Breaking parallel only with narrow stance squat
39 years old
Linear progression for just over one year
I have terrible mobility and flexibility from 15 years of desk jobs. I have been working hard on that with static stretches, mobility exercises, and foam rolling. My range of motion on squats is improving, but has been excruciatingly slow and seems to have stopped improving.
When I first started squatting, I could not squat more than a quarter squat (in any stance) without having tremendous hip joint pain. My hips were so tight it would throw me forward when I tried to squat because I'd "hit bottom" (hit the limit of my mobility) while still in a quarter squat position. I couldn't go any further without screaming pain and simply pitching forward.
Over six months or so of doing all the mobility exercises, and after an extended warmup, I can squat butt-to-calves but ONLY in a very narrow stance. My heels are only 3 to 5 inches apart. I cannot squat much weight because I feel unstable (difficult not to pitch forward at the bottom) due to this narrow stance.
If I go hip width, I can just touch parallel, but still feel unstable. If I go shoulder width, I'm 4 to 5 inches high of parallel and there is considerable pain in my hips. I hit the old mobility limit at that height with a shoulder width stance.
I want to try switching solely to shoulder width stance, even though all my squats will be high, in the hope that my depth will improve over time. My fear is that, if all my squats are high for possibly a period of months, that my training will suffer because, well, I'm not doing squats (I'm doing high squats).
Is it reasonable to do shoulder-width stance squats that are 5 inches high in the hope that the repetition of this action over time will allow me to hit parallel?
Alternately, should I just do the narrow stance squats in which I can break parallel, even though I feel unstable? Should I sacrifice stability (wider stance) for depth?
I think you have some hip-joint pathology that should be diagnosed. We never have this kind of trouble with people we teach to squat. And you were not on the linear progression for a year, most especially if you can't actually squat.
I can squat, but only with a narrow stance.
My three choices for doing a squat movement are:
1. Stop Squatting
2. Squat narrow and break parallel
3. Squat with a shoulder-width stance but not break parallel while hoping that my depth improves over time
Which of these would be best?
What kind of doctor or other professional would I ask about diagnosing a hip joint pathology problem?
Welcome to my world. I have major osteo-arthritis in my hip joints with several large bone spurs on the femoral head, so this is how I squat as well - the "frog squat" as the guys at my gym call it. Heels are 5-6" apart - knees still go out - LOTS of external rotation on the femur, and I can hit parallel - squatted 600 at a meet a few months ago this very way.
Not pretty, but better than not squatting at all.
Squat the way that allows you the best depth, as Matt suggests. An orthopedic surgeon would be the traditional guy for the diagnosis.
Matt, did you always have to squat this way? If so, did you ever have stability issues? If the stability problem gets corrected with practice and/or strength increase, I think I can live with having to squat this way. I wonder if you might have any tips on how to maximize my squat efforts since you clearly have first-hand knowledge of this situation.
I do the frog squat thing as well. I try to take comfort in the fact that Olympic squatters have a similar leg/foot position and they don't have issues with squatting heavy. I even attempted to switch to front squats because I figured if my lower body wants to adopt that position, maybe I should go with it. My problem with that is the pitching forward issue was really exacerbated when trying to front squat. so, I switched back to the back squats. My concern was also that squatting in this position is bad for my knees and ankles. They don't hurt when I squat, but it sure looks funny.
Thanks to both of you gentlemen for your help.