Tag Archives: hip mobility

Sumo Deadlift Mobility

sumo-deadlift-dan-green

The sumo deadlift is a little more intricate and technical than the conventional deadlift, which I have covered more in depth in this article. I recently started using the sumo deadlift in my own training and came to find that my hip mobility wasn’t quite as good as it should be for an optimal pulling position with the sumo setup. I will outline below what I did to begin solving the problem! I still have to improve further, but I’m on the right track and seeing great improvements already.

 

How to Pull Sumo

I’m not going to write out a full tutorial here, but if you’re interested in how a sumo deadlift should be pulled, read this.

You can also look up Dan Green deadlift videos on YouTube, if you’re a visual learner.

 

Sumo Deadlift Mobility Demands

The sumo deadlift places a great demand on hip mobility and also ankle mobility. I’ve covered both topics in the linked articles, but I’m going to just give you a few mobility drills and stretches I have personally found helpful in getting into a better sumo deadlift position.

These stretches are what I specifically use for the sumo deadlift position as part of my daily stretching and warmup routines. You should still be stretching your other problem areas as well.

Super Frog Stretch

This is a great way to stretch your hips from Kelly Starrett (Supple Leopard). I’d recommend doing this after lifting and on your off days. Ideally you should stretch your problem areas at least once per day.

Wide Stance Pause Squats

These will stretch your hips a lot in what I guess you can call a weighted dynamic stretch. Take a stance that’s as wide as you can go, while still reaching parallel. Pause at the bottom for the stretch to happen.

I usually do these toward the end of my workouts with very light weight.

Compress Your Hips

Using a Voodoo floss band, wrap your hip(s) up. Then do some hip stretches (i.e. the couch stretch or a half kneeling hip flexor stretch), light sumo deadlift (this will give you a great chance to open up the hips in the exact position you’re trying to improve) and/or light wide stance pause squats. Below is a video showing WTF I’m talking about.

Floss Your Hips

This is basically a hip flexor stretch using a resistance band. I do this as part of my warmup routine.

Mobilize Your Ankles

This is my favorite drill to improve ankle mobility, which – along with better hip mobility – will put you in a better position for sumo pulling.

I usually do this briefly as part of my warmup and then spend another 4-5mins on it after the workout as part of my stretching at the end of the workout. How much time you should spend on it depends on how tight your ankles are.

 

And that’s about it! I have to add that I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer, so take what advice you find helpful with that in mind. As always, I’m just sharing my personal experience and hope it benefits you in some way.

Squat Assistance Work

In this article, I’m going to break down my approach to assistance work for the barbell squat. If  you’re interested in information about the squat movement itself, read my Squat 101 article.

 

More Squats

To get better at the squat, most of my assistance work is simply squatting more. Because I currently use Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 (with principles from his new book Beyond 5/3/1), I do my warmup sets and then my 5/3/1 work sets. This is the main portion of my workout that almost never changes (unless I’m maxing out), but the rest of the workout will vary from cycle to cycle or even week to week.

Personally, one of the things I struggle with is speed, so a lot of my squat workouts recently have had a dynamic work component. This means, for example, that I will do 8 sets of 2 repetitions with 60% of my one repetition maximum. You can get a lot more details about the Dynamic Effort Method from ‘The Westside Barbell Book of Methods‘ (by Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell). You can also read about it in Jordan Syatt’s article ‘Incorporating the Dynamic Effort Method‘. The main point to take away from that is to find a weakness in your squat and improve it.

Similarly, if you’re weak out of the bottom of the squat, pause squats are a great idea. When you reach the bottom position of the squat, stay there for a second, and then use your glutes (as you always should) to squat back up. This almost eliminates the stretch reflex (or the ‘bounce out of the hole’) and allows you to train your glutes, which are extremely important for a strong squat. The pause squat variations shown in the video of the month I posted up a couple days ago are also great and will improve your flexiblity a lot.

Again, all of these are just examples. The point is to find what a weakness is in your squat and attack it with some variations of the squat. Bands and/or chains might also benefit you to alter resistance. I would recommend reading this article about bands and chains written by Dave Tate.

I also do front squats as a warmup on my deadlift day, which increases my frequency for the squat (along with other benefits).

 

Posterior Chain Work

Because I squat high bar, the movement places more stress on my quadriceps than my hamstrings. As a result, I do some work for my posterior chain after I’m done squatting.

Band Good Morning

This is quickly turning into my favorite posterior chain exercise.  I choose this variation of the Good Morning movement for a very simple reason: At this point in the workout, I’m generally tired of having a barbell on my back from all the squatting, so I choose to do these with a band instead. It allows me to get some valuable posterior chain work in without having to put a barbell on my back.

