The snatch is one of the most complex movements in strength sports, requiring the highest degrees of neuromuscular patterning, power, strength and stability, and systemic mobility. The overhead squat positioning is often a limiting aspect of the snatch, resulting in poor receiving position, lack of depth in the catch, and instability in the last half of the movement.
Often, I see people who are poor at overhead squatting, who continue to squat, hoping to suddenly improve. More often than not, they slightly improve, like one would performing any new movement, only to develop injuries and poor mechanics that soon come back to haunt them in more complex movements, like snatches. Addressing the mobility issues for the overhead squat should be a systematic approach, one that examines the necessary joint actions, flexibility, and stability throughout every joint that make up the whole. This piece by piece checklist will allow you to break down the individual aspects that may be limiting the overhead squat.
In this article (part one of two part series) we will start from the ground up, specifically looking at foot, ankle, knee, and hip mobility. Part two will cover thoracic, shoulder, elbow, and wrist mobility limitation and solutions.
Feet and Ankles
Stiffness in the plantar fascia, Achilles, and calves will drastically affect the ability to dorsiflex the ankles, which is necessary for a forward angled of the shins. Stretching and myofascial release of the fascia below the feet may decrease any pain/stiffness. I tend to recommend stretches of lifting the big toe while in a squat position and or mobilization of the ankle through the full range of motion nearly every day. Increased stiffness in the calves can also contribute to both ankle and knee stiffness as well, so be sure to actively stretch (I thoroughly recommend static stretching post exercise if stiff calves are an issue). Examples for mobility would be:
Big Toe Stretch
Squat Toe Presses + Lifts
Knee stiffness is a very common occurrence with squatters. In the overhead position, knee flexion is maximized to allow for a vertical torso. Tightness in the calves, hamstrings, and quads can all contribute to poor knee joint movement. Examples of two mobility/stretching exercises for to improve knee function are:
Hip and Quad Stretch
Active/Passive Hamstring Stretches
The hips are a ball and socket joint, allowing for movement in multiple planes of motion (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, circumduction). The ability to move the joint freely within the hip socket is vital to squatting, as all movement planes are needed throughout the entire range of motion. Poor hip mobility can result from issues at the hip, around the hip, or above or below the hip joint, making this joint by joint checklist a necessary part in the diagnosis of the specific limitation(s) while performing the overhead squat. To articulate joint mobility and control throughout the entire range of motion, I often find myself performing the following movements:
The Other Half
Part two of this mobility checklist will address thoracic, shoulder, and elbow/wrist mobility as it relates to the overhead squat. By moving through the body in a systematic manner, coaches and athletes should be able to address the limiting joint/muscles/connective tissue impeding a specific movement.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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