- Ankle, hip, knee and back mobility
- Firing patterns (sequence of contractions) of your legs and back musculature
- Overall muscle activation of the lower limbs specifically your glutes
- Walking and running gait
- Back pain and discomfort
- Bowel movements (more on that later!)
When it comes to joint range of motion, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. Sitting this way on a daily basis will ensure your joints stay limber and well 'oiled'. Rather than going through less beneficial static stretches (activating a single joint at a time), I have my clients perform this squat as a functional flexibility pattern. While engaging in this movement your joints will be taken through a full range of motion while naturally stretching your hips, lower back, ankles and knees.
As we age we move less and sit more. Living this way causes a host of problems that unfortunately yet frequently culminate in early disease and death. Much of the 1st world structural bodily damage is caused by disuse, misuse and laziness. Medical science understands the human body needs regular movement to thrive both physically and mentally. Humans were not built to sit in chairs for 8-10 hours per day. The average American sits for more than 12! Chairs have ruined our posture and health.
Fitness magazines are fond of saying "don't squat down below parallel because it is bad for your knees". That is just plain silly advice. The average toilet height in the U.S. is 17 inches, which for most people requires squatting below parallel. Going deeper than this is troubling for lots of individuals due to compensations, injury, tightness and/or pain. Typically when I ask an average chair sitting adult to do a deep squat they will lift their heels, jut their knees forward, excessively flex the spine and wobble a bit while trying to hold the position. The hips and ankles are immobilized and because most of the force is relegated to the quads, the effect of the posterior musculature is minimized with the glutes effectively shut off. Not good.
- Can you do a 3rd world squat and hold it for at least 1 minute?
- Can you get up without falling over or using something to grab onto?
Focus on dropping deeper into the squat each day. Here are some other general rules for the squat:
- Position your feet forward and a little wider than shoulder width - some people may need to turn their toes out a bit.
- Stick your butt out (like you are working the street) as you begin the decent - some individuals may need to hold onto something to prevent falling over.
- Bend your knees as much as you can while you sink your butt all the way down until it rests on your calves...or close to them.
- Let pain be your guide. If you are experiencing more than discomfort don't go any deeper and check your form or discontinue.
TMI- Too Much Information Section:
A little less than half of the 7 billion people on this planet go to bathroom without actually going to the bathroom. According to the U.N. 1.1 billion people defecate in the open and another 2.5 billion people use a hole in the ground sans the western porcelain god (aka the toilet). Savages you say? Without TP, maybe so. However, anatomically speaking the 3rd world squat position makes for much easier evacuations. This position actually changes the spacial relationships of your intestinal organs and musculature, optimizing the forces involved in defecation. Sitting on the 'throne' requires you to apply additional force (straining), which has some unwanted biological effects, including constipation, hemorrhoids incontinence etc. The squat actually straightens out your rectum (rectal-anal angle) and makes for a quicker less strenuous time in the bathroom.
Before you go try to squat on a toilet seat and risk falling off and breaking your neck, take a look at some the consumer products that enable a safe experience. These stools and platforms retrofit onto your throne to assist the squatting position. Below is one of the more popular brands on the market:
1. Slate: Don't Just Sit There