the-resting-squat

The Resting Squat – How Squatting Makes You More Human

The science is stacking up, and word is out that sitting for prolonged periods is devastating to our health. Former NASA scientist, Dr. Joan Vernikos, has compared sitting in a chair for prolonged periods to being weightless in space. This is due to the fact that the muscles, bones, joints, and other tissues aren’t supporting themselves naturally any longer. I did an entire show dedicated to the newly dubbed “Sitting Disease” right here. During the show, we also went in-depth on the impact that sitting too much has on your blood pressure, blood sugar, and your ability to burn fat.

Today we’re going to take things a step further. After understanding that sitting in chairs too frequently is bad for our health, what do we do instead? We understand now that our ancestors were much healthier and robust than we are today, but surely they sat down too?

It’s not that sitting is bad. It’s more so how we’re sitting that’s really smacking our health around right now. The human body was never designed to sit in an awkward 90 degree position with certain muscles completely shutting off, while others are being dramatically over-stressed. Here’s a little bit of what I mean:

Limp Biscuits

Sitting triggers your butt muscles to do absolutely nothing. They completely shut off and get used to not “activating” normally. This deranges your ability to walk, run, jump, stand up, sit down, and pretty much any other activity you can think of. Your glute muscles become limp and no longer fire properly when they are deconditioned from sitting too much.

Soft-serve Abs

Your abs will be closer to soft-serve ice cream than a well-defined washboard if you’re sitting too often. Your abdominals actually help to hold you upright, but when you sit back in a chair they no longer have to work, and the battle of the bulge can take place. Your abs will quickly lose their tone and strength if you totally take them out of the equation by sitting.

Your Hips Do Lie

Unlike Shakira, your hips will be lying to you and everyone else when you try to exert yourself. Hip mobility and functionality is critical to all basic human movement patterns. Your hips provide stability and balance, and lack of mobility here is one of the major causes of serious injury.

Boney Bones

It’s now understood that the largest contributing factor to poor bone density is lack of activity. Your bones need resistance to drive nutrients into them to trigger development. Sitting too often will lead to bonier bones, plus at heightened risk of disease and injury.

Eject Your Disc

People who sit more often are at greater risk of herniating their lumbar spinal discs. Sitting in chairs is synonymous with having “shortened” hip flexors. A large muscle called the psoas is a major hip flexor muscle that runs through the abdominal cavity. When the psoas is short (or tightened) from sitting too much, it pulls the upper lumbar spine forward which puts you out of alignment. Your upper body now rests on your ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine. This is a leading cause of back pain and overall loss of function.

These are just some of the physical problems that occur from sitting too much. This is why I now believe that: “Being able to sit comfortably in a resting squat position is tied to being human.” Your genes literally expect this of you. Being able to get down into the squat position is an important part of you being alive.

What is a resting squat and why is it important?

Conventional sitting puts your weight onto another object by placing your butt on it and turning many critical muscles off. A resting squat is a posture where you squat down fully, lowering your hips towards the ground and your weight is equally distributed and controlled by your body.

For countless ages throughout time, human beings have been able to crouch all the way down into a resting squat for relaxing, working, cooking, communing, and even for using the bathroom. I shared all of the critical information about the dangers of pooping on today’s conventional toilets right here.

You’ll be shocked to hear the links to things like diverticulousis, heart failure, and even colon cancer. This is partially because sitting on a toilet, and not squatting all the way down like we are designed to do, pinches off the end of the colon so your bowels are literally tied up and unable to fully release. This is must know information, and the solution to this is far easier and hygienic than you may think.

I can’t stress enough how important being able to sit all the way down into a squat is to your health. As a strength coach I’ve seen this skill transfer over into so many other facets of people’s lives. If you can’t get down into the full resting position of a flat-footed squat, it’s time that you start working on it. If you don’t, you are dramatically limiting your mobility and ability to function at a high level.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this excellent video from Daniel Vitalis on the flat-footed squat while doing some research:

In it you’ll learn:

  • The “strange” angle that humans have began sitting in.
  • Why many modern people have their heels come up when they try to squat.
  • How to position your feet to make the resting squat easier.
  • What hacks you can use to help work your way into a better resting squat.
  • A daily resting squat routine you can use to keep your body healthy and supple.
  • Why modern-day toilets derange our ability to defecate properly.
  • Some of the ways that you can actually utilize the resting squat in your day-to-day life.

