I mean the humble bodyweight squat*. It may not seem as sexy as a loaded back squat, or as exotically challenging as an overhead squat (both of which are great for weight training and will be covered in future blogs). But the ‘simple’ act of assuming an unloaded squat position provides a host of information about the state of mobility in your ankles, knees, hips and spine. And even better – performing it routinely can provide a natural route back to good health.
*For the uninitiated, a squat is performed by lowering the buttocks to the heels into a crouching position, keeping the feet flat on the ground and the torso upright.
The squat should be a natural and comfortable resting pose. – Tweet it loud people!
Anyone with a toddler will recognise the ease with which they squat. Check out my son Raff banging out a healthy squat whilst at the wilderness festival (yes, he is a dude).
Have you retained your childhood ability to rest in a squat, or does the movement leave your sinews screaming? For many, this innate ability has been lost. The squat is a primal movement pattern. Healthy movement is a case of ‘use it or lose it’, and most of us immobilise ourselves for long periods sitting at a desk (or dinner table…or on the train…or sofa) as part of our daily lives. Combine this with an old injury that is not fully healed, and getting down below parallel can be a nightmare. But that’s no reason to avoid squatting!
Why do I feel this so important? Research shows that the full squat assists decompression of the lumbar spine by creating lift through the pressure of the thighs against the trunk. Research also points to positive changes in nervous system health. Specifically the forces generated actively turns off our sympathetic nervous system and turns on our parasympathetic system. This helps the body with rest and recovery.
Squatting can benefit all sorts of health conditions, including constipation, haemorrhoids, hernias, gynecological disorders, issues with the prostate, bladder, intestines and bowel…and even toilet-related heart attacks (say what?)
If you want to read more, check out this great resource.
We’ve found around 7 out of 10 Prohab clients have a dysfunctional squat pattern when they first walk through our door. That includes office workers, entrepreneurs, yoga instructors, GPs and even Olympic athletes. It seems no-one is automatically bulletproof. In this video I take you through for a quick way to assess where you’re starting from:
If you’re still reading, you’re not squatting! It’ll only take 20 seconds, give it a try right now.
Here at Prohab, after an in-depth assessment of nerve, muscle and joint health, our clients receive a personalized programme of adjustments and mobility work. In this video, our Performance Coach Paul gives us a taste of what could be preventing you from an awesome squat:
So how do your ankles measure up?