Improve Your Squat With 6 At-Home Hip Flexor Mobility Exercises

STACK Expert Phillip Michael Vaughn prescribes six hip flexor mobility exercises to improve your Squat.

Hip Flexor Stretches

Photo: AP

In any decent gym you will find the basics: squat racks, benches, medicine balls, plyometric boxes, etc. These tools can help you get stronger and produce force. But where are the hurdles, foam rollers, stretch bands and other tools that can help you increase range of motion?

The ability to successfully perform a Squat or Power Clean depends on strength, technique and flexibility. In my work as a sports performance coach, I often see athletes with limited range of motion, which hurts their ability to lift the bar from the floor. They don't have enough hip flexibility to do a deep Squat that maximizes force.

The movements listed below require very little equipment—nothing more than a basic foam roller and a piece of PVC pipe, both of which can be found or created from materials at your local hardware store. All of the exercises can be done in a small space and be used as a warm-up, stretching session or as part of a workout.

Guidelines

Place the roller under your glutes, inner thighs, quadriceps, or upper hip area. Roll the object, adding pressure until you notice a slight discomfort. The goal is to release tension, not necessarily produce a deep tissue massage. When you reach an area of discomfort, continue to apply light pressure and hold for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe as you roll over the targeted areas to allow your muscles to loosen further and release.

After foam rolling, you should notice increased range of motion in certain areas and feel less tight in others.

Exercises

The following movements can be performed as stretches, multiple repetitions or as part of a dynamic warm-up. They can be done in place or, is sufficient space is available, over a specified distance.

PVC Overhead Squat

  • Holding a piece of PVC pipe over your head, squat as low as possible.
  • Keep your feet planted flat on the floor.
  • This will open up your hips and increase the depth of the Squat.
  • Remember to keep your chest as upright as possible.

Kneeling Hip Extension

  • Kneel on one knee and plant your opposite foot  firmly on the ground.
  • Gently lean forward to the desired range of motion.
  • Keep your chest as upright as possible.
  • Raise your arms overhead to get an even deeper stretch.
  • Perform the same movement on the other side.
  • Complete both sides to avoid muscle imbalances.

Spider Stretch

  • Starting in push-up position, move your right foot forward toward your right hand.
  • Plant your foot firmly.
  • Lower your body toward the ground until you feel a mild stretch in the muscles of your inner thigh and hip flexor.
  • Depending on depth of your stretch, you may feel this in your glutes as well.
  • Perform on your left side.

Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your feet planted flat on the floor.
  • Keep your head on the floor and your arms out to the side.
  • Extend your hips toward the sky.
  • You should feel a stretch in your hip flexors and quadriceps.

Fire Hydrants

  • Begin on your hands and knees.
  • Raise one leg and bend your knee ninety degrees.
  • Abduct the hip (raise it up to the side) while maintaining the same knee angle.
  • Reach your knee up as far as possible, then return to the starting position.
  • Do not let your body sway or move, and keep your back flat.
  • Perform on the opposite side.

Knee Circles

  • Begin on your hands and knees.
  • Raise one leg and bend your knee ninety degrees.
  • Move your knee through a full circular range of motion, forward to back and vice versa.
  • Imagine raising your knee over an object (like a cone).
  • Keep your torso steady and your back flat.
  • Perform on opposite side.

To increase your hip flexor mobility, use these exercises at home in your free time or as part of your warm-up routine in the gym. By increasing your range of motion, you will see your power numbers in the weight room increase and reduce your risk of injury. As with any stretching movement, these exercises are best performed after a 5- to 10-minute light warm-up. They can be performed as many times as necessary to maintain flexibility.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | WARM-UP | STRETCHING | EXERCISES | HIP FLEXOR | EXERCISE | RANGE OF MOTION