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One of the common movement issues we deal with at our gym is improper squatting. It’s one of our staple movements and a base for many other functional movements we use in our programming. We are both a CrossFit gym and a Barbell club which makes squatting an unavoidable movement. Now, if you squat heavy, it is common that at some point in time your knees will cave in during the ascent. This becomes a problem when it is always caving in, even when using light weight during a warm-up. Ideally, the knees should track inline with your toes in both the descent and ascent of the squat.
Why are my knees buckling in? – The knee is a hinge joint in between two other hinge joints, the ankle and hips. Although weakness may be the cause, in most cases improper squatting will point to lack of mobility issues with your ankles or hips. Having poor mobility in any of these two sets of joints will restrict you from squatting properly and cause either your knees to cave in or a forward inclination of the chest or both.
Your first step is to isolate where your lack of mobility lies. Is it your ankles or hips? Step two is to find accessory exercises that will help you increase mobility.
Ankle mobility test: There is a simple test to check your ankle mobility.
- Step – While facing a wall, come down to one knee while the other leg is lunged out with your toes against the wall. Now, while keeping your foot planted, move the knee forward until it makes contact with the wall.
- Move your foot 1″ away from the wall and repeat the step. Continue to do this one inch at a time.
- If your results are less than 4″, you may have an ankle flexibility issue.
Ankle mobility Exercises: Now I googled “ankle mobility exercises” and here are some of the drills that came up. If you go to YouTube University, I’m sure you will find a video to demonstrate the proper movement or you can get with one of your coaches to assist you. –
- Calf Rollout
- Plantar Fascia Rollout
- Straight Leg Calf Stretch
- Bent Knee Calf Stretch
- Ankle Rockers
- Ankle Circles
- Plantar Fascia/Toes Stretch
Hip mobility Exercises: If you passed the ankle mobility test then as in most cases the cause will be hip flexibility restriction.
- Lying Hip Rotations
- Piriformis Stretch
- Butterfly Stretch
- Frog Stretch
- Kneeling Lunge
- Traveling Butterfly
- Squatting Internal Rotations
- Pigeon Stretch
Some of the benefits to working on your mobility are:
- Increased range of motion – Having full range of motion in your movements will allow you to get into the proper positions and therefore providing you the opportunity to continue training and refining your technique and build strength.
- Injury prevention – Getting into the proper body positions and avoiding improper body positions will help you avoid getting hurt.
- Reduced soreness to allow for a quicker recovery – How difficult is it when you want to train the next day but feel way too sore from chronic inflammation. Focusing on your mobility helps reduce that soreness allowing you to feel confident and ready for your next training.
Be patient and consistent with your mobility. These issues don’t go away overnight. Ideally, stretching 2x a day for about 15 minutes would be very helpful but most of us will either say we don’t have the time or just feel lazy and never get around to doing it. If you’re serious about remedying this issue then you will have to devote time into the solution.