The Asian squat refers to the typical squatting posture that is seen throughout many nations in the Far East. Although an Asian squat is essentially just a deep squat, the cultural and ancestral backdrop is crucial to the topic.
Asians can squat extremely deep with their heels firmly planted on the ground to perform a variety of tasks. Some of the tasks performed while squatting may even surprise some people.
Not all people can perform the Asian squat without suffering from issues of balance, stability, or pain. Many would think that it is easy to do until they try it and feel their Achilles tendon is about to rupture while falling on their butt and back.
The reason for this is that it requires a lot of mobility and flexibility on the ankles and balance. Most people cannot perform the Asian squat easily or without discomfort because they lack or have lost these qualities over time.
Not everyone can effectively pull off the perfect “Asian squat,” as some experts believe it has something to do with a person’s body shape or lack of ankle flexibility.
In a nutshell: The Asian squat is essentially a deep-squatting position in which a person’s soles are flat on the floor facing forward.
Why it’s “Asian”: When and why people started calling this squat “Asian” are unknown. However, this position has been reported to be common in Asia and nearly absent in the West, where some people began dubbing it the “Asian squat.”
A part of daily life: Squatting is a common sight in Asia, from locals relaxing outdoors to doing their everyday chores. It arguably provides its best benefits in the bathroom, however, as evidenced by the existence of squat toilets in some Asian countries.
Not everybody can do it: Although deep squatting is a fairly common posture in Asia and even in countries outside the continent — take the “Slav squat,” for example — not everybody can do it. Westerners, for one, are known to struggle with the position.
There’s also the case of age. Bahram Jam, a physical therapist in Toronto, told HuffPost last year that American children and teens can deep squat comfortably, but the skill becomes lost as they grow older in the Western world.
Why they can’t do it: Western adults may have trouble performing the Asian squat due to their own body shape. Bryan Ausinheiler, a physical therapist in California, told The Atlantic in 2018 that short limbs make it easier to balance, a conclusion he came to following tests he had run on his own brothers. Another possible explanation is an intrinsic lack of capacity for ankle dorsiflexion — or moving your foot closer to your knee — according to a study by Japanese researchers.
From about 60 degrees in the neonatal period, the capacity for passive ankle dorsiflexion drops to about 20 degrees in adulthood, according to another study. This suggests that without practice, one loses the ability to perform the Asian squat with age.
Why do it: Besides aiding in bowel movement, the Asian squat has other reported benefits for the body. These include strengthening core and lower body muscles, developing lower body mobility, helping pregnant women during labor, relieving lower back and knee joint pains and improving overall posture.
Why the Asian Squat is so Difficult for Most People to Perform
The magnitude of passive ankle dorsiflexion (backward bending of the foot) is about 60 degrees in the neonatal period and decreases to about 20 degrees in adulthood. Fundamentally, we are all born with the flexibility for an Asian squat, but there is a high probability that it’s a case of “use it or lose it.”
Children can easily maintain a squatting position while playing with toys on the ground. However, only a few adults maintain the ability to squat as they age.
Westerners prefer sitting on a chair and adopted the upright seat-style toilet long ago. There is also an argument that America’s bowel problems can be blamed on the toilet seat and the inefficient anorectal angle when sitting while relieving oneself.
An excerpt from Bockus’s Gastroenterology (1964) states that the ideal posture for defecation is the squatting position, with the thighs fixed upon the abdomen.
Squats with the ideal technique are needed to maximize muscle recruitment and minimize the risk of injury. Notwithstanding, persons lacking ideal joint mobility or joint stability often exhibit movement compensations. A compensatory movement pattern is the body’s attempt to reduce effort or fatigue by using a more comfortable movement pattern or the path of least resistance.
A study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science in 2009, conducted by Tatsuya Kasayma, has identified that one of the most important factors for a deep squat is ankle flexibility or the ankle’s range of dorsiflexion on the sagittal plane.
Someone who lacks ankle dorsiflexion has a limited range of motion in one plane of movement. They must then redirect that movement to a different plane. External rotation of the feet beyond eight degrees enables a person to squat to a lower depth because motion is primarily occurring in the transverse plane.
Due to the limited ankle dorsiflexion, the knees are not able to track the toes in the sagittal plane, therefore motion takes place from another plane. Tightness in the calf complex (gastrocnemius and/or soleus) or mobility restriction in the ankle (talocrural) joint might be contributing to that person’s limited mobility while performing a deep squat.
The Asian squat is a compound exercise meant to maximize muscle recruitment to propel heavier weights overhead. It is a great model for a multi-segmental movement pattern and is considered to be similar, if not better, than other compound exercises. Everything is folding up underneath the trunk as the joints are bending at the hips, knees, and ankles.
Benefits of Asian Squats
Asian squats offer a range of benefits, including:
- Combat the Problems Associated with Sitting
- Strengthen Legs
- Improves Posture
- Improve Ankle Mobility and Flexibility
- Promotes Better Positioning for Olympic Lifting Exercises
- Useful During Pregnancy to Alleviate Pain
- Reduce Tight Calves
- Reduces Pressure on Joints and Bones
- Combat Lower Back Pain
- Improves Digestion and Bowel Movements
An additional benefit of the Asian Squat is for those adventurous travellers out there, who long to explore Asia and the Far East. Bathroom visits in these countries can often require a strong squat so its always good to know you won’t be left struggling to balance when mother nature calls!