If you have access to a safety squat bar, it might make the regular Good Morning a more feasible option for you. A video of the Band Good Morning is below, but I actually hook the band to something in front of me as shown in this video. Also check out this video about the Barbell Good Morning.

Stiff Legged Deadlift (SLDL)

Another excellent exercise for your hamstrings and entire posterior chain.

Cable Pull Through

This one is great for your hips as well.

Kettlebell Swing

These will also hit your hips and your entire posterior chain. They will also help make you more explosive.

Glute Bridge

I also like to do a band variation of this movement right now because most of my energy is used for squats, but doing them with a loaded barbell is a great idea as well.

Hip Thrust

Another great one for your hips and glutes.

Glute Ham Raise

I can’t do a posterior chain exercise list without these.

 

Abs

Strong abdominal muscles and core stability are important with the squat. I don’t like sit ups, because they tend to involve the lower back (not in a good way) a lot unless your form is absolutely perfect. I’m also not a fan of most crunch variations for the same reason, but I do like the one below.

Standing Cable Crunch

I actually do this one on my deadlift day, because it’s basically the opposing movement pattern. It could easily be used on squat day as well though.

Ab Wheel Rollouts

These are my favorite abdominal exercise. It’s optimal to have an ab wheel to perform this exercise, but you can also load some plates on a barbell and do rollouts with that.

Planks

These are a great exercise to build some baseline core stability. I think you should be able to hold a plank for 60 seconds or longer. The ability to hold your core stable will help in keeping your torso rigid during the squat. This will help prevent rounding in your back. The Hardcore Plank can also be a challenge on its own. Some more plank variations are shown in the video below.

Rotational Core Exercises

These are mainly to strengthen your obliques. Elliott Hulse describes a few variations in the video below.

 

Explosiveness and Conditioning

Dynamic effort or speed squats as described above (in the ‘More Squats’ paragraph) will help develop more explosive power and speed, but there are some other ways to do this as well.

Box Jumps

Other jump exercises can also benefit you. You can make jumping an entire separate workout, so choose something simple if you’re doing it at the end of a squat workout.

You’ll need something like a plyo box to jump onto. You can also build your own.

Sprints

My favorite are hill sprints. Jim Wendler also recommends them in his 5/3/1 book, which is the training program I follow as mentioned above.

Prowler Pushes

These are terrific. Like sprints and jumps, you might want to make these a separate workout. You’ll need a prowler or just get the Butcher from Rogue. It’s basically the same thing and a little cheaper I believe. Or you can go all out and get this badass push/pull sled.

 

Lower Back

A lot of the posterior chain exercises will target this (i.e. the Good Morning and SLDL), but if you need some more lower back work, here are a couple exercises I like.

Back Extension or Hyperextension

You can also use a jumpstretch band and wrap it around your neck. Or simply hold a weight. (My personal preference would be a band though.)

Reverse Hypers

Who better to teach it than Louie Simmons?

 

Unilateral Exercises

While I don’t think it’s wise to replace bilateral leg exercises with exercises done on one leg, I do think unilateral exercises can be a nice addition to your squat workout. Below are a few exercises I like.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Pistol Squat

 

Lunges

There are a ton of different lunge exercises you can do. They’re great for increasing flexibility and also strengthening your legs.

Body Weight Forward Lunge

You can add a weighted vest, a barbell (front rack or on your back) or hold dumbbells to make it more difficult.

Rear or Reverse Lunge

This one is shown with a front loaded barbell, but you can do them without weight, with dumbbells, etc. as well of course. I actually prefer these over forward lunges.

 

Other Things to Consider

Obviously the list above is not a complete one of all the options available to you. They are simply a selection of my personal favorite exercises within those categories. I don’t do all of these exercises every squat workout, but I try to hit my weaknesses in various ways when I have the energy and time. You will have to prioritize what is most important to you and select exercises accordingly.

Hip flexibility and ankle flexibility are very important with the squat. I’ve written articles on both topics already, so I’m not going to cover them in this article. It’s already getting long with all the exercises. Most of my mobility and active recovery work is done with separate workouts, but a nice way to finish a squat day is to do a few explosive hip mobility drills as seen in the video below.

 

I think that about covers my approach to assistance work for the squat. This actually turned into a longer article than I was expecting. Again… I wouldn’t recommend doing all of the exercises listed all the time. They are just some options I like to target weak areas. Simply squatting a lot will usually translate to a stronger squat, but sometimes you need to tweak things a little bit to improve something.