 

Daniel was a guest on one of the most popular episodes of my show that you can check out right here. We discussed hormones, spring water, and all things ReWilding yourself!

For now, with your complete knowledge of the sitting squat being linked to your health and vitality, here are 3 tips to be able to do it, and do it well.

Tip #1 – Use a stable object to balance yourself. Most people in our modern society can’t get into this position due to lack of hip mobility, a tight posterior chain, and tight ankles, in particular. Using an object to balance yourself while hanging out in this position is a great transitionary tool.

I have an 80-year old client who was one of the most muscularly tight and inflexible people I have ever seen. He could barely lower his hips to his knees in the beginning, but by having him face a pole and hold it as he lowered his hips into the squat, it’s enabled him to fully lower himself down.

Tip #2 – Do mobility exercises for the most common tight muscles. The hip flexors, iliotibial band (IT band for short), and ankles (all the stuff around your achilles) usually require some special attention. Here’s a great video instruction on how to hit most of this. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds:

Tip #3 – Do it daily. Make it a daily habit to squat down and hang out in this position. I usually do this before, during, and/or after my workouts. I’ll also do this after I’ve been sitting for a while, in conjunction with a stretching routine. You can simply squat down and set a timer for one minute (as Daniel recommends in the video above), hang out there and do a task of some sort, or just take that time to do a little mindfulness meditation and relax. Either way, it’s going to be a big supporter of your health and you becoming the greatest version of yourself.

I’d love to hear from you now. Are you able to get down into a full sitting squat comfortably? Where do you struggle with it? Do you find that your heals come up, or does something else get in the way? Please share your experience below, and what you are doing to work on it.

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  • Ret
    7 Apr 2014, 4:56 pm

    Squatting flat footed is not a problem. I can go right down, The problem is my knees begin to hurt immediately.

    Reply
    • Shawn
      8 Apr 2014, 4:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing that, Ret. Do you have any underlying knee issues? History of trauma?

      Reply
      • Ret
        8 Apr 2014, 7:41 pm

        Hi, yeah, I was in a car wreck a long time ago, injured only one knee, but the other one sympathizes and it hurts too. I probably favored the bad on too long.

        Reply
        • Kina
          28 Jan 2016, 5:42 am

          I have the same problem as Ret. Is there a solution? I have scar tissue which limits range of motion in one knee. I can squat but it hurts if I go too low and I find that I compensate by shifting my weight to the other leg which I know I shouldn’t do.

          Reply
    • Sarah
      11 May 2015, 10:17 pm

      I have always been naturally drawn to this position, especially when eliminating, i think because i am only 5 feet tall and sitting on anything but the floor had been awkward or uncomfortable. I can sit in this position very long but unfortunately my feet go to sleep and i have to stand up and walk it off. I dont have the best circulation to my feet and i want this to improve the situation.

      Reply
    • James
      15 Feb 2016, 12:22 pm

      For me, squatting causes intense pain in the lower back. Is this normal?

      Reply
  • Yoojin
    7 Apr 2014, 8:34 pm

    is it weird that i sometimes squat in my desk chair? it’s big enough for me to sit even cross-legged :)

    Reply
    • Shawn
      8 Apr 2014, 4:38 pm

      I don’t think that’s weird at all. I think it’s smart. I actually do that all the time. Even did it at the movie theater the other day lol

      Reply
      • Yoojin
        8 Apr 2014, 6:32 pm

        yess!! i’m a phd graduate student and often, we have these 1+ hour long seminars and i’m always switching between cross legs and squatting!

        Reply
  • Jennifer
    9 Apr 2014, 1:08 am

    Many, many thanks for speaking on this topic. You share the most important information about wellness and optimal health Shawn!
    Even from youth, I have always found this to be a natural and comfortable position to be in.
    To this day, I sit in a squat almost daily. HA HA! I will share one of my ancient Chinese secrets to getting this in daily. Ready?
    When I blow dry my hair!!
    Thank you for sharing all you know with all of us! You are the freshest face of wellness and fitness Shawn Stevenson Model!

