How a full depth squat (“ass to grass”) will help you live a better life.

Do you have lower back pain? Maybe some knee pain? Are your hamstrings too tight? Being able to perform a proper squat may help alleviate these problems.

Watch your child bend over and pick something up. They don’t set a knee down and hold on to the side of the couch, all the while groaning under the strain of tight hips and knees. They simply squat down, pick up the object, and stand back up. Did you teach them to do it? No. It’s programmed into their head as the most efficient way to pick up the object.

So, why do we lose the ability to squat as we age? From the minute we start Kindergarten, we are forced to sit for many hours a day. We grow up and get a job, and most of us are required to sit to perform that job. We get home at night, and sit and watch some TV. This causes our hip flexors (the muscles running down from the hip to the knee) to shorten, putting stress on the knee and front of the hip. The glutes (our butt muscles and the biggest muscles on our bodies) become weak and stretched to the point that they fire poorly, or not at all. This, in turn, tilts the pelvis, putting stress on the back.

How can we fix this?

See if you can perform a full depth squat following these guidelines:

  1. Place your feet generally hip distance apart.
  2. Have your toes pointing relatively straight or at a slight angle outward.
  3. Push your hips backward and bring your chest forward. This is called the “Hip Hinge” and engages your glutes and hamstrings.
  4. Engage your knees outward while squeezing your glutes, which will create stability and strength in your hips.
  5. Continue to push your hips backward and keep your chest tall as you descend downward.
  6. Descend down into the lowest position you’re able to. If ability allows it, your hips will be below your knees.
  7. Your weight should stay balanced over the middle of your feet and knees should continue to always have engagement outward throughout the entire movement, down and up.
  8. Standing up from the bottom, keep your chest up while pushing your hips up and pulling your shins back.
  9. Continue to drive all the way up until full extension is achieved.

If you cannot perform the squat with good technique or lack the ability to achieve full depth, there are some simple things you can try:

“The Couch Stretch” – it’s easy enough to perform while you’re watching TV:

Or try some of these techniques courtesy of the Squat University here:

These may not be the complete fix to all of your mobility issues; but with time and patience, being able to get into a good squat will make your life better and maybe even prevent surgery or limit degenerative changes and injury as you age. Take the time and put in the work now – consider it an investment in your health!