Reclaiming the Lost Art of Squatting for Your Own Good

Dear Daily Vallarta Readers and Movers,

In this January 2015 column, I am going to discuss the mostly lost art of squatting and how squatting is a great and healthy alternative to sitting in a chair or a couch. You may want to include reclaiming and embracing the squat in your New Year’s resolutions if you make them. It would definitely change your life and the way you move! I am very fond of squatting and squat while I am waiting in line, watching a sunset, working on my computer, watching TV and coaching my clients(!). It is part of my Crossfit practice. It has become one of my comfort positions. I am squatting (alternating with lotus position) in front of my computer as I write this column.

History and Benefits of Squatting

1The squat is one of our most basic and fundamental movements, a full-body, compound movement.  We squat to one degree or another whenever we sit down, get out of a chair, pick something up, or go to the bathroom. Young children instinctively go into a deep squat when they want to reach for something low and they often hold themselves in a stable squatting position to engage in play. Millions of adults, mostly in Asia, rest in a squatting position, instead of sitting in a chair. Across the globe, millions of people also squat to poop or urinate on “squat toilets.” Our paleo ancestors, used squatting as a means of performing work, eating meals, or resting.

When squatting, we fold at the hips and the knees and bring the butt toward the floor, keeping the spine straight and keeping our feet flat on the floor. The squat is a compound movement, a full body exercise that focuses on the hips, thighs, butt, hamstrings, and quads. It is a classic hip extension, which is a movement that is necessary to keep your body functioning at its optimum potential. When we squat down all the way, in the bottom position, we are in nature’s intended sitting position.

But chairs and seats in the industrialized world have contributed to the loss of this important functional movement by all but eliminating the need to squat in our daily lives.  Instead of squatting, we sit in chairs for almost every activity: eating, reading, working, watching TV, going to movies, restaurants, or other entertainment.  As a result, many of us have difficulty with full, deep squatting, and/or have very little opportunity to squat, because we are used to sitting and invited to sit for long periods of time. The new buzz in the healthy movement world is that “sitting is the new smoking,” because this sedentary, sitting lifestyle is linked to many of our modern diseases (diseases of captivity).The good news is that you can reclaim this fundamental movement and its benefits for health, mobility, and longevity, with awareness and a squatting practice, and I will show you how.

Benefits of Squatting

Because squatting is a fundamental compound movement, that works the whole body, the ability to squat is critical to our ability to move easily in everyday activity. Squatting engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles, which strengthens and tones the leg muscles.  Squatting engages the butt muscles and help to strengthen, tighten and tone the glutes. It also strengthens the core. The abdominal and back muscles must be engaged during a squat in order to maintain balance. Squatting also increases flexibility in the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. Intelligent squatting is good for knees and low back, contrary to popular opinion. It improves digestion and elimination. A women’s health magazine tells readers that squats get rid of cellulite! It is a low-impact movement that can be done anytime, anywhere, without any equipment.  Note: You can add weight after you get good at bodyweight squats, to get even stronger. The best place to learn techniques for loaded squats is at a Crossfit gym, where squats are taught as part of the Crossfit skill set.

How to Squat

A basic squat looks like this:

  1. Stand in good posture with your legs shoulder width apart from heel to heel. Bring your toes out slightly wider than heels. A rule of thumb is toes out at 30º. Keep your heels on the floor.
  2. Squat down by pushing your knees out to the side and pushing your hips back at the same time. Think of sitting on a toilet. Keep your upper body straight and your head neutral (look at a fixed point in front of you but keep the entire spine, including the cervical spine, in a straight line from top to bottom. Don’t bend forward (this will stress the knees).
  3. Bend your knees until your break parallel, that is, your hip crease is lower than the top of your knees when looking from the side. If this is not possible, widen your heel stances, increase your toes out position and push your knees out harder.
  4. Return to the starting position by reversing the steps for squatting down. Drive your hips up. Keep your chest up. Push your knees out. Come up to standing.
  5. If you are doing squat repetitions, don’t pause at the bottom, use momentum to return to a starting position. Start with 10 repetitions. Improve your form with each repetition. Increase your repetitions as you continue your practice.
  6. If you are doing a static squat, stay in the down position for an extended period of time, 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes, at least once a day. Very challenging for most!
  7. You can vary this squat by moving into and out of a squat with hands on the back of a chair, on a counter, or on the wall.
  8. You can warm up for a squatting practice with hip and knee openers. See suggestions below.

