Asian Squat – What is it?

When it comes to squats, most people tend to think of them as a strengthening and conditioning exercise. After all, squats are a popular lower body workout, and there are lots of bodyweight and weighted versions, such a prisoner squats, box squats, pistol squats, front squats, back squats, and pause squats.

However, as well as being an exercise, squatting is a natural movement and, in some countries, a resting position. Watch a child play with something on the floor, and invariably they’ll squat down to do it.

Workers in places like Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe also drop down into a squat rather than sit on the floor or use a chair.

People, and especially adults, tend to find descending into and maintaining a deep squat very difficult, if not impossible. An overreliance on chairs, poor mobility, tight muscles, and a lack of practice means that we’re just not built to squat low and stay there.

Trainers and physical therapists are starting to realize that regaining the ability to drop, squat, and hold can have a massive impact on things like knee, hip, and back health. This has given rise to an exercise called the Asian squat.

In this article, we explain what the Asian squat is, how to do it, and its benefits and drawbacks.

What Is an Asian Squat

woman doing SquatsAn Asian squat, also known as a Slavic squat or a third-world squat, involves squatting down and resting your butt on your calves and ankles.

Once in this position, the squatter can relax and maintain the squat for a long time, as their weight is supported by their bones rather than the muscles.

In many cultures, the Asian squat is a working and resting position that is held for hours at a time.

While Western children can usually do the Asian squat naturally, most adults usually lose the ability.

Lots of sitting in chairs causes muscle tightness, making achieving and holding an Asian squat all but impossible.

The good news is that, with time and practice, you may be able to regain your Asian squat, and your muscles and joints will thank you for it.

How to Do an Asian Squat

Follow these steps to start squatting like an Asian:

  1. Stand in front of a waist-high object, such as a table, windowsill, or railing. You will probably need to use this for balance initially.
  2. Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, and your toes pointed slightly outward.
  3. Holding on for support, bend your legs and squat down until you are sitting with your butt resting on your calves or as deep as you can comfortably go. Keep your heels down and push your knees out to make more space, and squat a little deeper.
  4. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds, keeping your heels flat on the floor and your butt as low as possible.
  5. Using your arms for assistance if necessary, stand back up.
  6. Rest for a moment, and then repeat. You should find you can squat a little deeper this time.
  7. To get better at the Asian squat, try to do it 2-3 times per day. Increase the frequency and duration as you improve.
  8. As you get better at Asian squats, start doing them without using your arms, maintaining your balance and standing up unaided.

Asian Squat Benefits

Learning and getting better at the Asian squat could be a time-consuming process, so you may be wondering if it’s worth doing. Check out this lift of benefits to decide for yourself!

group class doing deep squatsImproved mobility and flexibility – sitting in a chair all day causes your hips and lower back to tighten up. It’s all that chair sitting that is the reason the Asian squat is so hard for westerners.

The Asian squat is the perfect antidote to long periods of sitting.

Less low back pain – chairs support your back, leading to weak lumbar muscles and an increased risk of low back pain and injury.

People who sit less tend to have fewer incidences of back pain. The Asian squat could reduce or even prevent chronic low back pain.

Healthier knees and hips – the Asian squat provide a great mobilizing workout for your hip and knee joints. A lot of westerners suffer from joint pain and even end up needing joint replacement surgery.

Doing the Asian squat could help mobilize and strengthen your knees and hips, keeping them healthier for longer.

Stronger legs – like all squatting exercises, doing Asian squats will help strengthen your leg muscles. Stronger legs make many everyday activities easier and less tiring.

A longer life – being able to do the Asian squat is a good predictor of longevity. Doing the Asian squat into old age is good for many aspects of your health, including muscle strength, joint health, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

In contrast, long periods spent sitting in a chair could shorten your life.

Risks of Asian Squats

While Asian squats are generally beneficial and safe, there are also a few drawbacks to consider:

Numb legs – holding a deep squat for more than a minute or two could make your legs go numb. As a result, you could lose your balance when you stand up. Avoid this issue by starting off with short bouts of Asian squats and increasing gradually as you get used to this exercise.

Knee pain – if you’ve got healthy knees, Asian squats should not cause discomfort or pain. However, if you’ve got arthritis, damaged ligaments, or any other knee condition, Asian squats could make things worse. Listen to your body, and don’t do Asian squats if they make your knee pain worse.

Dizziness – it’s not uncommon to feel dizzy or faint after doing Asian squats, especially initially. Use a handrail or similar and do Asian squats in an open space so, if you do feel dizzy, there is nothing to stumble into.

Bottom Line

A couple of generations ago, the Asian squat was not just done in Asia but all over the world. It’s how many people worked and even rested.

Chairs were much less common, and if you did have a chair, it was probably more like a low stool and not the super-supportive behemoths we have today.

It’s been established that too much sitting is bad for almost every aspect of your health, which is why it’s been “labeled as the new smoking.” Most of us would benefit from sitting less and standing more.

The Asian squat could be the antidote to too much chair time. While initially quite a strenuous position, eventually, it could become a comfortable alternative to sitting.

Try the Asian squat, but don’t be surprised if you can’t do it! Don’t give up, though; persevere, and you could soon be squatting like a kid again.

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Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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