If there’s one thing you can say we do on a regular basis, it is squat. We do it with a barbell, a kettlebell or with nothing at all. We sit down and stand up multiple times a day. You could say it is what we do most next to walking. So how does your squat look and feel? Doesn’t it make sense that it should be a priority in your movement practice? If you want the most bang for your buck in the gym (and thusly your fitness outside of the gym), I would highly recommend you get your squat technique and movement assessed and corrected.
One thing you can do on your own is to look at your ankle mobility (specifically your dorsiflexion). If you are lacking range of motion in your ankles, it will effect movement upstream in your knees and hips and even your torso. So here’s a simple test to check your ankle mobility.
Grab a tape measure and find a wall. With your shoes off, facing the wall place the extended tape measure perpendicular to the wall. With one foot pointed to the wall, place it next to the tape measure beginning around the 2″ mark. You are going to drive your knee towards the wall and see if you can tap your knee against the wall WITHOUT your heel raising off the ground. If you can touch the wall, move your foot back slowly and repeat the drill until you aren’t able to hit the wall. The last point that you are able to tap the wall with your knee is your measurement. Record it somewhere, and repeat the same drill with your other foot. One of the things we are looking for is a noticeable/remarkable discrepancy between left and right sides. The bigger the discrepancy, the more issues you will likely find in other areas of your body and posture. Ideally, what you should be striving for is >5″ on both sides.
In terms of how this will effect your squat, think in terms of body position. The more ankle dorsiflexion range you have, the more vertical your torso will be in a squat. That sounds like it would transfer pretty well to a better catch in the snatch or clean, amongst other movements. If you find you are lacking range of motion in your ankles, come find one of your coaches and ask them what you can do. If you are severely missing range of motion, it might be best to set up an appointment so you can get a bigger picture assessment and begin to address some underlying issues. Either way, you should be striving to make just as much progress on your joint mobility and health as you are on the weights you lift or how fast you can finish a workout. It will provide you just as much bang for your buck and will contribute greatly to your health and longevity both in the gym and in life.