Flexibility is a very important aspect of overall fitness. Having a good range of motion with all your muscles is not enough; you should be able to control the movement fully. Lacking flexibility in critical areas such as the hips or the lumbar region could set you up for injury if you do not perform exercises with the correct form due to muscle tightness. To find out if you lack flexibility in any of these critical areas, you should perform flexibility or mobility assessment movements.
The overhead deep squat is a functional mobility assessment movement that tests the following parameters:
The hips should rotate backward at the bottom of the movement. The lower back could also flex to compensate this backward movement, which indicates muscular tightness in the glutes and the inner thigh. Depending on the depth of the squat, the abdomen could also touch the thighs. Deficiencies in this area are very common.
The calves should touch the hamstrings depending on the depth of the squat. The knees are the main joints in the leg muscles, so keeping them strong is important. Here is an article on knee strengthening exercises.
Ankle Dorsal Flexion
When the heels come off contact with the floor or the weight is shifted to the front of the foot at the bottom of the movement, it may indicate tightness in the calves or soleus.
The bar could be positioned a little in front of the body and not exactly over the feet, indicating stiffness in the shoulder muscles.
The bar could be positioned towards the front of the feet, indicating tightness in the shoulder girdle or postural problems like winged scapula or a protracted shoulder girdle.
Thoracic Spinal Hyperextension
An excessive forward bending in the thoracic area could prevent the bar from being directly over the feet.
To address deficiencies in the above parameters, the following exercises and stretches could be performed:
Seated Glute Stretches
Cross your lower leg above the knee of the other leg while sitting on the floor with your hands supporting your body from the back. Bring your knee up to 90-degrees with your foot on the floor, raising the other leg and stretching the glutes. You can tilt your pelvis forward for a stronger stretch.
Wall Straight Leg Calf Stretch
Put both hands on a wall and push on the wall with your straight leg providing the force. You should feel the stretch on the calf muscle of the pushing leg.
Wall Bent Knee Calf Stretch
Similar to the straight leg variation, but this time the stretch will come from you trying to bring the heel of the foot up without it leaving the floor.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Lunge forward with your front foot positioned beyond the knee. Initiate the stretch by pushing your hips forward which will cause the hip of the rear leg to straighten.
Lying Adductor Magnus Stretch
Lie with your back on the floor, bring one leg up and hold it behind the knee. Pull the knee to the side of your torso while keeping the other leg on the floor.