You don't know squat about your squat. Squatting is an essential movement.

Squatting is something that we all need to do, and quite frankly—should be able to do to maintain a healthy movement matrix for our body—for life [Body Mechanics].

Out of the three basic movements that everyone needs to do to keep healthy function—squatting is one we all (hopefully) are still able to do functionally and regularly [Functional Strength Training].

I see it often, students remark that they just cannot squat, that their bodies are simply not designed to do such a thing. But, I would beg to differ, as I am sure when you were a wee child, and probably even at age seven, eight or nine you were still just squatting around at any given time.

But what if our inability to squat properly and comfortably is fed by our convenient lifestyles, that rob us of basic movement skills essential to keep our bodies happy and mobile?

What are basic movement skills? Squatting to garden, squatting to grab something you dropped, squatting to reach for something, lift something, squatting to brace yourself when playing a game, talking, reading, squatting when grocery shopping to get at a low shelf, squatting should not just be an activity you do at the gym with 100 pounds of weight attached to your neck.

And on top of that, the drastic transitions from little movement to extreme movement day in and day out has robbed us even more as we do little to bridge the gap between the two extremes.

Not sure what I'm getting at?

Any kind of long term sitting creates an almost immediate shortening of the hip flexors and calves, leaving you stiff and frozen in place upon standing. Unfortunately few take the time to fix this with more daily use of the legs (and necessary stretches) but rather “push it" to try to fix the lack of daily movement.

Not sold. Look at your shoes—most shoes in today's world are made with a heel (yes even those $150 running shoes), this unfortunately creates an environment for our calves, hip flexors, even our lower back to stay stuck short. It hurts to move, so we pad our feet and lift cater to the shortness, but sadly this is not a good solution.

I've been in the yoga and fitness world for fifteen years, now and I come across countless students struggling in squats of all sorts, take a pose like Chair--unable to sit back no matter what wonderful amazing cue I'd give them, they are stuck with all their body weight plunging into their knees, and can't seem to get past the pain of their quads gripping for life to keep them in the pose.

Why is sitting back in a pose like Chair important?

Well, if you want to effectively turn on your pelvic floor-glute combo you need to be able to sit back, this allows you to keep your spine from excessively rounding or arching, you need to be able to keep your pelvis in neutral so when you sit back, the underside of the body can turn on like a forklift, rather than the quads turning on like a crane.

Need another example—ever wonder why weight lifters wear a pitch in their shoes when they squat with weight? Ineffective or lack of attention to the essential need to release and stretch those good ole calves could be an overlooked reason—one, that could be easily taken care of.

With little if any attention to such a critical body part, the body over time begins to go haywire: plantar fasciitis, knee troubles, pelvic floor issues, back pain, even splayed ribs and a over lengthened rectus abdominis can trace part blame back to our friends who live in the calf.

So what exactly are we addressing when we point to the“calf"?

Well, let's paint a simple picture: if everything is connected, then let's play connect the dots.

  • The gastrocnemius: Is superior to the soleus, attaches on the lower posterior part (condyles) of the femur and feeds down into the Achilles tendon (the strongest and thickest tendon in the body).
  • The soleus: Connects at the heads of both lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) and feeds down underneath the gastrocnemius and feeds into the Achilles tendon. It looks like a filleted fish, and is often called the second heart, due to an important role of returning blood from the legs back to the heart.
  • The Achilles (aka calcaneal) tendon: Is the thickest tendon in the body starts at about lower mid leg (meeting the two above muscles) and runs down to connect into the heel (calcaneus).
  • The plantaris: The longest tendon in the body, runs on an angle from the lateral side of the femur (above the knee) to the heel.
  • The plantar fascia: Is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes.

And granted there are many other tissues in the (anterior part) lower leg, and we could very well continue upwards connecting the back line of the body, but to keep focused we will stop here.

To put these tissues to the test, let's check your squat to determine where you are at.

Try the squat test: Placing a chair in front of you (mouth facing you) line up the edge of the seat so when you look down your feet are parallel and toes line up with the front edge. Now squat down without hitting the mouth of the chair.

Feeling a bit down (or sad that you can't get down)?

Here are your three essential moves anyone with legs needs to be doing…

Half Dome-Negative Heel Stretch

  • Placing the ball of the right foot up on the half dome, check to align the outer edge of the foot directly with the outer edge of the mat.
  • Staying grounded in the ball of that foot, bring awareness to your hip and upper thigh and work to gently rotate the thigh outward so the pit of the knee works to point straight back.
  • Align the pelvis in pelvic neutral—pubis bone and front hip bones (ASIS) run parallel with the front wall.
  • Relax your front ribs down and now slows inch your free foot forward keeping your weight over the back most heel always; only go as far as you can keep your body stacked and in neutral. Hold the attained stretch for one to three minutes. Repeat the other leg. Consider doing 2:1 ratio for the tighter side.

Functional Warrior Calf Release

  • From Tadasana, casually step back with your right foot (do not go for a super long stride-just step back). Check to see how the foot fell (turned out or in, your tissues natural pull). Now realign the back foot to be parallel with the outer edge of the mat (double check).
  • Neutral your pelvis, square your hips forward and relax your front ribs down, bend the front knee.
  • Draw the hands to the hips to help keep awareness of this alignment, not to let it pull out of place in the next steps.
  • Keeping the back legs knee tracking forward, on the exhale, work to bend the back knee not allowing the heel to lift as you do so, hold for three counts, and repeat 10 times or for 1 minute. Repeat the opposite side. Consider doing 2:1 ratio for the tighter side.

Low Heel Squat/Heel Cord Stretch

  • Beginning in Standing Forward Bend, align the feet to a comfortable hips distance (more-or-less), exhale and slowly begin to squat down allowing your heels to slightly rise from the floor.
  • Check your footing and see how much your heels automatically sink inward when you squat (restriction and imbalance in the tissues pulls the legs this way), kindly work and attempt to draw the feet to a more parallel position, if needed roll the lower shank (lower leg/leg bones) outward if the ankle and foot are collapsing inward.
  • As you squat let the knees part slightly to make needed room for the belly and chest and work to reach forward as you simultaneously sit back in the heels, however, not allowing them to sit onto the floor. Imagine you are squatting with your heels hanging off the ledge of a window all the while reaching inward toward a chair.
  • Hold this squat one to two minutes, and then release into Standing Forward Bend, repeat one or two more times.

So, next time you decide to pop a squat (he-he) consider the preparation your body might need first to allow you to benefit now that you know more than squat about squats.

About the Author: Want to learn more about Hope -


bosu elite exercise to improve squat mechanics

bosu elite exercise: compression kettlebell squats