Push, squat, pull, lunge, bend, twist and gait are all movements intrinsically encoded into our bodies and contribute to our overall health and well-being. They demand strength and control and we MUST keep performing them despite the many modern conveniences that have us avoiding them. Unfortunately most of us can no longer execute theses movements in a healthy way due to tension patterns, weakness, old injuries, poor co-ordination and so on. So it is of utmost importance that you not only understand why these movements are so important but also how to perform them in a safe and effective manner. There is no point in just battling through blindly. Take time to read this post, put yourself in front of a mirror and use these images to guide you.
In this post I will illustrate the second primal movement pattern: SQUAT. (Click here to read part 1, PUSH)
Squatting is our natural sitting position – it should be easy and feel comfy! However, sitting for hours in chairs at work, in cars, on trains, in restaurants, and at home has us so inflexible and weak that we avoid extending the movement all the way to the floor because it’s feels too difficult – this is terrible! The more we avoid difficult movements the more ill, anxious and helpless we become. We need to be able to get up and down from the floor for so many reasons, even when we are elderly.
- Uses almost all the muscles in the body, so is essential in improving athletic and sporting performance, and of course excellent for toning and weight-loss
- Pumps fluids around the body which helps remove waste products and delivers fresh nutrition and better health to all tissues (muscles, organs, bones etc)
- Stresses and stimulates the hormonal system, encouraging the body to find healthy chemical balances
- When done correctly with the breath, squats can calm the nervous system and encourage parasympathetic activity. See this post for more info.
- Helps regulate digestion. The full deep squat (explained later) helps you poop clean and easy as the thighs compress the lower abdomen (right thigh presses on the cecum and the left compresses the descending colon) and the rectum straightens and relaxes. So, excellent for those suffering from hernias, diverticulosis, pelvic organ prolapse, hemorrhoids and of course excellent in helping pregnant women prepare for a natural birth.
Follow these steps mindfully; each is beneficial so take your time making sure you master each one before moving to the next. There is absolutely nothing to benefit from doing a squat incorrectly.
Begin standing; legs just wider than the outside of your hips, feet slightly turned out (30deg, line up the 3rd toe with the centre of the knee cap and centre of the hip) with arms long beside you.
Bend legs to what feels like half a squat for you, fold at the hips, spine stays straight just tips forward on an angle relative to how low you have bent your legs, take arms forward to shoulder height, palms facing each other. Press through the middle of the feet and heels to come back up to straight. Exhale through the mouth to go down, breathe in at the bottom, exhale to come back up.
Move into a deeper squat following the direction as above. Only go as deep as you can keep your heels connected and your knees pointing over your third toes.
Add weights to step 2 – hold a swiss ball /OR 2-5 kg hand weights in each hand – slowly increase the weight. A bar bell would be ideal when the weight increases past 5kg in each hand.
- Shoot your butt back as if you were about to hover over a toilet seat you don’t want to sit on!
- Toes are connected but light – weight is more in your heels to help power from the back of your legs and butt and avoid loading the lower back, hips and knees
- Aim knees over the third toes – NEVER let your feet and knees roll inwards, this is not functional and will only cause undue knee strain. When you gain more flexibility you can squat deeper.
- Spine stays straight like a plank – it just goes from upright to forward on a diagonal.
- Arms suck into the shoulder sockets and shoulder blades move down your back. NEVER lift your arms with only your upper back and neck muscles
- Take your eyes from straight ahead when standing to the floor out in front of you when in the squat – keep the back of the neck long
- Draw the abs gently towards your spine
PRACTISE ALL THE TIME: THE BASIC PRIMAL RESTED SQUAT!
This position is excellent for stretching out the legs and spine after standing for a long time or after a quick work out. Feet are flat on the floor, tops of thighs rest against the abdomen and hamstrings rest against the back of the lower legs (calves).
- Pelvis naturally rolls and tucks under, spine is in a natural small forward bend
- All parts of the feet are equally planted on the floor
- Hips and knees are open around a 30deg angle
- If you don’t have the flexibility for this then lift your heels and place your hands on a wall in front of you and gently rock forwards and backwards to tease the body and nervous system into slowly releasing closer to the floor. Stretching your feet and calf muscles will also help as will moving to more flat shoes with less of a heel.