    P.S.

    Here is a link I think you might enjoy.

    http://achinesesoul.blogspot.com/2012/05/why-chinese-like-to-squat.html

    Reply
  • June Tate
    9 Apr 2014, 1:48 am

    During my travels to Egypt and China I would see the toilet stalls with just a whole in the floor .I was never comfortable enough to try eliminating in the small space and would use the ones with the toilet bowl. Thank you for showing me the proper way to do this. I just tried the flat foot squat and have some work to do…love a challenge.

    Reply
    • Shawn
      10 Apr 2014, 11:44 am

      Thanks for sharing your worldly wisdom and experience, June! Your best buddy, Anne, has been working on the flat-footed squat too. Making progress with practice 😉

      Reply
  • FREDERICA
    3 Oct 2014, 8:31 pm

    I HAVE KNEE PROBLEMS AND READ THAT THE DEEP SQUAT IS NOT TO BE DONE. I TRIED IT AND IT IS VERY PAINFUL WITH TIGHT LEG, ETC. MUSCLES.
    IS THERE SOMETHING TO TAKE THE PLACE OF THE DEEP SQUAT/TODDLER’S SQUAT OR SOMETHING THAT CAN LOOSEN MY QUADS, HAMSTRINGS, ANKLES, HIPS SO I CAN EVENTUALLY DO THE TODDLER’S SQUAD IF RECOMMENDED. NOT SURE IF STRETCHING, LOOSENING ALL THOSE MUSCLES WILL HELP MY KNEES SO I CAN SQUAD PAINLESSLY. THANK YOU

    Reply
  • Dylan
    10 Dec 2014, 10:20 am

    Crazy stuff! I can get in position, but the outside of my shins ache after a bit especially when my feet are closer together. Is this normal?

    Thanks for all you share. Your show and site are amazing!

    Reply
    • Shawn
      11 Dec 2014, 11:41 am

      Dylan, I appreciate that so much! The pain in or around that area is somewhat normal. I say somewhat because people can experience pain in different places depending upon their muscle imbalances. Just continue to do the mobility work to sure up your trouble spots and you’ll be able to squat pain-free before you know it.

      Reply
  • 19 Dec 2014, 4:43 pm

    Wow! This is a game changer for me! I had constant lower back pain from many things. Big babies, dentistry for 20 years and tall girl syndrome. After only a week I can do it without holding on AND my back pain is gone! Thanks so much for sharing this. I tell everyone I know!

    Reply
    • Shawn
      24 Dec 2014, 2:18 pm

      Paula, that’s so awesome to hear! I love it :)

      Reply
  • 27 Dec 2014, 10:32 am

    Squat daily here I come!

    Reply
  • Adam Centurione
    31 Dec 2014, 5:13 pm

    I can squat for over 4 minutes. I practice Ashtanga yoga, a system of meditation, and learned that sitting reduces the length of our quadriceps, adding extra tension in our knee ligaments and contributing to a higher likelihood of knee injury. Amid the other information, of weak backs, abs, and digestive problems, I figure sitting likely causes psychological distress as well. I work daily on lengthening my quads, and opening my hips, as well as strengthing the necessary compnents with asana.

    Reply
  • 13 Feb 2015, 1:28 pm

    I heard about this a few months ago when I listened to the podcast with Daniel Vitalis, and for a few weeks I was practicing. This is a great reminder. I’ll have to practice, my heels aren’t reaching the ground! :)

    Reply
  • Dianne
    3 Apr 2015, 11:42 am

    I’m 59, tall, and yoga has been helping all sorts of aches & pains, as well as knee caps that track crooked due to uneven muscle support. I keep trying to get all parts strengthened—and kept wondering how I managed to lose the ability to squat…and it seemed to me that this could be part of some problems. Anyway, I am trying the wide legged squat holding on to the door jam—seems I can do that for a bit, and surprisingly I can stand up pretty easily form that (using some pull from door jam). I can do this flat footed…so I am going to try this for a few days to see what results…;-) wish me luck!

    Reply
  • 15 Apr 2015, 8:29 pm

    Great content. Going to use the ‘Limp Biscuits’ reference with our clients.

