K-Starr knows what’s up.
We all know how to perform an air squat. Flat feet with weight towards the heels, midline stabilized, hip crease below parallel, chest upright and neutral head position. Very simple and basic. But what about a ‘real’ squat. Long before we were doing hundreds of squats to honor fallen heroes or with weight to get an nice sculpted derriere, the squat was a basic position in human movement and still is in ‘third world countries’. It’s a piece of software we have that’s built in. This is evident when observing very young children. For instance watch an 18 month old pick something up off the ground. Due to their head size to body ratio, children will most likely not bend at the waist or hips to pick something off the ground, they risk toppling forward due to their large head size. Esther Gokhale creator of the Gokhale method and author of “8 Steps to a Pain Free Back” has this to say about squatting.
1. At birth, many of our joints (including the ankles, knees and hips) are not ossified. Instead of bone, we have cartilage in those areas.
2. Each of the above joints has a timetable for when the cartilage ossifies. The hip joint, for example, is made of three parts – the ischeum, ileum and pubis – each pair of which ossifies at a different age (first pair at age 2; last pair at age 16).
3. Once your joints have ossified, they are relatively immutable. Bone does change shape depending on the stresses on it, but it does not change drastically and in particular, the above ossifications are irreversible.
4. If you grow up squatting (on pit toilets, eating on the floor, etc) then the joints ossify differently than if you grew up sitting on chairs and using commodes for toilets. In particular, if you grew up squatting, your joints will ossify in a way that allow you to continue to squat in adulthood. If you did not squat through the years that your ankles, knees, and hips were ossifying, you will probably not be able to do a healthy full squat in adulthood.
5. People who force squats without having the joint architecture to do them tend to round their backs (compressing their spinal discs), pronate their ankles, and stress their knees.
6. Recommendation: don’t try to force a squat. In most situations you can do the job equally well with a modified squat (on foot flat on the floor, the other on the ball of the foot). The times squatting does help are childbirth and evacuating your bowels. In these situations I recommend using some extra support under your heels – this makes squatting easy on the ankles and back. For other situations like certain squatting Yoga poses, I recommend not going all the way into the pose.
I recently and am actively participating in a 30/30 squat challenge. For 30 days sit in the deepest squat you can for 30 minutes. Not all at once, it can be broken up though the day to add up to 30 minutes. I experienced a little discomfort after about a week. I decided to stick with the challenge but break my squatting up into smaller segments throughout the day. I’m not sure what happened but now sitting in a deep squat is now amazingly comfortable and calming. There is a Facebook group you can join (unaffiliated to Intrepid in any way), or you can take this challenge on by yourself. Happy squatting! Here is an entertaining video I came across in my research.