Why Should You Squat?

Dr. Ben Coupe

July 12, 2016

The full or deep squat is one of the most important movements for us to be able to do and the ability to perform a full squat is a sign of good physical health. However most people never go anywhere near a full squat on a day to day basis and many will find it near impossible if they try.

The next time you’re around a child, watch how they pick up something from the ground. In almost all cases a child will perform a beautiful deep squat to reach down. Their bum sticks out, knees are spread wide and the entire soles of their feet will remain in contact with the ground.

Now compare that to yourself. How do you reach down to pick something up? My guess is you bend forward at the low back, hinging at the hips and locking the knees. In fact some people will spend an entire day in the garden in this position. If you test them, most adults over a certain age are unable to perform anywhere near a full squat even when they try.

So why does this occur? What happens along the way that takes us from the beautiful squatters we are as children into lazy back bending adults? What are the consequences? And last, what can we do to fix it?

Why do we stop squatting? Unfortunately our western lifestyles have de-conditioned us so much that we never need to squat anymore. One of the most significant reasons is our bathroom habits. Prior to the invention of toilets we all would have needed to squat everyday just to go to the bathroom. (In fact many Asian and developing countries still do and consequently retain their squatting abilities) Over time the muscles of the low back, hip and legs de-condition resulting in the muscles becoming so weak and tight that using them becomes a significant effort. Naturally we avoid excess effort and so when we need to bend forward we take to bending at the low back which involves much less large muscle movement and allows us to hinge off our low back joints. Over many years this habit becomes so bad we can sometimes lose the ability to fully squat altogether.

What are the consequences of losing our squat abilty? Squatting is a superb exercise for the body. It engages large muscles groups in the buttocks, legs and low back keeping them toned and active. These are a major part of your core muscles thus having them switch on better helps with your general movement, mobility and posture.

Conversely having these muscles de-condition results in poor movement patterns, decreased mobility and can even create an increasing incidence of misalignment’s to your skeletal structure. For instance if you keep bending poorly (i.e. from your low back rather than squatting down) you’re far more prone to creating skeletal misalignment’s. The net result is you stay in pain for longer and need to be in our office more!

The other important benefit of squatting? You develop a nice butt and thighs! Who wouldn’t want that?

We highly advise starting to introduce squatting into your exercise routine (if you aren’t already). This doesn’t have to involve using heavy weights by the way. A simple air squat (shown in the photo above) is a great exercise in and of itself. A good start point is to type ‘how to air squat’ into YouTube and follow the steps in the video. Some of you will find it more difficult than others but just starting is the first step, your mobility will improve over time. By the way, your adjustments can significantly improve your spinal and hip mobility assisting you over time. If you’re worried about your knees then just take it slow. Squatting has been shown to actually improve chronic knee pain. Just mention it to your chiropractor before your start.

If you want to get started but feel unsure ask your chiropractor next time you‘re in and get them to instruct you on how to get going.

Remember ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it!’ So get squatting!

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