All of us squat every day. Every time you sit down in a chair, that’s a squat. Every time you get up from a chair, that’s a squat too.
In fact, the squat is one of the first movements we ever employ in our development as infants. It’s how we learn how to stand: once the hip and leg muscles become strong enough a baby can go from a sitting to a standing– it’s their first ever squat! If you ever observe them playing they squat all the time to pick things up off the ground or rest and with perfect form – weight on the heels, knees tracking over the toes and back straight.
Squatting is a fundamental human movement pattern that involves nearly every muscle in the body. It’s known as a compound movement as it exercises multiple muscles at the same time. Not only will the squat work all of your leg muscles, it will test your core strength and your mobility and flexibility. The squat can greatly improve athleticism and is a test of powerful hip extension, a key measure in the ability to run, throw and jump. The squat is also a vital movement in keeping us healthy as the ability to simply sit down and stand up becomes more important as we get older. Last, but not least, the squat not only works strength, flexibility and mobility, but also our cardio vascular capacity (http://fitbynature.org/2014/07/are-we-outrunning-our-biology/). If a person can perform a full depth squat with their own bodyweight, they’re probably a fairly fit person.
In a Paleo approach we know we should eat the foods our bodies we’re designed to eat and we should move the way they we’re meant to. Through the squat, our hips are meant to flex, knees bend and ankles dorsi-flex. It’s a comfy resting position. But surely we’ve progressed: why not use a chair?
Like processed foods with sugar, salt and oils, hijacking our desire for real fruit, salt and fats, poor movement also hyper-stimulates our senses and exploit our wiring, leading to (nutrient) deficiency. Chairs exploit our anthropometry, the way we’re designed to work, which is to squat. A chair removes the challenge on our joints, loads being as important as movement particularly as we age: we easily just slip in without having to engage anything, namely our glutes or core, which support our back.
Benefits of squatting
– counteracts all the sitting we do
– it makes you stronger
– the stronger the squat the faster the sprint
– extra weight on your back pushing up from squat allows you to go past mere standing to the jump
– bone mineral density improvements
– squatting and number twos (http://fitbynature.org/2014/09/why-you-should-squat-more-for-better-digestive-health/
– reflex core stabilization
But have we forgotten how to squat?
A lot of us have no preconceived notion of how to squat well. If you cannot deep squat, how do you know what it feels like to be at the bottom of a squat, arms overhead and heels flat? When descending into the squat, the first automatic inclination is not to stabilize the pelvis with the core, it is to use the quads to decelerate the descent of the body mass. In doing so, we unnecessarily tighten the wrong muscles, limiting our range of motion.
We need to get back to the squat. The body will always sacrifice movement quality for quantity, probably as a survival buffer. We need to throw away all preconceived notions of the squat as a mechanism and looked at the squat as a behavior, a pattern of moving behavior. We need to look at the way we first learned to squat, which is whole pattern training: it’s the most efficient path to relearning the squat when it’s lost. That way we’ll know that the point is not to fix the squat, but to fix the problems under the squat.
Dr. Stuart McGill taught us that the ability to brace our core, and maintain that position for time, improves back health and performance. All health then starts at the spine. But what’s that got to do with the squat? People who do not know how to squat do not have normal hip function and then don’t have normal leg functional. Every part of the body must be engaged and tight in the squat. And as our backs innervate every organ throughout our body, a healthy back means a healthy body.
Working on your squat:
- Whatever’s comfy for you – feet out slightly, back bent, propped against a wall.
- Work first through a full range of motion with just your body weight
- Try squats reaching forward or pulling on a door frame to stand
- Once you’re in the bottom of your squat, extend your arms overhead to stretch your sides, which link of hips and shoulders
- Where possible, challenge your colleagues to meetings in a squat
- I love skype chats to my mum in Australia
- Make-up squats can be a lot faster J
- Try eating your lunch at a park or on the floor of your office in squat