These stretches double as active mobility exercises that will prime your muscles and open your hips, shoulders, and ankles for better movement in your squats. Complete this series as a dynamic warm up, then add in a few muscle activating exercises before tackling the heavy barbell work!
Start in a plank position with hands directly under the shoulders. Push hands into the ground as you lift your hips up towards the ceiling and back towards your heels. Stretch your arms and lower your chest towards your thighs as you stretch through the hamstrings and lower your heels towards the group. Return to the plank position then drop your hips towards the ground as you extend your arms and lift chest towards the ceiling. Move through each position 5-10x each.
Step your right foot forward and bend the knee into a deep lunge. Bring your left hand to touch the ground and gently twist your spine to reach your right arm towards the ceiling. Hold this reach for 5 seconds. Rotate your spine back to neutral and shift your weight into the back foot to return back to the starting position. Repeat the same movement with your left foot. Alternate sides, complete 5-10 reps each side.
Stand with feet wide apart. Shift your weight laterally into the right leg, bend at the knee, and lower into a squat keeping the left leg extended. Return to the standing position, then shift your weight into the left leg, lower into a squat, and extend the right leg. You should be feeling a deep stretch in your inner thighs. Repeat 5-10x, holding for a few seconds each side.
This yoga posture actively stretches quads muscles, opens the knee joints, and increases ankle mobility which will all help to increase your range of motion in a squat. Kneel on a soft surface with your toes and tops of your feet planted on the ground. Knees should be wider than your hips and ankles should be in line with your knees. Sit back and rest your tailbone in the empty space between your legs. Hold this position anywhere from 2-5 minutes. To advance, sit directly on top of your heels to bring more of a stretch to your ankles.
Position yourself on hands and knees, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and knees aligned under your hips. Gently push back into a child’s pose stretch with your arms extended and hips reaching towards your ankles. Allow your head to drop towards the ground, stretching the back of your neck. Return back to the starting position on hands and knees. Complete this mobility exercise with toes curled under and then again with toes flattened. Complete 10 reps slowly.
Step feet hip distance apart, bend at the knees, and place forearms on top of your thighs. While keeping forearms on thighs, straighten your legs and let your gaze go towards your legs. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings, but keep knees slightly bent if the stretch is too intense. Hold for 5 seconds. Bend your knees deeply to return to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 reps.
Stand with feet wide apart and toes turned out slightly. Bend your knees and lower into a deep squat, putting the weight of your body into your heels. Bring your hands into a prayer position and gently press your elbows against the inside of your knees to pry them apart. Holding this position, slowly shift your weight side to side, deepening your squat and widening your hips as you hold the position for 1-2 minutes. Repeat 3 times.
This stretch is a great way to self-assess if you are ready to start adding weights to your squats. Take note of which part of this squat complex is challenging for you and determine what areas of your body need mobility work (shoulders, hips, ankles, etc.) Stand with feet wider than your hips and toes slightly turned outwards. Reach your arms up towards the ceiling and engage your core. Bend at the hips slowly until you can touch your ankles. While holding on to the ankles, bend your knees and squat deeply. While maintaining the squat, release the hold on your ankles and reach your arms up towards the ceiling. Push your weight through your heels, hamstrings, and glutes as you return to a standing position. Repeat this exercise for 8-12 reps