Squatting is a posture where the weight of the body is on the feet (as with standing) but the knees and hips are bent. In contrast sitting involves taking the weight of the body, at least in part, on the buttocks against the ground or a horizontal object such as a chair seat. The angle between the legs when squatting can vary from zero to widely splayed out, flexibility permitting. Another variable may be the degree of forward tilt of the upper body from the hips – see particularly here and here. Squatting may be either:
- full – known as full squat, deep squat, (sitting) on one's haunches, (sitting) on one's hunkers, or hunkering (down) – see text and see image gallery
- partial – known as partial, standing, half, semi, parallel, shallow, intermediate, incomplete or monkey squat etc. – see text and see image gallery.
Crouching is usually considered to be synonymous with squatting. It is common to squat with one leg and kneel with the other leg. One or both heels may be up when squatting. Young children often instinctively squat. Among Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Eastern European adults, squatting often takes the place of sitting or standing.
Elements of squatting are frequently used in everyday life without us realising it, whenever we lower our body.
- 1 Variations
- 2 Etymology
- 3 Young children
- 4 Resting position
- 5 Childbirth position
- 6 Sexual position
- 7 Female urination position
- 8 Defecation position
- 9 Dynamic exercise
- 10 Mālāsana or upavesasana in yoga
- 11 Partial squat
- 12 Health effects
- 13 Squatting facets
- 14 Image gallery
- 15 See also
- 16 References
- 17 Further reading
- 18 External links
The variations in this section particularly apply to full squatting but can apply to or have elements of partial squatting.
Both legs squatting
Squatting for both legs can involve:
- heels down for both feet (see images)
- heels up for both feet (see images), or
- the heel up for just one foot (see images).
Heels down squatting for both feet is the most stable arrangement of the three but most Western adults cannot do it.
Where the heel is up for one foot, the thigh for that leg is typically more parallel to the ground than the other leg, additionally the heel up foot is typically planted further back than the heel down foot.
Where the heel is up for both feet, it can be by different degrees thus giving two different thigh angles.
It is common for one leg to be kneeling, while the other leg is:
Genuflection typically requires the heel down version of the squat/kneel combination.
The kneel in the squat/kneel combination is effectively just taking the heel up for one foot variant of both legs squatting a stage further. Similarly, the heel up squat version of the squat/kneel combination is potentially a stage before both legs kneeling.
As a verb – early 15th century. Squatting in the sense of "crouch on the heels" is from the Old French words esquatir and escatir. Squatting in the sense of "compress, press down, lay flat, crush" is from about 1400. Meaning "posture of one who squats" is from 1570s. Act of squatting is from 1580s. Weight-lifting sense is from 1954.
Young children squat instinctively as a continuous movement from standing up whenever they want to lower themselves to ground level. One- and two-year-olds can commonly be seen playing in a stable squatting position, with feet wide apart and bottom not quite touching the floor, although at first they need to hold onto something to stand up again.
Full squatting involves resting one's weight on the feet with the buttocks resting on the backs of the calves. It may be used as a posture for resting or working at ground level particularly where the ground is too dirty or wet to sit or kneel.
For this reason the squatting position is usually not sustainable for them for more than a few minutes as heels-up squatting is a less stable position than heels-down squatting. See also dorsiflexion.
Catchers in baseball and wicket-keepers in cricket facing slow deliveries assume full squatting positions. Australian wicket-keeper Sammy Carter (1878 to 1948) was the first to squat on his haunches rather than bend over from the waist (stooping). (See full squats gallery for images.)
Slav squat, rap squat, prison pose and jail pose
Gopnik is a pejorative term to describe a particular subculture in Russia, former Soviet republics, and other East Slavic countries. Gopniks are often seen squatting in groups ("in court" (на корта́х), "at the pictures" (на карташах), "doing the crab" (на крабе)). It is described as a learned behavior attributed to Russian prison culture. Gopniks usually wear Adidas tracksuits, due to them being popularised by the 1980 Moscow Olympics Soviet team. The Slav squat is associated with Gopniks in Eastern European countries together with stereotypical Eastern European behavior such as consumption of vodka and cigarettes and participation in street gambling. It is a full squat with both heels down.
Equivalents to the Slav squat in Western culture, sometimes with the hands together in a prayer position, are the rap squat, prison pose and jail pose. They are often used as photographic poses.
"Hunkerin'" is, in particular, the name applied to the American fad of resting in the squatting position in the late 1950s. Life referred to it as "sociable squatting". Such behavior had been seen in many cultures, particularly in Asia, for centuries when it suddenly became a fad in the United States in 1959. While the word "hunkerin'" is believed to originate from the Scots word for "haunches", claims were made for Yorkshire, Korea and Japan.
Time reported that the craze started at the University of Arkansas when a shortage of chairs at a fraternity house led students to imitate their Ozark forefathers, who hunkered regularly. The fad spread first to Missouri, Mississippi and Oklahoma, then across the U.S. While males were the predominant hunkerers, it was reported that females were welcomed by many groups. Within months, regional competitions were being held to crown champions.