I’m not a doctor, personal trainer or anything like that. I’m simply a guy who loves to lift weights and acquire knowledge on the topic. If you have something to add to this article, feel free to leave a comment.

Improve Hip & Ankle Mobility – Video of the Month

This one is from Jonnie Candito, who is quickly turning into my favorite YouTuber, about two great exercises to improve hip mobility and ankle mobility. The two exercises are a narrow stance pause front squat and a wide stance pause back squat. A bonus of the front squat variation is also a thoracic mobility improvement. I will be including these movements in my own training for sure. The video is below.

Limber 11 Video – Upgrade of Agile 8

One of the most popular lower body warmup and general flexibility routines has been the Agile 8 from Joe DeFranco. The video below is a new and improved version called the Limber 11, also from Joe DeFranco. This routine will improve your hip mobility and can be a part of your daily active recovery work.

Tools you will need: Lacrosse Ball | Foam Roller – A PVC pipe does the trick and the Rumble Roller is probably the best foam roller you can buy. I also like the Trigger Point The Grid foam roller.

Deadlift Assistance Work

Elliott Hulse from strengthcamp posted a video today about two powerful deadlift isolation movements that will improve your posture, set a great foundation that will allow for a mechanically sound deadlift movement pattern, and one of them (the underhand static barbell hold) will also improve your grip strength. Below is the video.

The movement he demonstrates in the video is basically a Prone Cobra, which you can do daily. The underhand static hold with a barbell he also describes (but doesn’t show in this particular video) will be a little more taxing on your grip, so I tend to do those once a week on a day when I don’t deadlift. For me, this is squat day.

To go along with all of that, I’ve put together a very quick list of some deadlift assistance movements that have been helpful to myself and might also benefit you. Read my Deadlift 101 article for a basic rundown of the barbell deadlift basics first, then add these movements into your assistance work at your own discretion.

 

The Front Squat

The front squat is my favorite compound assistance movement for both the deadlift and back squat, because it forces you into a position that requires good hip mobility, good thoracic flexiblity and generally good posture overall. It’s an up-and-down movement, whereas you sit back somewhat with the back squat (moreso with a low bar squat, but also with an Olympic style high bar squat), and with the bar loaded on the front it really puts a lot of stress on your anterior core (your abs) to keep an upright torso. Hip mobility – and also ankle mobility – are tested by this movement too, because the legs have to go somewhere, when you’re squatting straight down.

The result is that people with poor posture are generally unable to front squat properly. It quickly teaches you where you’re f#cked up. There are a couple paragraphs and videos about the front squat in my Squat 101 article, which I would suggest you read. For this particular article today, I’ll leave you with a basic tutorial video for the front squat.

 

The Cable Pull Through

It makes your glutes and hamstrings stronger.

 

Glute Ham Raise

It (also) makes your glutes and hamstrings stronger.

 

Good Morning

Jordan Syatt actually did a great article about this exercise here. I also like the band good morning shown below.

 

Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust is another great way to target your glutes (and the rest of your posterior chain). I’ll let Kellie Davis teach you about them.

The short bridge is like a body weight hip thrust, which you can pretty much do every day. The barbell hip thrust will be more taxing. Get your hump on!

 

Ab Wheel Rollout

A stronger anterior core can help build a stronger deadlift.

Bro science ‘proof’ that ab wheel rollouts work: Here we have Konstantin Konstantinov doing ab wheel rollouts with weight on his back. And here we have Konstantin Konstantinov deadlifting 413kg/910lbs without a belt.

 

Standing Cable Crunch

Another great ab exercise. They’re Jonnie Candito‘s favorite ab exercise for a reason!

 

Obviously, all sorts of rows will have tons of carryover to your deadlift as well, but the exercises above are some you may not have thought about yet. As always, this is all just my opinion. Do what you think is best for you!

Hip Mobility

Other Mobility Articles: Shoulder Mobility | Thoracic Mobility | Ankle Mobility

 

In this article, I’ll be covering some basic stretches and exercises to improve hip mobility. Healthy hips are important both in everyday life and also at the gym or in various sports, so there is really no reason not to make it a priority to at least have decent hip mobility.

 

Can You Squat?

If you can’t high bar back squat ATG (ass to grass) with a fairly upright torso or you’re unable to keep a vertical torso when front squatting, there is a pretty good chance hip mobility is at least part of the reason why. Usually it’s not the only issue of course, but it tends to be a contributing factor.