Preparing to Squat

If the basic squat (see above) seems to be unavailable to you, for any reason, you can prepare your body for successful future squatting with any movements that will open the joint spaces in the knees and hips.  Here are a few moves that you can do almost anywhere that will help you get ready to squat.  You can also do any or all of these moves as a warm up before a squatting practice.

Double Calf Stretch and Spine Stretch

  1. Place your hands on the seat of a chair, or anything that allows you to place your hands low in front of you while you fold forward at the hips and keep a flat back.
  2. Step both feet onto a thick rolled towel or yoga mat or a half round foam roller or a thin yoga brick, or a curb etc.
  3. Line up the outside edges of your feet and straighten your knees all the way back, with your weight in your heels. You should be able to wiggle your toes.
  4. Try to lift your tailbone up toward the ceiling without bending your knees.
  5. Do this stretch several times a day, holding up to a minute
  6. Everyday bonus. Place a yoga brick or a half round foam at the kitchen or bathroom sink and do single and double calf stretches while you wash dishes or brush your teeth. Hold on to a park bench or grocery card, step back and fold at the hips for a nice spine stretch

Supine Knee to Chest Hug and Ankle Circles


  1. Lie on the floor with body aligned and legs extended.
  2. Bend the right knee and bring it to your chest. Put your hands around the knee. Take a few breaths.
  3. While you are here, make circle your right ankle, 10 circles clockwise and 10 circles counter clockwise.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Now hug both knees into the chest and take 6 abdominal breaths. Notice this knee to chest position is a squat in another (supine) orientation, so it is especially helpful in getting the body used to the squatting position.
  6. Everyday bonus. Do this stretch in bed before you get up and before you go to sleep.

Seated #4 Stretch

  1. 8Sit in a chair or on a bench.
  2. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Try to lower the right knee to the same height as the right ankle.
  3. Keep both butt cheeks on the seat. Untuck your pelvis.
  4. Add movement and resistance to this stretch by placing your right hand on the right knee, and pressing the hand into the knee and the knee into the hand. Keeping the resistance in both directions, allow the knee to win and then allow the hand to win. Repeat 6-10 times.
  5. If you have a hip or a knee replacement, only stretch the leg that has not been replaced.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
  7. Everyday bonus While you are sitting anywhere, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, place hand on knee, and move and resist as above. You can also circle your ankles from a seated #4 stretch. Some bathroom counters or sinks are just the right height to allow you to to a standing #4 stretch on the counter or sink while you are washing your face or brushing your teeth.


  1. Do not do this exercise with an artificial hip.
  2. Lie on the floor supine and bring your legs up the wall.
  3. Place the soles of the feet together and let the knees drop open to the sides.
  4. The height of the legs above the floor indicates the tension in the groin and hips. Do not go further than is comfortable.
  5. To add resistance and movement to this stretch, place the palms or the backs of the hands on the inside of the open knees. Do not use the hands to open the knees further. Instead create resistance between the knees and the hands and the hands and the knees. Keeping the resistance in both directions, allow the knees to win and then allow the hands to win.

Bridging with Feet in Dorsiflexion

  1. 9Lie on the floor (supine) and prop your feet on the seat of a chair or a bench.
  2. Dig your heels into the chair or bench with feet dorsiflexed.
  3. Lift your hips up toward the ceiling or sky while you keep your hips, knees, and ankles parallel.
  4. Keep, the knees, pelvis and ribs in one line. The glutes and abdominals are working hard.
  5. Go up and down several more times. Take a breath between each round.

Hand Towel Knee Stretch


  1. Sit in a chair or on a bench.
  2. Roll up a small hand towel and place it behind your bent knee.
  3. Squeeze the towel with your bent knee in order to stretch the area behind your knee. Contract and then relax. Repeat several times.
  4. Switch to the other side.
  5. This stretch can also be accomplished with original or classic Roll Model Therapy Balls in a tote.
  6. Everyday bonus. Do this move while you are watching TV or a passenger in a car, bus, plane, or train.

