How to improve your squat (Part 1)

Life on the floor – Part 1

Do you have low back pain? Are your hips tight from sitting all day? Do you know that the biggest obstacle in your way might actually be your chair? Sitting is one of the most common activities that we do on a daily basis. Think about how much time you spend sitting during the day; either in your chair at your desk, driving to and from work, during meals, or on the couch watching TV. Believe it or not, sitting in chairs is not something that we’re designed to do. When primitive humans needed a break, they didn’t pull out a lawn chair and kick their feet up. They squatted or sat on the ground. This ability to get up and down from the ground easily is the key to regaining your lower body strength and mobility, and reducing or eliminating your low back pain. Today we’re going to be focusing on squatting: Why it’s important, how to do it safely, and how to improve it.

Squatting is something that we all do easily and naturally when we’re infants. It’s a natural resting position for our bodies, and also the natural position for us to excrete waste. We’ve all seen children squatting in the corner, and know that a diaper change is moments away (more on that later). I’m willing to bet that very few of us can get in that natural relaxed squat position now. Our joints are too tight, especially in our hips and ankles to allow that full range or motion, and that has consequences for how the rest of our body moves… or doesn’t.

So what does a proper squat look like? A full squat involves bringing your body all the way down so that your hamstrings are fully resting against your calves, while your feet remain flat on the floor. Your feet are pointing forward, with your knees out above your second toe on each foot. Your upper body remains upright and relaxed, much like when we’re sitting with good posture in our chairs. I expect that this will be difficult to impossible for most of you to do right now. Fear not! WIth some basic exercises, you can get your body back to moving like it should.

Bear in mind that this will be a long process, as we’re not just trying to stretch muscles, but loosen joint capsules. They’ve taken many years (decades in most cases) to get this stiff, so they’re not going to loosen up overnight. I promise that the effort will be worth it!

Let’s start by assessing your current squat. Make sure that you’re holding onto a railing or something sturdy to support yourself. Keep your chest up, push your bum back, and try and lower yourself straight down. Make sure to keep your knees pointing forward, and don’t let your heels come off the ground. Don’t worry if you can’t go very far; this is just to get a feel for how your body moves, and what areas are most tight on you.

Now let’s look at a few ways we can improve it. One of the easiest ways to improve hip flexibility is to just repeat the exercise we just did. This time though, allow your heels to come off the ground, and let your bum sink down as far as it can. If your ankles are especially tight, it might be easier to start with your feet pointed out slightly. Just make sure that your knees follow suit. Remember, always keep your knees above your second toe! As you get comfortable, try and get a feel for how your body is balanced on your feet. Hold this position for as long as you feel comfortable, and repeat whenever it is convenient. Heating a pan on the stove? Grab the counter and give your hips a stretch. You don’t need to set aside workout time, just squat where you can.

Another exercise you can try is to start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Keep your feet still and use your hands to walk your bum towards your feet, as far as you can, then walk them out to relax. You can try to hold this for a few seconds each time, but just the repetition alone will be beneficial. If you can touch your bum to your feet easily, the next step is to use your hands to push your body up and over your feet. Again, you can try and hold for a few seconds each time if you’d like. Once that starts to become easy, use a railing or a door handle in front of you to pull yourself even further over your feet while keeping your heels on the ground. Remember, our goal is to be able to balance our body comfortably over our feet while keeping them flat on the ground.

I would be remiss if I did not bring back my point from earlier: Squatting makes going to the bathroom easier. Yes, Squatty Potties work (I’ve been using one for over a year now), and really do make a difference. Even having a small step stool to put your feet on while you’re on the toilet, not only will help your plumbing work better, but it’s another opportunity each day to help stretch your joints. That’s all it takes: A little bit of work each day, and you can help your whole body move and function better.

If you have any issues or injuries that are preventing you from being able to squat or move properly, contact the professionals at Action Physiotherapy by calling us at 905-457-7475 or clicking HERE , so we can help you function at your best .

We are here to help

Robert Kappes Registered Physiotherapist Click HERE to view our video on this topic on Facebook

  • Blog Post written by Paul McCrimmon (Osteopath)