Squats 4

“I broke my ankle 6 years ago and my mobility is very limited now. Squats are my favorite exercise but I am having a hard time getting to parallel unless I put a 2×4 under my heels. Any other suggestions?” – Tim Paulmert

Most people typically have really tight ankles. This can be responsible, along with tight hips, for not being able to hit deep squats. Previous injuries, unsupportive footwear, sedentary jobs, and poor hydration are typically the contributing factors. Here are some strategies you can use to open up your ankles again and get moving better.

Sled Dragging Variations

Sled dragging will help to get you anchored back to the ground and awaken your feet. It will also force your ankles into new angles and improve your range of motion. Try all directions; forward drags, backward drags, and lateral drags.

Hill Walking

Hill walking will force your ankles into dorsiflexion – the missing range of motion for a deeper squat. You will not only strengthen your legs, improve your leg drive, and up your work capacity, you will also strengthen your ankles through a wider range of motion.

Olympic Shoes

As a side note, Olympic weightlifting shoes can replace your 2×4 and offer a safer alternative. Because of the rigid and elevated heel, you’ll be able to compensate for lack of mobility at the ankles and maintain a better position when you squat. 

Specific Mobility

Pre-workout mobility drills are critical to performance and better form. Here is a great 4 exercise circuit that has worked wonders for my athletes. Hit this circuit before you squat, and in between your first couple of sets during the workout.


The Barbell Overhead Press

I’m having trouble getting my deltoids to respond to shoulder training. What can I do to get them to grow?” – Hope Hollinshead

Nothing beats the basics. 

Heavy strength training with compound movements like military press and shrugs (and all of their variations) are the key to adding mass; as long as you have your nutrition and recovery dialed in. You’ll want to make these movements – and their variations – the center of your program for your upper body workouts.

But remember, the shoulder has the greatest movement of any joint in the body. Knowing this, you’ll want to attack it at every angle and use every implement. 

Hit your military presses with barbells and dumbbells. Dumbbell military press variations include a neutral grip (palms facing), underhand grip, Arnold presses, and the conventional 90/90 position. There are also many different barbells you can use if you have any shoulder issues. A Swiss bar or ‘football bar’ where the hand holds are parallel to each other, offer an easier alternative for beat up shoulders.

As you move into the higher volume, supplemental work, cycle in various side lateral, front raise, and posterior flye variations.  With your accessory exercises, you can really get intense with some higher volume protocols.  Instead of thinking straight sets x reps, try time-based and reps-based sets.

Time-Based Sets

Pick a length of time and perform an exercise until the time is complete. For example, hit a 45-second set of side laterals, trying to get as many reps with good form as you can get inside the time interval.

Reps-Based Sets

Pick a total number of reps you want to hit for a particular exercise, then perform as few sets as needed to get to that number – resting as short as possible. For example, hitting 100 reps for front raises might take you 4-5 sets.

The great thing about reps-based and time-based sets is that they’re simple and easy to incorporate. No need to think about sets x reps, just pick an exercise and get to work.

To make sure you are able to train safe and lift as intense as possible, try out these 2 critical shoulder savers.



Meet the Lift Doctor

Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the LIVESTRONG.com Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most “innovative strength coaches” in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach “beyond their potential.” He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.