A little while ago, I was thinking about how deeply I could squat. Being able to squat “ass to grass” is a pretty en vogue thing these days as a marker of your hip mobility and overall hip health, so I wanted to test myself out.
My lack of hip mobility was shocking, especially given that I play hockey as a goalie.
I could barely get below parallel. I wasn’t happy with it, and I wanted to make it change.
I did a bunch of adductor stretches (like the sumo adductor stretch) to try to get my hips to let me move, but after several weeks, it didn’t seem like it was helping much. My ankle mobility has always been good, so nothing I did there seemed to make any difference.
I tried doing a bunch of free squats, slowly lowering myself down. I tried stretching my hips in all kinds of directions, never quite finding the right stretch to help. It didn’t matter if I stretched my quads or my hamstrings or my adductors or hip flexors…
Then one day, I took advantage of the beautiful San Diego weather and went to a boot camp class to get my blood moving. After a thorough butt kicking, I was back in the living room, watching TV, stretching things out and trying to get into a deep squat. My hamstrings felt irritable, and I could feel my femurs wanted to rotate laterally (duck footed) as a result of what we’d done at the bootcamp workout.
The stretch was intense — the kind of intense stretch that makes you want to quit but you don’t because you know that if you continue, you’re going to cry tears of joy. After a couple minutes stretching out both sides, I was a much happier man.
All it took was getting my lateral hamstrings stretched out.
That was where the problem had been hiding the whole time. Most hamstring stretches will tend to get you a great stretch on the semitendinosis and semimembranosis but not so much on the biceps femoris. This stretch gets it. If your lateral hamstring is tight, you will feel this stretch all the way from the posterior, inferior, lateral side of your knee (where the lateral hamstring terminates) all the way up into your butt.
Make sure you keep your back in neutral the whole time, hinging at the hip to make sure your hamstrings get the brunt of the stretch and NOT your back muscles.
If it helps you deepen your squat a little, make sure you share this with a friend! Without further ado, here’s the stretch.
The Stretch: Stand facing an elevated surface like a chair or couch. A low stool will also work if you are just starting with this stretch and/or are particularly tight. Place your heel on the surface and pull your toes back. Your knee and toes should be pointing toward the ceiling. Maintaining a neutral spine, twist your upper body to the direction of the outstretched leg. If your left leg is up on the surface, turn to your left. If your right leg is up, turn to the right. You should feel this on the lateral (outside edge) in the back of the knee and thigh and up toward the hip/butt.