Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of squatting. Often, in rehabilitation and recovery plans, the focus is on strengthening and recovering function in other muscle groups. The muscles involved in squatting can end up being overlooked. This is problematic, because the muscles involved in squatting are crucial for maintaining and improving basic executive function, like getting out of a chair. So how can we keep these muscles strong?
The key is to find a squatting exercise that is right for you, no matter where you are in terms of fitness level or ability. Maybe you have had a surgery and are in recovery, and you think that there’s nothing you can do to keep those muscles engaged. The good news is, you absolutely can. These exercises can, and should be personalized to serve you where you are today, to improve your health and function in the future.
Squatting Needs to be in Everyone’s Daily Activities
In fact, it is so important that your life expectancy after the age of 65 can be associated with your ability to squat. This was discovered in a Brazilian study of more than 2,000 people. We find that in geriatric populations especially, if they can squat, they have better long-term outcomes. They have a higher quality of life and a longer life because of it.
The first thing to talk about is the key things you want to engage into a squat. People will say all sorts of things – I have bad knees, bad hips, I’ve got this or that, or I can’t squat. Practitioners, of course, do have to do a one-on-one evaluation with clients to make sure they do have the ability to do this action, and work to get them there if they’re not. In the end, the better they can squat, the sooner they can squat, the better their lives will be.
What Do People Really Care About? The Smallest Actions!
What really matters to people is all the little actions that aren’t so little. Being able to squat means also being able to walk up stairs, get out of a cab easily, and not having to rely on a bannister to get up the stairs.
A Good Start: Initiate Movements to Improve your Squat
Even if you can’t get all the way down in a squat, the first thing to do is initiate the start of the action. It’s a simple matter of hinging at the hips, and bringing yourself back up. Can you bend your knees, and bring yourself back up? Even if you can’t get all the way down, don’t worry about it. Small micro-movements are how people who are unable to move can start to break down the barriers of incapacity and inability to perform tasks.
Just keeping your back long and bending your hips and knees is a good start. Even when you lean forward, that requires you to use your glutes, your hamstrings, your quads and more. It’s a simple starting position. It’s a nice hip hinge, and you keep yourself safe by keeping your back straight.
Your goal is to try to sit down into a chair. It’s that action. You start, keeping the weight straight into the center of your heals and move yourself straight down. There are many physical issues that can interfere with that. It could be something as simple as an inability to dorsi flex your ankle. So practitioners have to be very aware of how the client’s body is or is not moving. Sometimes big, strong people will have that limited dorsi flex of the ankle, and it interferes with their inability to do something as simple as squatting. Flexion and extension of the ankles is an important exercise, then, to maintain that ability to squat.
The first thing I do with patients is to have them do a hip hinge, back and forth a little bit, and then bend their knees a little bit. Then we can combine them, and move from there. I have one patient in particular right now who is afraid to squat. She says she hasn’t squatted in decades, and she’s afraid that she’s going to lose her balance. What I have to do is actually do that squat with her to make her feel safe as she gets back into that movement.
A deep squat is an important ability, and we are anatomically designed to do it. In fact, most of the world squats to go to the bathroom. What does that mean? Every person on the planet should be squatting down at least two or three times a day, and, as we know now, it’s a major indicator of life span and quality of life.
What Does a Deep Squat Look Like?
Generally, you start a deep squat with your legs a little further apart. As you sink down, your goal is to get down nice and deep. It’s a great workout for your glutes, your quads. And physical activity is good for your digestion. Even if you’re constipated or something like that, getting into a deep squat allows the pelvic floor to relax. It’s good for hemorrhoids, as well. Someone very near and dear to my heart suffered from hemorrhoids after childbirth. Following the use of some deep squats, it improved.
Squatting is also the way that most of the world gives birth. Here in North America, we were biased by royalty, who gave birth on their backs. Most South American countries give laboring women a bar, and they hold onto it and it allows the baby to be more easily delivered by opening up the pelvis.
Physical Activity: One of the Best Medicines
Moving the GI tract is another benefit of squatting, as well as yoga and other physical movement. A good diet, whole foods, and physical activity are better than almost any treatment.
Focus on a Controlled Descent to Build Muscles
It’s important to note, as well, that most people think getting out of a squat is where you get most of your benefit. That is actually not the case. The best part of a good squat is a nice, slow, controlled descent, before you shoot back up. If you can’t do it yourself, have someone help you to build up those muscles.
So, please squat. Encourage those you love, and all of your clients, to practice squatting. Check in with your clients, and if you have a client who is not capable of doing so, work to build them up so that they can do a squat. It’s one of the best gifts you can give them.