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An ass-to-grass (ATG) squat is considered the sure sign of a mobile, injury-free lifter by strength coaches everywhere. But if you can’t hit that position, how do you get your squat deeper? Focus on tissue quality, motor control, and strength. Master these, and even if you have the squatting ability of the Tin Man in a blizzard, you can become a pliable panther with our ATG attack.
The slightest knee bend has your joints feeling as if they’re being stung by a legion of habanero-coated wasps. So you neglect the squat. In the end, though, avoiding a movement because of pain will make the problem only worse and you more immobile.
The biggest culprit silently affecting millions of Americans on a daily basis is a sedentary lifestyle—you can’t squat low if you never squat low. Beyond that, says Perry Nickelston, a chiropractor with stopchasingpain.com, “where you think it is, it ain’t. The knee can only do what the foot can control and the hip will allow.” Translation: Mobilize your feet, ankles, and hips for a better range of motion.
Release, familiarize, and strengthen. Meaning, roll out all the areas mentioned above to break up tight muscle tissue. Then practice squatting deep, either assisted or on your own. Finally, reinforce your newly found range of motion by performing slow, tension-focused squat sessions.
Roll Feet: 2 sets, 60 sec per foot
Wall Ankle Mobility Drill*: 2 sets, 6 reps per leg
Roll Hip Flexor: 2 sets, 60 sec per side
*Stand in front of a wall, feet staggered, with front foot firmly planted, 6 inches from wall. With hands on wall, lean front knee forward until it makes contact.
Assisted Squat Hold*: 3 sets, 30-60 sec
*Hold on to a power rack or a suspension trainer and squat as low as you can. Aim to get rid of the support and work on holding a standard deep squat.
Barbell Back Squat*: 2 sets, 10 reps, 5-5-5 tempo**
*Use 50% of your one-rep max.
**For the tempo: The first number represents the time spent on the lowering phase of the lift, the second represents the pause, and the third is the up portion.