Hips – Deep Squatting

Humans should be able to squat.  DEEP.  Real deep.  Unlike the hinge that moves the hips back and forth, the squat drops the hips up and down.  All the way through toddlerhood being able to graze the ankles with the butt remains pretty simple.
photo credit: suz-mae.com
But then we start sitting in chairs.  All the time.  Our hips tighten.  People in the eastern half of the world, away from the tradition of chairs, keep right on squatting… AT REST.  It isn’t a chore or an exercise of them.  There’s no labor involved.
photo credit: vagabondjourney.com

In trying to gain back what so many of us have lost, first we see if we can get into position.

Eric Cressey doing his thing.  The exercise starts as 45 sec.

If you can’t touch your toes or have trouble getting your butt below your knees, use a dumbbell or kettle bell to PULL yourself into position.

Make sure your heels are on the ground and your knees are in line with your feet.  Use the bicep curl at the bottom to straighten up your torso and drive your heels DOWN against the weight curling up.

Other than tight hip flexors and loss of dorsiflexion (check the knees and ankles posts),  one of the biggest impedances to squat depth is lack of external hip rotation.  Our adductors or inner thighs tend to overpower other parts of our legs, rotating the hips (and knees) internally.  To combat this, we train the opposite.


1.  On back.  (single leg)
The starting point.  Spine is positioned flat against ground.

video credit: arenal fitness

2.  Seated.  (single leg) 
You have to work a bit more to keep your posture aligned upright.
video credit: body within inc.

3.  Can Opener (Moving Pigeon)
From the great Dan John.  A singe leg mobilization with squat patterning.  This one challenges internal rotation.

4.  Frog Against Ground. (double leg)
Ankles wide, away from midline.  This can also be attempted with feet together or driving through the forearms.  Try to keep your back as neutral (flat) as possible.
video credit: InformFitnessUK

5.  Prone Single Leg Adductor Mobilization
Note that the bent knee is well outside the hip.  The heel of the bent knee foot rotates inward.  You can remain on the inside ridge of the long leg foot or attempt to drive the sole to the ground.

video credit: Eric Cressey

Try one or several of these before attempting to squat deep.  It should help to alleviate some of that sitting stiffness.


  • If you don’t use it, you lose it
  • Check your ankles and hip flexors 
  • Tight inner thighs make for hips and legs that are rotated inward
  • External rotation is needed for proper squatting
  • Start progressions on your back, one appendage at a time

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