Functional Exercise: The Squat Reach

Continuing from my past columns regarding stretching and functional range of motion, I will now introduce some simple and very effective “functional” exercises that will expand upon your new-found flexibility that you’ve worked so hard for (assuming you’ve been doing the stretches consistently).

A simple, but often misunderstood, concept to consider is that flexibility and/or movement without a corresponding amount of stability will set you up for injury. Movement needs to be countered with stability; this is achieved through building a combination of strength, balance and muscular endurance to support movement. The great part about functional movement is that all components must be trained simultaneously. So for all you responders out there, this translates into less invested time and more benefit from a few well-performed exercises.

The squat, and its many variations, is one of the most functional and complicated movements the body can perform. All joints and muscles in the lower extremities must fire in a coordinated fashion. Arguably, the squat is one of the most challenging movements an athlete performs, yet we perform dozens of squats a day without the benefit of a warm-up or stable lifting surface.

The variation of this squat is an awesome example of a simple and highly effective movement that can be performed in any station or gym to maximum effect. By performing the movement, you will include strength, balance, stabilization, active flexibility, and core mechanics into one movement (not to mention buns and legs “of steel”).

In my subsequent columns, I will be adding to my series on functional movement, providing exercises and tips that will continue to build up from skills you’ve learned. As I have alluded to many times before, all the movements that those in public safety perform are active and functional; we are not on a factory floor repeating the same actions over and over. Our jobs are dynamic, so let’s make sure we train and exercise that way.


Squat Reach Weight: Dumbbell or medicine ball
Sets: 2 - 4
Rep's: 6 - 15

• Balance on one leg, abs braced, hold dumbbell at your side (opposite side from the balance leg).

• Slowly squat and reach down and out toward the floor. Pause and slowly return to the start position. Repeat.

• Keep your back flat at all times, never round.
• Reach the dumbbell out, not up, to avoid strain on the shoulder.
• This movement is as much a squat as it is a reach, so make sure the knee is bent at all times.
• Be careful on the ascent so that you use your hip and glute. Do not hinge up from your spine. Go slow.
• Avoid letting your knee turn in.

• You can begin with both legs and perform a traditional squat reach until you have built up enough strength.
• Increase the depth of your squat or the distance of your reach.
• Hold the dumbbell on the same side as the balance leg.
• Perform on an unstable surface.



Photo courtesy of Fit Responder
Photo courtesy of Fit Responder


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