Back Squat Warm Up

*Updated 6/7/18
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In this video, Dr. Dan Pope , DPT, owner of Fitness Pain Free and treating therapist at Champion PT and Performance, joins to discuss an in depth back squat warm up you can use before squatting.

In this video we hit on all the areas you need to prep for squatting:


This warm up covers all the basics.

Need more hip and low back mobility? Start with Day 1 of our Hip/Low Back Mobility Program for free:

The Routine

1 time through the following:

10 soleus stretches each side with foot against wall
10 lunge stretches for the ankle each side
5-10 gentle knee rotations
5-10 reps of loading the ankle in a supported squat
Posterior hip stretch for 5 breaths
5-10 adductor stretches each side
5 reps 90/90 stretch each side
5 push up jumps into bottom of squat
5 toe touch to squat

Soleus Stretch

There are two muscles in your calves: the gastrocnemius (gastroc) muscle and the soleus muscle.

The soleus doesn't cross your knee joint, so when you are squatting, the knee bending doesn't affect the muscle tension. The gastroc, on the other hand, is not under tension when the knee is bent, so stretching your calves with a straight knee before squatting isn't as effective mechanically.

To learn more about the soleus, gastroc, and ankle in squatting, check out our video on the basic anatomy of the calves.

Lunge Stretch for Ankle

The second of two soleus stretches is the lunge stretch.

This stretch differs from the first in that you will be in a lunge position driving your knee toward the wall with the foot flat on the ground.

The back foot doesn't matter in this stretch, the focus is on the front leg. Rock yourself forward and backward deep into the lunge position, focusing on the front ankle and keeping the foot flat on the ground.

Knee Rotations

The knee needs to be able to rotate during squatting. It's a normal, coupled motion of the knee joint.

If the knee can't rotate this way or if it's stiff, doing a few reps of rotation can help.

Note: the rotation is minimal and you should do this mobilize quite gently.

Getting into this position also requires full knee flexion/bending. If you are struggling with that, our full knee flexion video may help you.

Ankle Loading

Loading the ankle in a squat pattern is important to utilize the range of motion you now have after stretching the soleus.

By grabbing onto a bar, you are able to change your torso angle so that you can focus on accessing your ankle range of motion. This is a mind body connection movement where you need to work on pulling your ankles into more dorsiflexion using the muscle on the front of your shin (tibialis anterior)

We also have a full video and article on how to load your ankle dorsiflexion that may be helpful for you.

Posterior Hip Stretch

The posterior hip stretch is more about relaxing in a position than it is about doing reps or what most would consider a classic stretch.

This mobilization/stretch is aimed at working the posterior hip musculature.

You likely will have to play around with different variables in this position to feel it the way Dan demonstrates in the video. If you can't feel it, keep at it and find an angle where you feel it in the back of your hip.

You may also want to place a pad under your knee to avoid pressing your knee cap directly into the ground.

Adductor Stretching

The adductors are the inner thigh muscles. There are 5 in total and they, when tight, can limit the depth of your squat because of how they attach to your pelvis.

Keeping your back in neutral while performing the stretch shown in the video and pictured in this section is critical.

If your back rounds, you won't be stretching the adductors because of how they attach.

To learn more about adductor anatomy, watch our video on the anatomy of stretching the adductors.

90/90 Hip Internal/External Rotation Stretching

The 90/90 stretch helps you work on hip joint internal and external rotation.

Set yourself up with you knees, hips, and ankles bent at 90 degrees.

From this starting position (as shown in the photo) you are going to lean forward (keeping your back neutral) as far as you can, feeling a stretch in the front leg glute.

Spend 1 second in that position before rotating backward to stretch internal rotation of the back leg. Focus on trying to rotate through your hip joint and not your lower back. This takes attention and focus.

This drill and others are also taught in our hip prep for squatting video. You can also learn more about hip anatomy and see real hip bone photos in this article on squatting.

Push Up Jumps into Squat

In this movement, begin in a push up position with a neutral back.

From the push up plank position, jump into a squat position, achieving as much depth as you can while maintaining the best position in your spine as possible for a squat (as close to neutral as you can be).

After being in the bottom position for a few seconds, jump your feet back to begin the next rep in the push up plank position.

(want to do more plank work? Check out our ultimate plank series)

Toe Touch to Squat

In this movement, being standing and then bend forward to touch your toes. If you need to bend your knees a little, that's fine and probably normal for most people unless you already are very flexible.

From this position, pull yourself down into the squat. Position yourself as deeply as you can, keeping your back tight and trying to get it flat and in neutral.

After being in that position for 1-3 seconds, proceed back to the toe touch position.


For this warm up, use it right before beginning your squats or you can use this as a general squat mobility routine. If you are going to use it before a strength training session, don't spend more than 5-10 minutes total on this.

If you are performing this as a mobility routine that you want to include into your movement training, a longer duration can be helpful.

You typically don't want to warm up for an excessive amount of time before lifting or you will fatigue yourself and the tissues. So the pre-workout application of this back squat warm up should be done right before the lift with intention for a focused amount of time.

Need more hip and low back mobility? Start with Day 1 of our Hip/Low Back Mobility Program for free:

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