Hello friends! If you’re an email subscriber, you’ve probably already seen the video I’m about to share. (And if you’re NOT an email subscriber, WHY??? Girl, you’ve gotta get on that! Sign up here.)
Here’s the video — our most recent “Midweek Move.” Take a look! It’s just 7 minutes long, and goes through a great tutorial that shows you how to deeply squat.
Why is squatting so great?
I am one among MANY fitness and healthcare providers who LOVE and preach the value of deeply squatting. Squats are something that we are born knowing how to do. Observe toddlers and little kids… They squat all the time, when they’re playing, looking at things, relaxing, (not to mention pooping)… Their bodies intrinsically know that deeply squatting is actually a restful position that our bodies were designed for. Many cultures around the world still squat to relax and to use the toilet. It’s primarily the Western cultures that have adopted more upright (and certainly stiffer, less mobile) habits when it comes to positioning our bodies. We perch on the “throne” to use the bathroom, we sit in chairs to do our daily work, and we sit on couches to watch the tube at night (to “unwind.” Heck, if we really wanted to “unwind” we should be doing stretches and twists and hip circles either standing up or lying on the floor! But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post…)
It’s too bad that we have gotten away from squatting, as a society, because a deep squat is truly “the gift that keeps on giving.” It takes a lot of lower extremity, hip, and spinal strength and flexibility to be able to get down (and then back up) from a deep squat. Being able to transition from a squat to stand will keep you toned and strong, helps sculpt a nice perky rear-end, and — most importantly — could keep you independent for longer, as you age. Being able to transition from sit to stand will help you with independent toileting, mobility, housekeeping, and self-care… All essential functions that we need throughout our entire lives in order to keep ourselves safe and living at home. Most people I know want to live an active, independent life well into old age and certainly aren’t jumping at the opportunity to move into a nursing facility or senior care center. Most of my readers are women between the ages of 30-50, so most of us aren’t really thinking about our 80’s onward… But it’s reality, and we HAVE TO think about it NOW if we want to safeguard against a future of dependence and restriction.
Squats are one of the most basic exercises you can do, and deeply squatting (such as described in the video above) is both an exercise for strengthening and a delightful stretch that really opens the hips, stretches the low backs, and more.
As I state in the video, you do need sufficient flexibility of the ankles, calves, hips, and low back in order to be able to go all the way down with your feet flat on the floor, so be sure to stretch those muscles. This archived post is about pregnancy, but it shows some lovely stretches that will help you loosen up the calves and hips (even if you’re NOT pregnant!).
After you have the flexibility piece “down,” work toward getting LOW… How low can you go?!!… Try the deep squat stretch detailed in the video above. Take a look at the modifications and the stepwise progression that helps you get ALL the way down.
Q: “Ok, I can get pretty low, but it hurts my left hip if I don’t turn that foot out a bit (frog leg). I did fracture that hip in 6th grade. Should I work on being able to straighten out, or just go with it?”
A: Try widening your feet (your stance) and holding onto something (a rail, countertop, back of the couch, or even the front and back doorknobs on either side of a door). See if that helps you get lower with your feet pointing straight ahead. If not, keep practicing the squat and SLOWLY work toward straightening out the left foot. It’s most likely turning out due to muscular imbalances due to years of compensating for the old injury, so it will take time!
Q: “My knees will not bend that far. Should I keep trying?”
A: Yes! Slowly increase flexibility and strength in the legs, knees, and hips by holding onto something with your hands as you lower yourself down into a squat, and squatting down toward something that you can sit on (cushions, a bench, a step-stool, etc.). Let your bottom rest on whatever you’re squatting down toward. That way you’ll have support and you can relax into the position.
So…. The next time you have to squat down to pick up your kid’s miniature Lego dude (the one that you almost stepped on), your naughty cat, or your husband’s dirty socks, don’t get mad… RE-FRAME! Loot at it as an opportunity to do a nice, deep squat… To shape and sculpt a perky, healthy, STRONG rear-end.
And my favorite: Rather than think of laundry as a tedious chore, think of it as BONUS squat time. It feels so good to strengthen your booty and your back in this deep squat position! It’s also a lovely position to do a couple of kegels. Because your pelvic floor muscles are slight stretch when in a deep squat, you can really feel the contraction AND the relaxation, which is key for an effective kegel.