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Squatting is one of the best exercises to improve your range of motion at the ankle and hip joints.
Furthermore, when weight is involved it’s a great way of improving muscular strength and adding mass.
At its core the squat is a natural human movement and when you consider evolutionary history, squatting was a common resting position.
There are a many variations of squatting and in this article we’ll consider both the Asian squat position and that of the Western squat. Asian squats essentially mean to attain a deep squatting position.
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Many people in Western cultures are not able to achieve the depth required to perform an Asian squat, nor can they maintain the position.
As you’ll read this article, you’ll learn why that is the case for many, as Asian squats are linked with mobility and, to some extent, genetics.
Differences Between The Asian Squat vs Western Squat
- The main difference between the Asian squat and the Western squat is the squat depth achieved. The Asian squat will involve being able to squat deep enough to allow the hamstrings to touch the calf muscles. Conversely, the Western squat tends to involve squatting to parallel or just beyond.
- The Asian squat, also known as the resting squat, is a natural human resting position as well as the natural position for human defecation. In Asian cultures typical public restrooms comprise of toilets that are set directly into the ground, these are called squat toilets.
- In the western world of course, we are more used to toilets that comprise a seat. The reason many Asian people prefer to make use of squat toilets is that they are considered much more hygienic when compared to their Western counterparts. What’s more, squatting down is much better for bowel movements.
- In Western countries, when we think of squatting, we typically think of an exercise utilising a barbell and some weight plates with a squat being performed by a powerlifter or someone looking to add muscle mass and increase strength. It’s not common practice to squat on a daily basis. But maybe it should be!
Asian Squat Benefits
Believe it or not, the human body is designed to be able to perform Asian squatting as part of their daily activities. However, several lifestyle factors over long periods of time greatly impede a person’s ability to do so.
If you can do them, there are numerous health benefits to be enjoyed.
Improved Lower Body Mobility
When holding the position of an Asian squat for a set period, you can greatly improve lower body mobility.
This is specific to both ankle mobility and hip flexion.
Many people live sedentary lifestyles and spend a lot of time sitting. The significant impact of this is tightness to the hips and calf muscles and muscles to the back of the leg alongside the Achilles tendon.
This in turn results in reduced ankle flexibility. Regular deep squats will improve greatly improve these issues.
If you regularly attend your local gym and perform, what is known as, Western squats, you can improve mobility to these joints but certainly not to the same degree.
If you incorporate a deep Asian squat into your daily life not only will you see improvements to your joints, this will carry over and assist with reducing common aches and pains encountered by many people.
This includes a reduction to pain in the lower back and pain to the knee joint.
If you compare a barbell squat with an Asian squat, much of the weight load is placed onto the spine.
This is why if the squat is not executed with proper form it can result in significant injury, purely because of the pressure applied due to the weight.
An Asian squat is a bodyweight exercise meaning that you’re not going to be putting pressure onto the spine, but the depth required will place emphasis on the lower leg muscles helping to improve their strength.
Regular Asian squatting will allow an opening up of the colon which allows for a more efficient process with bowel movements. This in turn aids with better digestion and a reduction in constipation.
When you begin to see improvements to your hip and ankle mobility this has the added benefit of improving your overall posture.
Is Asian Squatting Good For You?
Asian squats involve the full range of motion and require better mobility. So, it’s safe to say that benefits to overall health are significantly better when compared with Western squats, especially for the average person.
More importantly, they can benefit people with a sedentary lifestyle better than Western squats, as they can reduce muscle stiffness and improve posture.
Asian squats are perhaps more suitable for those looking to increase mobility in their lower body joints. At the same time, these deeper squats can be quite difficult for some, particularly those with very stiff ankles and knees.
Why Is The Asian Squat So Difficult?
If you’ve never performed Asian squats, you may find it difficult to do them. And you’re not alone, especially if you’ve grown up in the West.
The difficulty in doing and holding a deep squat position results from the stiffness in the lower body joints. As we age, our muscles and joints get stiff, especially in the modern age, where most people have a sedentary lifestyle.
So it’s understandable that people who sit on chairs for the better part of the day may find it difficult to squat even to parallel, let alone a deeper variation like the Asian squat.
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In Asian squats, the difficulty arises with keeping your feet flat, with ankle mobility playing a major role. When your buttocks are all the way down, your feet may lift and cause you to lose your balance and fall backward.
This largely occurs because of a lack of flexibility in the ankles and a little because of stiffness in the leg and hip muscles and, of course, lack of practice.
Whilst Asian squats are difficult to do, they are not impossible. All it takes is a little practice and quite quickly you’ll begin to see improvements.
If you find it difficult to go deeper in your squatting stance and maintaining that position, you could take hold of a kettlebell, or other similar weight. This will provide a counterbalance and you’ll find it much easier to hold a deep squat.
Alternatively, if you find your ankles rolling inwards due to poor mobility, raise your heels slightly as this will increase the range of motion to the ankles, again making the movement easier to perform.
Do Genetics Play A Role?
Genetics can play a part in how you perform and maintain a squat.
Those with shorter legs but longer torsos tend to maintain a very vertical spine during squatting resulting in an overextension of the spine.
Conversely, someone with longer legs tend to arch forwards resulting in an over flexion of the spine.
That’s not too say that those at a biomechanical disadvantage for deep squatting should avoid doing them. It simply means that adjustments with form would be necessary.
For example, someone with longer legs could benefit from positioning the feet slightly wider with toes pointing further outwards.
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If you’re unsure play around with form and find which feels most comfortable. Your body will quickly let you know if you’re performing an exercise and putting too much pressure on your joints.
So, whilst genetics can play a part in undertaking a deep squat, the primary cause for not being able to do so lies with poor mobility and flexibility.
In the West, people are used to sitting on chairs with a 90-degree angle and spending much of their day there. The toilets also have seats negating the need to squat.
Throw in very little physical activity; you have the perfect blend of reasons that make deep squatting difficult.
How To Perform Asian Squat?
Asian squats can be mastered with regular practice, despite their initial difficulty. Once you learn how to do them properly, you can incorporate them in to your day.
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Here’s How You Do An Asian Squat:
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you have long legs opt for a wider stance and for those with shorter legs, go a little narrower than shoulder width.
- Lower your buttocks to the floor, bend your knees, and bring your upper body down until your butt touches the heels and your thighs touch the calves.
- Ensure that your feet are flat on the floor and don’t let your ankles or knees roll inwards.
- Hold this position for as long as is comfortable. As mentioned, if you find it difficult to maintain balance hold onto something like a doorframe or a free weight.
If you really struggle and would rather focus on improving mobility before performing Asian squats, consider performing a yoga move known as the happy baby pose.
This is great for stretching out the inner thighs and hamstrings and will help loosen up the hip and ankle joints.
Asian Squat vs Slav Squat
Another variation of squats is the Slav squats, which aren’t very different from Asian squats. Slav squats, which reference the Slavic countries in Eastern Europe, also involve going deeper into the low squat position.
The primary difference between the Asian squat and the Slav squat is the position of the feet.
To perform a Slav squat your feet should be positioned slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes pointing out.
Conversely, the Asian squat involves squatting with the feet closer together.
Such squatting movement targets the glutes more and can help reduce lower back pain. It could also be a good alternative for those with very long limbs.
Asian squats are a hugely beneficial exercise that can aid with several health issues and, when compared to western squats, will really help to loosen up the lower body and improve mobility which can also make day to day activities much easier.