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Squatting as a Mobility and Strength Tool

December 6, 2017

Squatting is an ancient and therefore foundational human movement. Unless born with a structural deformation, every person is born with the mobility to do a flat-footed squat. Children use this movement pattern regularly to pick something up, to play, to observe something on the ground, for sitting, etc. Because of its elementary nature and the many benefits it offers, I teach every one of my clients how to find their expression of a healthy squat in their movement practice and lifestyle. 


I have seen the flat-footed squat help many people overcome knee, lower back, hip and ankle issues and I’ve heard from several colleagues that they too find squatting to be valuable in rehabilitation and strength training. Restoring and strengthening this movement can help you thrive and feel more freedom of mobility in your body. When properly practised, this movement is a staple in a holistic movement practice.


It’s beneficial to think of human movement potential in terms of our evolution, that is, what we are capable of, and not merely something that we express through sport and exercise. If we look at what movements we are born with and what movements Homo sapiens have been using for thousands of years, one can develop a much clearer picture of how to stay healthy and thrive with a movement practice. It’s likely that the flat-footed squat is so ancient in our movement behaviour that our genes expect to experience it.


I assess squatting in all of my clients because it provides efficient information about their structure and function. If there’s a mobility or strength deficit, the trained eye can clearly see it. If they have a spine, hip, knee or ankle mobility deficit they won’t be able to do a flat-footed squat comfortably or even at all. On the other hand, developing a proficient squat is beneficial for achieving strong and healthy, knees, hips, spine, ankles, and more. Some of my colleagues even believe that squatting is good for digestion. 


Proper squatting, as with all mobility training, needs to be tailored to the individual’s needs for the best results. Squatting alone is only one pattern of many foundational capabilities of the human body. It’s the restoration and development of them all that produces holistic results in freedom of mobility and utilitarian strength.



In the above video, I am practising the flat-footed squat in a manner where I am imagining to be picking something up off of the ground. I am focusing on tracking my knees towards the baby toes and engaging my lower back within the movement path. I am using a slow lowering (eccentric) phase to promote tendon strength. If this movement is currently accessible to you, 3x3 or 3x5 may be a good sets and reps scheme to try in your practice. I often pair a lower body exercise with an upper body one, such as the 90/90 shoulder rotation that I went over in the last article. To be clear: do one set of squats, then one set of shoulder rotations, and repeat for a total of 3 sets.


The flat-footed squat can be loaded with external weight for greater strength gains but only once it is sufficiently developed without weights. Most people don’t even need to load this movement, but ironically so many people do before they can even do it without weights. 


In review, the flat-footed squat is essential and primary to a holistic mobility and strength practice. When practised correctly and in harmony with other movements, it is a powerful tool for mobility, strength and physical longevity. 


Wishing you well,



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