Considered by authorities as preferable to the earlier fad of phonebooth stuffing, people hunkered for hours on car roofs, in phone booths and wherever people gathered. Different styles were reported as "sophisticates" tended to use a flatfooted posture while others hunkered with their elbows inside the knees.
Reasons for the spread of the activity included the ability for large groups of people to participate together peacefully to discuss issues such as politics or sport. When asked about this popularity, one participant described it as
"A respite from a world of turmoil. The main purpose of hunkerin' is to get down and hunker together. It's a friendship thing: get your friends to hunker with you. The man you don't know is the man you haven't hunkered with."
Proponents urged United States President Dwight Eisenhower and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev to hunker together to end their differences. By 1960 the fad was fading.
The Grand Howl is a ceremony used by Cub Scouts. It was devised by Robert Baden-Powell and is based on the Mowgli stories in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. In the ceremony, Cubs act out the wolves greeting Akela, the "Old Wolf" at the Council Rock and are reminded of the Cub Scout Promise. For this ceremony cubs assume the squatting position to imitate a wolf's posture.
Engelmann's seminal work "Labor among primitive peoples" publicised the childbirth positions amongst primitive cultures to the Western world. They frequently use squatting, standing, kneeling and all fours positions, often in a sequence.
Various people have promoted the adoption of these alternative birthing positions, particularly squatting, for Western countries, such as Grantly Dick-Read, Janet Balaskas, Moysés Paciornik and Hugo Sabatino. The adoption of these alternative positions is also promoted by the natural childbirth movement.
The squatting position gives a greater increase of pressure in the pelvic cavity with minimal muscular effort. The birth canal will open 20 to 30% more in a squat than in any other position. It is recommended for the second stage of childbirth.
As most Western adults find it difficult to squat with heels down, compromises are often made such as putting a support under the elevated heels or another person supporting the squatter.
There are versions of the "cowgirl" sex position where the woman is squatting over the man, who is lying on his back, instead of kneeling over him. These are referred to by different names such as Asian cowgirl, frog squat position or riding position. The woman can face forwards or backwards (reverse).
Female urination position
When not urinating into a toilet, squatting is the easiest way for a female to direct the urine stream (although many women find that they can do so standing up). If done this way, the urine will go forward. Some females use one or both hands to focus the direction of the urine stream, which is more easily achieved while in the squatting position.
Acceptability of outdoor urination in a public place other than at a public urinal varies with the situation and customs. In Western countries, males typically do this standing up, while females squat.
The squatting defecation posture involves squatting by standing with knees and hips sharply bent and the buttocks suspended near the ground. Squat toilets are designed to facilitate this posture. This is less common in the Western world.
As strength training
In strength training, the squat is a full body exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, as well as strengthening the bones, ligaments and insertion of the tendons throughout the lower body. Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength and size of the legs and buttocks.
The burpee is a full body exercise used in strength training and as an aerobic exercise. The basic movement is performed in four steps and known as a "four-count burpee".
- Begin in a standing position.
- Move into a squat position with your hands on the ground. (count 1)
- Kick your feet back into a plank position, while keeping your arms extended. (count 2)
- Immediately return your feet into squat position. (count 3)
- Stand up from the squat position. (count 4)
Taoist Tai Chi
In Taoist Tai Chi, the "Dan Yu" (spine stretching) exercise involves squatting. It is intended to work primarily the pelvic region, the legs and the lower back. Fifty or more repetitions may be performed in advanced classes. The feet are placed in a stance wider than the shoulders. When squatting the knees move in the direction of the feet.
Mālāsana or upavesasana in yoga
The asana is a squat with heels flat on the floor and hip-width apart (or slightly wider if necessary), toes pointing out on a diagonal. The torso is brought forward between the thighs, elbows are braced against the inside of the knees, and the hands press together in front of the chest in Añjali Mudrā.
A partial squat (also known as standing, half, semi, parallel, intermediate, shallow, incomplete or monkey squat etc.) is an intermediate stage between standing and full squatting, that is, standing but with the knees and hips bent. (In contrast, stooping involves bending at the waist rather than just the knees and hips). The basic variables of partial squatting are:
- depth of partial squat
- degree of forward tilt of the upper body from the hips
- angle between the legs from zero to widely splayed, flexibility permitting
- whether the heels are up.
It may be used in a variety of contexts often as a "ready for action" posture:
- the batsman's posture in cricket when waiting for a delivery. Also wicketkeeper's stance for fast bowlers and slip fielder's stance. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- waiting to receive a serve in tennis. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- used in the Alexander technique, as "the monkey squat" also known as the "position of mechanical advantage". The term is also used in Pilates.
- to avoid back strain it is important to bend the knees whenever you lift a heavy object. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- the act of sitting down on a chair is a partial squat as knees and hips are bent. It is effectively an interrupted full squat – chair squat. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- bending down to do something near ground level should theoretically be partial squatting but may be compromised as stooping by bending at the waist. (See partial squats gallery for images.)
