I have been wondering for the longest time how to increase hip range of motion.... there is a picture on the exercise description of exrx.net... the man is performing full squats with incredible hip flexibility. How is that kind of range of motion achieved? I have been full squatting for years and still can't get my hips to flex that much... I don't know who to contact on this site, perhaps you can put me in contact with someone who knows the man in the picture or who has some insight into this?
Although it is possible for the spine to adapt to less than ideal hip flexibility in healthy individuals, it is generally recommended that a full squat be performed with adequate hip flexibility to avoid the posterior pelvic rotation at the lowest position.
Flexibility may be limited by muscular, joint, or body segment girth constraints. A comprehensive qualitative assessment can be performed to determine an individualized flexibility program. Dynamic flexibility under a load, rather than static flexibility, will be more applicable to squat range of motion. This can be achieved by having an experienced squatter examine the subject's technique during a free hand squat with arms forward or a squat with a light weight. See Deep Squat Test.
Full squats may be appropriate for certain athletes who require strength and joint stability in these lower positions (like performing Olympic style weightlifts). A parallel squat may be sufficient to achieve many individual's conditioning goals. Keep in mind, too great of flexibility may not necessarily be a favorable attribute for all sports (See Stretching and Flexibility).
Keep in mind, full range will vary from person to person. For example, an individual with large calves and thighs may not even be able to achieve a parallel position since their calf and lower hamstring would be smashed together in this position. One should only perform full range for their particular range of motion. Even a three quarter squat may end up challenging some people's flexibility.
Ankle, knee, and hip flexibility are potentially limiting factors in safely performing the full squat (below parallel).
The soleus or ankle joint may be suspected if the heel cannot be kept on the floor while the knee travels forward in the squat position. See dorsiflexion inflexibility.
When assessing the knee's range of motion during the squat, the relative position of the leg should be noted when the knee and lower hamstring are compressed together.
The flexibility of the hip joint can also be assessed during the squat. As the subject performs the full squat, the point of when the pelvis turns under (posterior rotation) should be noted. The compression of abdomen against the upper thigh may be a limiting factor for some individuals.
If the pelvis posteriorly rotates prematurely, further assessment can be performed to determine if the flexibility of the gluteus maximus or the adductor magnus is deficient.
To assess the adductor magnus, the subject would lie supine on a mat. The assessor would slowly move the bent knee toward the subject's arm pit (on the same side). The angle of the hip when the pelvis begins to posteriorly rotates should be noted.
To assess the gluteus magnus, a similar test would be performed, except the hip would first be externally rotated so the bent knee points outward. Then, the lower would be slowly moved toward the subject chest. Again the angle of the hip when the pelvis begins to posteriorly rotates should be noted.
Dynamic flexibility movements (i.e. deep squats with body weight or empty bar) can be performed immediately before squatting. Static stretching for the gluteus maximus and/or the adductor magnus (depending on assessment above) can be performed immediately following a weight training session.
A wider stance often allows those with flexibility issues to squat deeper. Just remember to keep the knees orientated the same direction of the feet.
When introducing new form (i.e. fuller range of motion, wider stance, etc), allow for adaptation which includes adequate recovery and progressive loads over time. Also see Adaptation Criteria. For advanced trainees, periodization with varying workloads (i.e. light heavy days) may be required for adoption for continued progress.