Kneady Knee Cap


  1. Bend your knee in a lunged or seated position.
  2. Use any size Roll Model Therapy Ball to gather the skin and superficial fascia above your kneecap (like opening up your upper eyelid) to create tautness in the deeper layers of the supra-patellar pouch (the pouch above your kneecap).
  3. You can also use your fingers to do simple skin rolling/pulling in the same area.
  4. Repeat on the other knee.
  5. Everyday bonus. Do this move while you are watching TV or a passenger in a car, bus, plane, or train.

Bathroom Bonus

As I mentioned earlier, millions of people across the world, squat to go to the bathroom. And you may want to consider this too. Scientists say that your body is meant to be in a squatting position to properly eliminate stuff from your colon. The squatting position unkinks the bend between the rectum for easy elimination. Sitting on a Western toilet to defecate creates straining and constipation and inhibits complete elimination. In addition to your squatting practice, you may want to use a Squatty Potty or some other product built to support squatting while you defecate. (You still use a Western toilet.) Check it out. There is a lot of evidence to support this change in your bathroom behavior!

30-day IMF Squat Challenge

I invite you to join me in a 30-Day IMF Squat Challenge. If you join the challenge, you can start anytime in January or February of 2015 and choose to participate in any or all of three different ways:

(1) daily dynamic (air) squats,

(2) a daily static (long-held) squat, or

(3) random daily squatting at an unexpected time and/or in an unexpected location (at a meeting, watching the sunset, waiting for a bus, use your imagination).

The Challenge escalates over the 30 days as follows:

  • Day 1-10: 10 reps of dynamic squats each day, 1 static squat for 10 minutes each day, and/or 3 random squats scattered throughout each day.
  • Day 11-20: 20 reps of dynamic squats each day,1 static squat for 20 minutes each day, and/or 5 random squats scattered throughout each day.
  • Day 21-30: 30 reps of dynamic squats each day, 1 statis squat for 30 minutes each day, and/or 7 random squats scattered through each day.

I have created a group FB page dedicated to the 30-Day IMF Squat Challenge.  Let me know if you would like to join the 30-day IMF Squat Challenge FB Group and I will send you an invite to join the group so you share your experiences with other members. Use this Secret FB Group to introduce yourself, commit to the challenge, and describe your experience during the challenge. Please know that FB Group membership is not necessary to join the Challenge. You can participate in the Challenge as a private, personal activity of your own. The Challenge is designed to get you comfortable with squatting so you can make it a life-long habit. Happy squatting!

Summing Up

I hope the information I share in this column will inspire you to practice squatting, squat more often and enjoy it! Squatting is a basic functional move that is guaranteed to help you move better and move longer. Begin to squat and join the self-care health care revolution that is happening right here in Puerto Vallarta. You may even want to set up your home or office computer area, like I did, so it allows you an option for squatting in front of your computer. Please join me in the 30-day squat challenge, which can help you get started in your squatting practice.

I am also looking forward to seeing you at my Mobility Class on Thursday nights at 7 pm at Crossfit Vallarta (free to Crossfit members, 50 pesos for drop-ins). I am also available by appointment for private or semi-private sessions at my home Pilates/Fitness Studio in Versalles. Or invite me to come to your hotel, villa, condo, or apartment. Contact me at [email protected] for more information.

NOTE: For any of you body nerds or wanna-be body nerds, Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA, which I described in my November column, is offering a 52 week online EveryBody BioMechanics course starting the week of January 5, 2015. Check it out at

Wishing Each and Everyone Intelligent Movement Forever and a Healthy, Happy New Year,


2 Responses
  1. Via this is really good information. If you only do one single exercise in your life, this is the one everyone should do. It doesn’t matter if you do with weights at the gym or just using your body weight at home. And your article shows very good form. You will be surprised how many people I see in the gym with poor form that first will result in injury over time, but also work against the entire purpose of squats to work the legs, butt, and core in one movement. Super information.

    1. I actually posted this story for Via this morning before I went to the gym and on today’s schedule was squats. I read this article then when I was in the gym I was paying closer attention to my form based off what i had read here. hahah so you are right about that.

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