A full squat is a natural movement that every person should be able to perform. Optimally, you should be able to spend a long time in the bottom position of a body weight squat with your heels on the ground, your feet pointing forward or slightly outward (about 15 degrees) and your knees at least tracking your feet (possibly outside of your feet, if you have excellent hip mobility). It’s a natural way of sitting. It forces you to use muscles that are basically inactive when you’re sitting on a chair.

A squat performed properly will also stretch your hips, so the squat stretch is a great start for a hip mobility routine.

 

The Squat Stretch

This is a great way to stretch your hips, among other things. It also gets you used to sitting in a natural position and will have direct carryover to a lot of lifts like any squat variation, the clean, the snatch, etc. If you can’t spend 10 minutes in the bottom of a body weight squat, you have some work to do. I embedded the first Mobility WOD 10 minute squat video below and linked some more of the 10min squat test videos from Kelly Starrett as well. It shows you some different variations of the squat stretch you can try out whenever you test your ability to stay in the bottom position of a squat for 10 minutes. Push your knees out at the bottom with your elbows, if you can.

10min squat test with a twist | 10min squat test with some more info about foot position | 10 minute squat test with a box | 10min squat test with a banded squat stretch

If you’re unable to get into the bottom position or unable to stay in the bottom position for longer than a minute freestanding, feel free to hang onto something in front of you to get your 10 minutes in. Try to progress to a point where you can do 10 minutes freestanding and beyond. Another good method is using a jumpstretch band to support yourself like this. The band-supported squat stretch also allows you to work on ankle mobility while you’re in the bottom position of a full body weight squat.

My personal experience with the 10 minute squat stretch test: The first time I tried the 10 minute squat stretch test, I was able to get about a minute of freestanding squat stretch time in the bottom position and I spent the rest of the time hanging on to a pole in front of me. About a month later, after daily squat stretches with mostly 2-3min sets of squat stretch adding up to 10mins/day, I was able to sit in the bottom of the squat stretch for 11 minutes straight. Mobility work is mostly about persistence. If you do it often, you will see progress fairly quickly. It also helps to work through soreness, so you’re killing two birds with one stone.

 

Going Beyond the Squat Stretch

Once you can hang out in the bottom of the squat stretch for 10 minutes, it’s fairly easy to maintain that level of hip mobility. I rarely go beyond 20 seconds at a time in the bottom of the squat stretch now, but sometimes I test myself and I can still do 10+ minutes easily. Just do it as part of your warmup and outside of the gym when you have time to keep the hip mobility you’ve earned through hard work. Paused ATG squats and front squats also help, along with the Olympic lifts if you do them.

 

Beyond the squat stretch, there are some other things that can be done to maintain good hip mobility. I’ll start with a nice set of hip mobility drills from Jonnie Candito. I do these exercises immediately after my lower body workouts like he suggests and I really feel like they help prevent soreness and maintain good flexibility in the hips.

 

The Lower Extremity Basic List below from MWOD will also benefit your hips.

 

Here is a great hip opener to do before a lower body workout courtesy of powerlifter Mark Bell.

 

Another one from Kelly Starrett.

 

Also foam roll your hips (along with just about everything else that’s tight) and do the couch stretch!

 

Some more hip mobility videos on YouTube: Hip opening with a box and lacrosse ball | Hip opener yoga | ‘Couch Stretch’ against a wall | Desk athlete hip rescue | Clearing hip impingement | Deadlift or pulling prep with hip mobility work | Better hip extension

 

That about wraps up hip mobility. I like to keep things basic, but if you feel I missed anything important, leave it in the comments. As always, it’s just my approach. I’m not a doctor.

Best Reads of the Week

Here are some great articles published this week about working out.

The 30 Second Mobility Cure by Max Shank — Some information on how sitting a lot destroys your body and an exercise called a Thoracic Bridge, which you can do to help counter the effects of being in a seated position a lot. A tutorial video for the movement is included in the article.

Training for Maximum Muscle Growth Explained by Bret Contreras – A fairly informative article on how to combine various training variables to grow bigger and stronger.

Four Reasons You Might Not Need to Deload by Eric Cressey – In this article, Eric Cressey explores some situations you might find yourself in, when you don’t need to take deload weeks within the context of your workout routine.

Back to Basics: Creating an Effective Fat Loss Program by Jordan Syatt – A nice set of basic guidelines to follow, when you’re trying to lose fat in an efficient manner.

Six Diet Myths That Are Holding You Back by Jake Johnson – He touches on some very common dieting myths that a lot of people still seem to believe.