat. Some simple stretches are all you need to improve the mobility of the hips and its range of motion. Here are 6 such stretches that can improve your squatting form.
1. Lying Hip Rotations
The piriformis muscle runs from your spine to the thigh bone. When it gets tight and stiff due to prolonged sitting, it can exert pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause excruciating pain. This condition is known as the piriformis syndrome. Just do these hip rotations to stretch the piriformis and avoid painful consequences.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees at 90 degrees.
- Now cross your right leg over the left knee.
- Pull the crossed knee closer to your chest and push it further away from it without lifting the ankle.
- Feel the stretch in your hips and thighs.
- Now bring the right knee to the original position.
- Repeat the exercise with the left leg crossed over the right.1
2. Butterfly Stretch
Based on the lines of the yoga pose “Baddhakonasana” (butterfly pose), it’s a great way to stretch the inner thighs, groins, and knees. This, in turn, improves flexibility in the groin and hip regions thereby making it much easier to squat. Here’s how you can do the butterfly stretch.2
- Sit on the ground with your spine erect and legs spread out.
- Bend your knees in such a way that your thighs touch the ground.
- Bring the soles of your feet to touch each other.
- Hold your feet firmly with both your hands.
- Feel the pull in your butt, thighs, and calves.
- Flap your thighs and knees up and down without moving the soles of your feet.
- Inhale and exhale rhythmically while moving your thighs up and down.
3. Frog Stretch
Frog stretch is very beneficial for stretching muscle group of the inner thighs known as adductors. They play an important role in maintaining stability during flexion and internal rotation of the thighs.
- Lie on all fours with your legs spread as wide apart as possible.
- Rock back and forth in this position.
- Keep the balls of your feet on the ground with your toes pointing outward.
- Keep rocking for a minute. Relax for 10 seconds and repeat the exercise.
4. Kneeling Lunges
One of the best exercises for improving lower body strength, lunges can make your hip flexors more flexible. These are muscles that are often ignored in a sedentary lifestyle. Follow the steps below to do a good kneeling lunge.
- Stand upright with your right leg bent at the knee and your left knee touching the ground.
- Keep the chest tall and hold the position for 30 seconds.
- Make the stretch even harder by raising the left knee off the ground and stretching it all the way backward.
- Return the standing position after 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.
5. Squatting Internal Rotations
Strength training exercises like squats help to rotate the hip joint in all planes. When you are newly introduced to squatting, stretches with squatting internal rotation is an excellent way to encourage the hip joint to rotate freely without hurting. Here’s how you should do this dynamic stretch.
- Start in a deep squat position with your hands held in front of the chest.
- Now rotate your left knee inward to touch the ground.
- Move only on the ball of the right foot while moving the left knee inwards.
- Now repeat the motion with your right knee while moving on the ball of the left foot.
- Repeat it 5 times.
6. Pigeon Stretch
Pigeon stretch opens up tight hip flexors and promotes the rotation of the femur in the hip socket which is necessary for a good squat. Follow the steps below to do this stretch.3
- Start from all fours and bring your right knee forward and place it behind your right wrist.
- Your bent right knee should be parallel to the mat width of the mat you are lying on.
- Slide your left leg behind your body with the knee straightened and the toes pointing outwards.
- Gently lower your upper body to the floor and bend forward.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds and repeat it with the other leg.
Do these stretches daily and you will experience better flexibility and mobility in your hip joints. Eventually, squatting will become your favorite exercise as you will become a pro at it.
|↑1||Anne Waldner, S. P. T., S. P. T. Justin Monsrud, and S. P. T. Matthew Franklin. “Effect of Hip Rotation Stretch on the Piriformis Muscle: A Pilot Study.”|
|↑2||Improving Your Flexibility and Balance. Amercian College Of Sports Medicine|
|↑3||Kim, Si-Hyun, Oh-Yun Kwon, Kyue-Nam Park, In-Cheol Jeon, and Jong-Hyuck Weon. “Lower extremity strength and the range of motion in relation to squat depth.” Journal of human kinetics 45, no. 1 (2015): 59-69.|