    Apples, good. Biscuits, bad.

    Thanks Shawn!

    Reply
  • Cindy
    16 Apr 2015, 4:09 am

    I currently can’t do this and topple over. The Daniel Vitalis video was incredibly helpful and I started using a door jam to balance myself since I don’t have access to a pole. It’s been a huge help since I usually lose my balance when using a table. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Alissa
    20 Apr 2015, 1:14 pm

    I can’t for the life of me squat with my heels on the ground. When I try to I fall back on my ass. I can’t rise to my feet from my butt to a squatting position either. Can this be fixed?

    Reply
  • Ian
    25 Apr 2015, 10:07 pm

    I tried this holding on to the sink. I have had hip problems for the past few years (muscle strains and alignment issues). I can get a little past 90 degrees and feel a ton of pulling, almost painful. No problem with the heels though, no tendency to come up. I will give all those stretches a shot and see how it goes.

    Reply
  • Spencer Reed
    27 Apr 2015, 8:55 am

    Saw this video about 6 months ago, and started squatting for “no reason” occassionally. It’s awesome. Have SOME trouble getting back up, but that’s just weakness. My hips love this, and my lower back and achilles.

    I preach squatting to everyone.

    Reply
    • Shawn
      30 Apr 2015, 12:24 pm

      Like a true gentleman and scholar :).

      Reply
  • Tim
    6 May 2015, 2:09 pm

    My biggest issue is when I am down in the bottom of the squat, I can see in the mirror that one of my ischium (butt bones) are lower than the other. Is this caused by a curved spine, uneven hips, etc??

    Reply
    • Shawn
      7 May 2015, 5:09 am

      Tim, the obvious thing would be that your hips are out of alignment. The not-so-obvious thing is that it could be cause by issues with your feet, ankles, knees, upper cervical spine, muscle imbalances, or another factor. It would be ideal if you’d get checked out by a skilled practitioner like a truly talented chiropractor, physical therapist, or CHEK Practitioner. You’ll get it figured out man!

      Reply
  • Ayla
    8 May 2015, 11:52 am

    I’ve always been able to squat flat-footed. My classmates used to wonder how I do it, but I couldn’t tell them as it just comes naturally to me. I used to sit like this for long stretches inside our pet rabbits’ enclosure, but when I got up my legs were always sleeping. Even when I squat for shorter periods I feel like my veins are being squeezed off… I’m not fat and not too skinny so that can’t be it. Any tips how I can remedy this?

    Reply
    • Shawn
      8 May 2015, 1:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Ayla. It depends on what you mean by short periods. How soon after squatting down do you feel like that? And when you say you’d be in that position for long stretches in the enclosure, how long was that at the most?

      Reply
  • catherine mallorie
    25 Jun 2015, 3:53 pm

    I got interested in the idea of squatting a week or so ago after watching Dr Spina’s video on strengthening foot muscles. I’ve had worsening problems in one of my legs particularly and had exercises that initially helped from a physio. But going down into a full squat and rotating my weight in that position has brought amazing benefits, loosening tightness in my calves but strengthening through my hips, down through the ankles and into the feet. It feels really good and I’ve noticed a fantastic stability come into my walk. I’m also going up onto tiptoes and back down while in full squat and that also feels really strengthening. A winner!

    Reply
  • 23 Jul 2015, 1:21 pm

    Great articles. But it’s definitely crazy! I went from being a big box trainer to running clubs as a general manager, and the switch from being on my feet and demonstrating exercises with my clients to answering emails all day destroyed my body within a matter of months. I had debilitating back pain, limited ROM, and was honestly just a lesser athlete. Since leaving that job and starting my own training business, I have become pain free, I move better and squat deeper than ever before. I’m convinced it’s because I move more, sit less, focus on mobility, squat to rest, and lastly have used Kettlebells to reactivate my glutes.

    Reply
  • catherine
    13 Nov 2015, 4:43 am

    Hi, I am a 56 yr old female with bilateral hip replacements 2011 2014 . Once quite fit and active with once good overall mobility. My chiropractor has recommended I do practice the deep hip squat and initially I am a little apprehensive.Should someone in my situation with compromised hips be considering this type of loading

    Reply
  • Ray
    23 Nov 2015, 10:09 am

    For me it has always been natural to squat this way, so at 53 I still don’t have any trouble doing it. Small children seem to do it without being taught and some of us never grow out of it. I do however sometimes sit in a chair for long periods of time, at work or elsewhere.

