9 Best Stretches To Do Before (& After) Squats

 1. Squat to Overhead Reach

Squat to Overhead Reach

This full-body dynamic stretch mimics the movement of squatting while also working the upper body. It improves balance and coordination while getting you ready for squatting.

 How to

  • Start by standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Begin the movement by squatting down and swinging the arms behind you while ensuring your heels stay on the ground. 
  • As you transition to standing, simultaneously extend the knees, hips, and both arms reaching up towards the sky. 
  • Alternatively, go all the way up on your tiptoes to involve the calves.
  • Repeat

2. Leg Swings

Leg swings particularly focus on your lower body, stretching the calf, quadriceps, hamstrings, and groin muscles.

 How to 

  • Begin by standing on one leg, keeping this leg as a base.
  • With controlled motion, swing your leg forward and then backward.
  • Throughout the exercise, remember to engage your core muscles for stability and prevent arching of your back, which can lead to strains.

3. Deep Lunge with Thoracic Rotation

deep lunge with thoracic rotation

This exercise effectively enhances thoracic mobility, core stability, and overall functional movement patterns. It involves the largest amount of muscles we have seen so far, including the following:

  • Quadratus Lumborum (QL- deep lower back muscle) is responsible for stabilizing the spine and the pelvis.
  • Obliques: Both the internal and external obliques are engaged during the rotation. 
  • Erector Spinae: Spinal stabilizer providing support to your spine during the rotation.
  • Thoracic Spinal Muscles: The mid-back, thoracic region muscles, including the intercostal muscles and rotatores. 
  • Hip Flexors: the lunge position also engages the hip flexors, like the psoas major and iliacus, to stabilize the hip joint. 
  • Shoulders: Reaching with the arm up will highly engage the shoulder muscles.

How to:

  • Get in a lunge position and place your hand opposite the leg on the ground for balance. 
  • Begin by twisting/rotating your body, while simultaneously raising/stretching the free arm upwards as if you’re trying to touch the sky.
  • Do this until you reach your maximum comfortable thoracic rotation.
  • Hold this position briefly and return to the start.
  • Repeat, then switch sides.

4. 90/90 Hip Mobility Drill

90 90 hip mobility drill

This drill focuses on enhancing hip internal and external rotation within the hip joint, which is essential for perfect squatting.

How to:

  • Begin by sitting on the ground with both legs bent at 90-degree angles, creating an ‘L” shape with each leg.
  • Without using your hands for assistance, rotate your hips while switching the positions of your legs.
  • Regularly switching and rotating exercises can help loosen the muscles around the hips and enhance mobility.

If you find it difficult to switch without placing your hands behind you, feel free to start with your hands on the ground until your hip mobility improves.

5. Deep Squat with a Plate (Heel Elevated)

Deep Squat with a Plate

Elevating the heels can be particularly beneficial for individuals with ankle mobility restrictions. It enables a deeper squat while maintaining a neutral spine.

This positioning optimizes the engagement of the quadriceps and glutes while safeguarding your knee joints. It is also a very squat-specific exercise, improving overall squat performance through improved mobility.

How to:

  • Place a weight plate or a similar flat elevated object on the floor.
  • Hold a plate in front of your chest, and position yourself for a squat with your heels resting on a plate or elevated platform.
  • Lower yourself into a squat while maintaining a neutral spine and not letting your knees extend beyond your toes. 
  • Keep your elbows in between your legs with the arms relaxed and complete side-to-side rocking motion. 
  • Stay down for 30 to 60 seconds or complete 5-8 dynamic but controlled squats. 

6. Knee to Wall 

Knee to Wall exercise

This exercise is excellent for evaluating and enhancing ankle mobility, crucial for achieving a deep squat.

How to:

  • Kneel in front of a wall, and place one foot forward with around an inch between your front knee and the wall. 
  • Aim to touch your knee to the wall, or get as close as possible without lifting your heel from the ground. 
  • As your mobility improves, increase the distance between your foot and the wall while keeping your heel on the ground at all times.

7. Standing Quad Stretch

Standing Quad Stretch

The static stretch targets the quadriceps muscles located at the front of the thigh.

How to:

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Use one hand to grasp the ankle of the leg and pull it towards your buttocks.
  • Ensure that both knees are aligned and maintain balance by holding onto sturdy equipment.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

8. Standing Hamstring Stretch (One Leg)

Standing Hamstring Stretch One Leg

This stretch focuses on stretching the hamstring muscles located at the back of the thigh.

 How to

  • Place one leg in front of the other with the front leg straight and the back knee slightly bent. 
  • Keep the front foot’s toes off the ground.
  • Hinge on the hips and bend forward with your chest to knees until you feel a stretch.
  • Keep your back straight the whole time.  
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

9. Hip Flexor Stretches

Hip Flexor Stretch

Stretching the muscles that connect your leg to your hips (iliopsoas) can aid in better hip extension (pushing the hips forward). This is especially important for those sitting for long hours in an office with stiff hips. It’s important to perform this stretch to ensure effective squatting and avoid strain or injuries.

How to

  • Start in a lunge position with both the front and back knee on the ground.
  • Gently shift your weight forward, deepening the lunge until you feel a stretch in the hip area of your back leg.
  • Stretch the arm (side of the back leg) in the air and lean to the side.
  • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

Always consult a doctor or physiotherapist for personalized advice, especially if you have pain or other issues. Additionally, ask for help from a qualified strength coach to adjust squats to your needs and anatomy. 

If you incorporate these stretches into your routine, let us know how it goes in the comments. Happy squatting!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author
Alexandra Kovacsova
I'm Alexandra, a UK-based strength coach & rehab specialist. I help people prevent, treat, and resolve pain, improve their movement, and maximize their performance. I share my expertise through writing, offering relevant and scientifically supported content, and practical exercises. In my free time, I train for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and enjoy a honey oat latte at a local coffee shop.

Leave a Comment