We were not designed to sit in a chair.
We were not designed to sit or stand for long periods of time.
We were not designed to use a toilet.
We were designed for movement. We were designed for running. We were designed for squatting.
But sitting on the ground isn’t socially proper in our country. Using the bathroom outside isn’t socially acceptable either. Our society’s “norms” have created non-movement in positions that we weren’t meant to be in for long periods of time. This lack of movement has been a HUGE contributing factor in our society’s weight problem, back problems, metabolic disease, and anxiety issues. Yet, here I am sitting in a chair (well, actually couch, even worse!) writing this article.
When we are little, this position to the left is a common one. This little guy can pick up things, play, read, eat, and do pretty much anything he wants to in that position. Soon though, this guy is going to start school. He will have to sit in a chair for 6-7 hours a day, instead of in this beautiful flexion that he was meant to be in. This is when his spine will start to lose flexion. This is when his ribcage will start to elevate. This is when his biomechanical problems will start and will carry through him his whole life, just like yours and mine did.
Losing the ability to fully squat has been proven to contribute to a variety of biomechanical issues including back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip, knee and ankle pain. So far, I have only have one client that came to me with pain and could fully squat – that includes my collegiate athletes!
The “3rd world squat” is becoming a key component in rehab and performance training to help us regain our ability to squat. There are many variations and progressions to help us get to the full balanced squat as this gentleman is positioned. But practicing in this position will help you restore movement that you have lost.
The inability to perform this full squat means a loss in movement somewhere. Typically it’s spinal flexion, but it can also be ankle mobility. Other factors could be excess body weight or increased edema in a joint.
If you can’t squat, you can practice! You can hold on to something sturdy like the kitchen sink or a door frame. You can try and put a 2″ book under your heels to help you until your ankles gets more range of motion. I also recommend deep breathing when you are in the squat – it will be hard at first, but will become easier as you practice!
In conclusion, Americans don’t squat well, and prolonged sitting in chairs create poor lumbar flexion. Practicing the “3rd world squat” can help restore your movement restrictions and prevent further joint issues. Start practicing your squat by holding on to something sturdy, breathing and focusing on your form. Happy squatting!