The Squat – Fundamental Human Movement
A deep squat is a fundamental resting position for humans for most of our history. For athletic development and health pursuing this bodyweight movement is a must for everyone.
You once had a perfect squat – watch any 3-year-old toddler and you will be schooled on perfect squat biomechanics. A trip around almost any 3rd world country will provide you with all the evidence you need to accept this fact, i.e. people rest and work in a flat-footed squat.
In western cultures, including ours, an adult with a comfortable flat footed resting squat is a rare sight. This can be attributed to many things, chiefly among them is our obsession with sitting in chairs rather than the ground and footwear. Poorly designed footwear and the cultural idioms of fashion have disfigured many peoples feet, ankles and ultimately their hips. Tight hips and ankles are often the reason for people’s inability to squat.
5 reasons you can’t squat
When you can’t achieve full depth in your squat the following things are usually observed:
- Your feet are weak and often unable to maintain a strong arch throughout the squatting movement. Weak feet and tight ankles will collapse inward at the bottom of a squatting motion, causing the lower leg to rotate internally, which pulls the knees inward
- Ankles are tight and unable to flex correctly
- The soft tissue around your hips is tight and often weak, this commonly leads to anterior pelvic tilt (butt stuck out the back) and internally rotated legs.
- Internally rotated legs will make it nearly impossible to activate the glutes and hamstrings throughout the squat, and instead will load the quadriceps. The resulting imbalance in muscle strength often causes painful knees.
- Chronic anterior pelvic tilt can lead to a pinching sensation in the lower back that can be a precursor to chronic lower back pain.
So the moral of the story – Strong mobile feet, ankles, and hips are very important at avoiding any of the ailments referred to above.
Rebuilding the squat
Practicing or redeveloping a flat-footed squat will address these issues and is a non-negotiable prerequisite to developing an athletic body. Full squats produce greater overall muscle development in the lower body, optimally hitting the glutes, hamstrings, and quads for superior growth compared to partial squats
It is very important to understand, that everyone’s hips are as varied and unique as our faces. As humans, we innately understand that everyone’s face looks different, but often we assume everyone has the same hip shape and therefore should move or squat the same way. This is simply not true. Everyone is different. Always use pain and discomfort to guide you. Never work through pain, although some discomfort is ok. If you are unsure, consult your health professional.
Squatting should be performed in a full range of motion where the hamstrings make contact with the calves. It is okay for your knees to travel beyond the toes (just do not relax the knees in the bottom position). In other words, keep the legs tight and try to stay as upright as possible throughout the exercise.
4 exercises for a better squat
Below I will outline 4 exercises you can do to improve and regain your flat footed squat.
- Squat. Hold on to something if you need to, and start accumulating time in a flat-footed squat every day. Think of it as brushing your teeth. 1 minute here and a minute there is a great place to start. Work toward accumulating 10 – 30 minutes per day in a squat position
- Increase your ankle range. Perform the following exercise daily for best results. Aim for at least 50 reps, holding the last rep for 1 minute or more.
- Hip swivels – complete 5 per side often.
- Hold a squat and push your knees out by contracting the muscles on the side of your butt for reps.
Commit to keeping this routine for 1 month initially, complete work every day. You will feel better for it.
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