Why My Squat Is A Mess (Part 1)

Nobody likes to be picked on.  Nobody likes to be picked on especially when it comes to how they move.  Therefore, to educate you on some of the most important factors of movement quality all while giving myself a self-roast of sorts, you can learn and laugh.  Let’s call it edutainment!  Thus, I’m going to breakdown for you why my squat is a mess.  

Many individuals tend to become frustrated with their squat due to lack of depth, lack of ability to maintain an upright posture, and lack of ability to track their legs properly on the descent and rise.  Whether it’s associated to any of these potentials, pain also tends to be a primary frustration for individuals in the back, groin/hips, knee, and even upper back/shoulders.

Tight, restricted, hypomobile, shotty, limited (whatever other term you want to use is fine) ankles have the ability to cause any or all of the above.  While it may not be the first dysfunctional area you’d think about, especially if you weren’t actually having pain there, it is definitely one of the most crucial yet undervalued areas to focus on for healthy squats.

So why are the ankles so important for the squat?  Well, most simply put, they are the first or closest contact point with the ground.  As your foot stays mostly stable to give you your base of support the ankle needs to be free to move so the lower leg can translate forward on the fixed foot.  If the lower leg (tibia) cannot translate forward appropriately, then the entire mechanical chain will be dysfunctional without significant compensation.  Think less chance for thighs at or below parallel, forward trunk lean, butt wink, and instability at the knee joint in the frontal plane (knees will go in or out with lack of control).  

We’re all different in foot/ankle complex make up but there are two possibilities that would make it imperative for any individual to seek help to address the dysfunctions at the ankle.  The first concern possibility is a lack of mobility with a simple half kneeling ankle mobility test or staggered stance test.  The second concern possibility is asymmetry side to side.  Past ankle injuries, unknown restrictions, or repetitive stresses can create big differences right vs. left that will potentially lead to short term compensations that become long term problems.  

So if you want to self-assess if ankle mobility is a concern for your squat pattern, you can follow the simple screen included in the following video.  And yes...eventually, I’ll show you my messy squat...like I said, it’s edutainment!


Yours in health,


Dr. Eric Wallace, PT, TPIMP