    Reply
  • Jerry
    26 Jan 2016, 1:19 am

    I have no problem with the flexibility, but I have large calves and legs (no fat I just do a lot of deadlifts) and this feels good on my hips but hurts my calves/hamstrings and cuts off circulation to my feet. Does this go away with time?

    Reply
  • markus
    26 Jan 2016, 6:13 am

    Not everyone can rest squat. I have great hip mobility and decent ankle dorsiflexion, am generally strong and fit. I can full squat with weights on my shoulders. But remove the weights and back I topple. No amount of stretching has improved this. I have slightly short shins compared with my thighs which throws my core back too far behind my ankles when I squat. Bottom line….some people just ain’t meant to do it, for them it’s not human. And children are biomechanically suited to squatting comfortably because of their heavy head weight forward of their ankles.

    Reply
  • Martin
    3 Mar 2016, 4:54 am

    LOL. I stumbled onto this while looking for duration ideas for how long to hold a frog squat. I am 54, and have LONG had notoriously bad knees. Back in the mid 90’s, I recall mountain biking and how much my back ached during and after. Tight muscles. Makes sense. I sat all day long at work then. These days I have found a knee friendly way to stronger legs: Holding a deep squat, legs parallel to the floor, on a vibration trainer. This has been great for me. My legs are strong, and it seems my soft tissue is less prone to getting irritated. I am going to add the ATG, booty to ground, squat to my routine. I’ll add it to the end of my routines, possibly the beginning after I get used to it. I can get down and hold it with my feet pretty wide, shoulders between my knees. I feel some discomfort after a while in the knees and lower back. It would be great to get that deep squat flexibility back. I remember playing volleyball once, coming down awkwardly, and hitting my butt in a deep squat, and coming right up out of it with no problem. I’d love to be able to do THAT again, lol. I can also do the squat with my heels under my sit bones with a little help, and maybe a bit more discomfort in the knees and back. Count me IN on this. My big bugaboo is going to the hardware store looking for something, and I can’t hold a low squat to look for it. I have to get on the ground, or sit on the ground. But that will soon change. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  • Connie Klyver
    16 Apr 2016, 1:03 pm

    Shawn, I unfortunately have a lot of health problems from being made ill by a doctor. Prior to that I was healthy, fit and flexible! Just a few things for you to note: I have a left replaced hip, a necrotic right hip with joint narrowing and bone spurs, badly herniated disks in all my lumbar and sacral regions, severe small fiber nerve disease that covers my entire body, Avascular necrosis, muscle atrophy from the Cushing’s, the list goes on. I am quite the mess since made ill. Even though I am not the size/shape or weight I was prior to Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease and my body is weak and I suffer in multiple types of severe pain (nerve, muscle and inflammation in all the soft tissues, bone from AVN, etc) , the only way I can get down to try and do things is in a resting squat. The last several years when I squat the bottoms of my feet, especially, burn severely and are painful. In the last year I have developed a bunion on my right foot….I am guessing due to my off gait when walking with my cane. My abs that were once a 6 pack left with the Cushing’s and no matter what I have done I can’t seem to undo the damage. I have just been getting worse and it’s been 12 years. I haven’t been to my foot doctor as I have a lot of other health issues on my full plate but was wondering if you thought that the burning/pain in my feet when in a resting squat is coming from plain old arthritis. I also have loss of feeling but I suspect that is from the nerve disease and made worse with an S1 nerve root impingement. I ran across this site when looking up why my feet burn and have pain when in a resting squat and was wondering if you would be so kind as to give some input. Thanks so much. Connie

    Reply
  • Taylor
    1 May 2016, 3:56 pm

    This is so cool. :) I’ve always done this naturally instead of sitting. My mom always said it was good for my body, my friends have always called it “Smeagoling,” haha.

    Reply
  • Leo
    24 May 2016, 3:46 am

    Where is the difference between sitting with a curved back and squatting with a curved back? Shoudl I squat with a curved back?

    Reply