- plié in ballet is a type of partial squat balanced on the toes only and the legs turned outwards. (The grand plié has the thighs parallel to the ground like a parallel squat. The demi-plie has the thighs at about a 45% angle to the ground). (See image opposite).
- the curtsey is a traditional gesture of greeting, in which a girl or woman bends her knees while bowing her head. It is the female equivalent of male bowing in Western cultures.
- the parallel squat, often used in weight training, is just short of a full squat where the thighs are parallel to the ground. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- the most widely used martial arts stance is a shallow standing squat. This position is generally employed as it is a neutral and agile position from which both attacks and defences may be launched. It provides for the delivery of force when attacking and stability when defending.
- the sumo squat, with the legs wide apart, ready for action (shikiri) in sumo wrestling. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- the pistol squat – a squat with one leg out straight, or more generally single leg squat – a squat with one leg in any way not touching the ground. (See partial squats gallery for images.)
- Monkey Kung Fu a Chinese martial art which utilizes ape or monkey-like movements as part of its technique.
- a karate horse stance. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- the haka war dance commonly uses a partial squat stance. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- a Besti squat is a figure skating move. (See image opposite).
- the sit spin is one of the three basic figure skating spin positions. It is defined by a squatting position in which the skater's buttocks are below the knee of the skating leg. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- twerking is "to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance". (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- Zapin is a combination of semi-squatting style Malay dance with Arabic influence.
- the sorority squat is typically performed by sorority sisters immediately prior to a picture being taken where one or more participants slightly bend their knees and lean on their calves with their arms. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- Utkatasana is a partial squat in yoga. (See image opposite).
- Garudasana is a type of one legged partial squat in yoga – also known as eagle squat. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- Females may use a partial squatting position (or "hovering") while urinating to avoid sitting on a potentially contaminated toilet seat, although it may leave urine behind in the bladder.
- Stance during surfing. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- Stance during skiing. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
- Stance in volleyball. (See partial squats gallery for image.)
For more partial squatting images see here.
A lunge is a variation of the partial squat where a leg is moved forwards with the knee bent but the other remains straight thus moving the upper body forward in line with the bent knee. For example:
- the snooker playing posture
- the fencing lunge – (see partial squats gallery for image)
- the lunge in figure skating – (see partial squats gallery for image)
- the lunge as a weight training or strength training exercise.
Stalking, prowling and duckwalking
Stalking, prowling and duckwalking is walking that maintains a low profile by assuming a low partial squatting position. It is a stage element of guitar showmanship popularized by Chuck Berry.
Duckwalking is used to strengthen the ankles and thighs. It is also a test of balance, flexibility, and agility.
The duckwalk is one out of 25 exercises in the physical test at United States Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPS). The duckwalk tests to see if a trainee is flat footed or if it hurts to perform the exercise. It also makes sure that the trainee has proper ranges of motion. Trainees who fail the duckwalk are temporarily suspended from MEPS and have to try again at a later date.
There is increased incidence of knee osteoarthritis amongst squatters who squat for hours a day for many years. There is evidence that sustained squatting may cause bilateral peroneal nerve palsy. A common name for this affliction is squatter's palsy although there may be reasons other than squatting for this to occur. For richer societies who rarely squat, squatting as a different posture may bring health benefits.
Tetralogy of Fallot
Older children will often squat during a Tetralogy of Fallot "tet spell". This increases systemic vascular resistance and allows for a temporary reversal of the shunt. It increases pressure on the left side of the heart, decreasing the right to left shunt thus decreasing the amount of deoxygenated blood entering the systemic circulation.
The existence of squatting facets on the distal tibia and talar articular surfaces of skeletons, which result from contact between the two bones during hyperdorsiflexion, have been used as markers to indicate if that person habitually squatted.
With heels down on both feet
Squatting girl from Java.
With heels up on both feet
Golf player assessing a putt shot.
A Balinese squatting wooden statuette.
A heels up version of the Grand Howl, legs splayed out wide.
Woman replicating heels up squatting by wearing high heels.
With heel up on one foot
Heel down squat/kneel combination
Taking heel up squat on one foot a stage further to one leg kneeling.
Soldier with a bazooka. The left arm resting on knee helps with support for weapon.
Heel up squat/kneel combination
Conan the Barbarian film poster showing eccentric splayed out squat/kneel by character Valeria.
Stance during surfing.
Woman lifting a 200 pound tyre – bent knees essential to avoid back strain.
Statue in half-squatting posture consistent with traditional Balinese dance.
Riding-like sitting by using a specialised chair to replicate partial squatting more authentically – more weight on feet.
A heels up partial squat by entertainer Josephine Baker as part of a dance routine.
A lunge in figure skating – leading leg partial squatting, trailing leg straight back
Limbo dancing – an unusual case where the knees are bent but the hips are not, resulting in the upper body tilting backwards.
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