This is first in a series of articles discussing unconventional methods of addressing mobility, control and movement.
Personally, I had tried the same methods over and over while attempting to get deep into my squat. This mostly involved the linear process of going from Point A (Standing) to Point B (Squatting). A lot of it was trying to sit in Point B for extended periods of time. While that did benefit me some, it wasn’t until I found and played with different techniques that I made serious headway in my positions.
The following are a set of tools that you probably haven’t tried before. They will get you thinking differently and moving differently. You may even discover other connections or techniques within the techniques here. If so, I’d love to hear them.
1.Paint the Floor
We’ll kick things off with one of my favorites. Here we have a technique called “painting the floor,” which I learned during a Feldenkrais session from Todd Hargrove. For those unfamiliar with Feldenkrais or awareness through movement (ATM), it is comprised of a moving slowly through small ranges of motion with periodic breaks. These breaks allow your CNS to discover the most efficient path out of the input variables you just entered.
Our application of this involves getting as deep as you can into your squat, cossack squat, pigeon pose, splits etc and simply running your hand across the floor. Cover as much area as you can while using your fingertips, the whole of your hand or even your forearms. What we’re doing is familiarizing our nervous system with the environment while making small but important articulations throughout a variety of joints.
If you’ve never tried a Feldenkrais lesson, I strongly encourage you to do so. OpenATM.org has hours upon hours of recorded sessions. You’ll spend anywhere from 20-60 minutes working on very small ranges and movements for whatever area of the body you choose. Feldenkrais involves being PRESENT – so turn off any music, put your phones away and dedicate your time and conscious attention to what you’re doing. Your results will be profound.
2. Hip Socket Pry
Here we have a technique that I learned a number of years ago from my first Olympic weightlifting coach.
Set up in a half kneeling position, with your lead leg in the same hip/foot position that you use for your back squat or front squat.
Gently sit back into the hip of the lead leg, pressing back almost in a diagonal motion. From here, you can just move your pelvis around, quietly gyrating into different positions like you’re go-go dancing at a silent rave. Wait…what?
Just explore. Look for tension and rock in and out. Maybe even lift your arms overhead while you do this.
3. Reverse Squat
Pretty simple drill here. This version of a reverse squat involves chopping up a goblet squat.
The goblet squat itself is a fantastic tool to help improve core stability, external hip rotation and thoracic extension. With that, holding a weight in front can make up for LACK of anterior core stability. If you try to drop into a deep squat with no added resistance and you crumble forward and round your spine, it would behoove you to improve your intrinsic core stability.
So when you add a weight to the equation (goblet squat), you’ll find out that you can maintain a more upright torso position on the descent and ascent.
Our game plan:
- Hold a weight at chest height (kettle bell, dumbbell, plate, child)
- Take a deep breath and brace
- Control the eccentric portion to the deepest hip position
- Slowly lower the weight to the floor
- Stand back up, staying as vertical as possible through the torso
We don’t necessarily need that heavy of a weight here, although I do recommend playing to see what works best for you. One of our goals is to actually use less and less weight, while still being able to keep a tall spine.
4. Battle Squats
Why are grapplers and athletes who practice hand to hand combat so mobile and stable?
Well, a whole bunch of reasons. One of them being the fact that their sport involves interacting with a dynamic, unpredictable component – another human being. What better way to challenge a variety of positions throughout the whole body.
We can use turn this into a tool to help us in our own training. Grab a partner and get down into your lowest squats – the depth doesn’t matter. Playfully push and pull with them, always trying to surprise them while staying on your own defense and maintaining a rigid position.
These small articulations at a variety of joints will allow your nervous system to test and interpret the information, creating stability where appropriate, as well as allowing mobility where needed to stay grounded.
You might even be surprised on the benefits from just a few sessions of practice here. In the future, I’ll go over some more partner methods we can add to our training to further challenge our movement.
5. Crawl to Squat
Generally when we enter a squat, its from a standing position. The whole point of all these exercises is to enrich the environment in which we open our hips. If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’ll get the same results.
For this one, begin in a plank position. Step one leg forward to a deep lunge, then follow with the other leg. Then reverse the sequence back to start. Try your best to keep the hips as low as possible through the transitions.
The harder variation is to move into the squat from a bear crawl or some other locomotion method. This can easily be turned into a flow sequence, where you can build and build through different positions. Have fun with it.
I hope you all enjoy the methods I presented here today. Play with them in your warm up, between sets, or whenever-wherever.
Although I primarily provide examples in the videos of squat variations and external rotation at the hip, we can tweak them to discover some internal rotation as well.
My goal is to help you think differently about your mobility and how you move as a human being.
Change how you move, change how you think. Discover the power here.
Let’s finish with a quote today from coreographer Martha Graham,
Nothing is more revealing than movement.
All that is important in this one moment is movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.
Stay tuned for next Monday I’ll drop a post on Unconventional Shoulder Mobility.