Full Squat? Yes or No?
5 Reasons To Full Squat
The full squat is one of the most basic and fundamental human postures. Due to industrialized society’s heavy reliance on chairs and modern footwear however, it has become a position that many people have difficulty achieving
Born to Squat
The full or deep squat refers to a position where the knees are flexed to the point that the back of the thighs rest against the calves with the heels remaining flat on the floor. Young children under the age of four will instinctively go into a deep squat when they want to reach for something low, and often hold themselves in a stable squatting position to engage in play.
Among Asian adults, squatting often replaces sitting.1 So what happens to Westerners, as we grow into adults, that causes us to lose this ability? This is primarily a case of use it or lose it. Many cultures throughout history would rely on the squatting posture as a means of performing work, eating meals, or resting. Modern society has all but eliminated the need to squat in our daily lives.
A second reason relates to the design of modern footwear that often features an elevated or raised heel. Habitual shoe wearing causes a shortening of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, and a gradual loss of the ankle mobility required to properly do a squat. This often leads people to perform a variation called the Western squat, where the heels remain propped up in the air.
Fortunately, many of the adverse effects brought on from frequent sitting, improper footwear, and squat avoidance are reversible. When performed correctly, the full squat carries many benefits for physical health. Squatting can be performed as a body weight exercise, to reach something on the ground, or simply as a rest position.
5 Health Benefits of the Full Squat
1. Ankle Mobility
Limited ankle dorsiflexion range of motion is a common problem linked to a number of other issues in the body, including overpronation, bad posture, and runner’s knee. A loss of ankle mobility is caused by both inflexibility in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, and stiffness in the joint. A proper squat, with the heels flat on the floor, requires good flexibility at the ankle. Getting into and maintaining a full squat is a great way to improve ankle mobility and restore full range of motion.
2. Back Pain Relief
Many people have an excessive curvature in their low back as a result of the pelvis being pulled down in the front by tight hip flexor muscles. During a full depth squat the pelvis rotates backward, allowing the spine to elongate. This stretches the tight or shortened muscles in the low back. The body’s position in a deep squat also produces a traction effect that decompresses the spine by creating space between the individual segments of the back.
3. Hip Strengthening
In a person whose hip muscles are weak, you’ll often see their legs move inward (adduct) and internally rotate when they perform closed-chain movements, like jumping or going down stairs. This adducted, internally rotated position puts the knee at an awkward angle and can lead to injuries. A full squat moves the hips in the opposite position, abduction and external rotation. The squat strengthens the muscle groups responsible for performing these actions, allowing them to better control the position of the entire leg.
4. Glute Strengthening
The gluteus maximus is one of the largest muscles in the body, and with good reason. The muscle comprises the bulk of the buttock region and is integral to performing many activities we do on a daily basis like walking, lifting, and running. The glute max is also an important stabilizer muscle of the trunk and leg. EMG studies have shown that during a squat the glute muscles become targeted only after descending past the half way point.2This means the same strengthening benefit cannot be achieved from only squatting in a partial range of motion. Coming in and out of a deep squat is by far one of the most effective ways to strengthen the glutes. Not many people are going to complain about having a firmer backside.
5. Posture Correction
The cumulative effect of working on the areas listed above is an overall improvement in both static and dynamic posture. When joint mobility and lower body strength are restored the entire musculo-skeletal system will naturally be able to assume better alignment, which has a tremendous impact on the way we look, feel, and move. The full squat is a way to reverse some of the bad habits the body has assembled from our modern lifestyle.