Reminding your body that it used to squat with ease can play an important role in reducing low-back pain

Have you ever noticed a child squat? How about an elderly man enjoying a cigarette on a street corner in Bali? These squats are pieces of artistry; knees-out, straight-backed beautiful formations.

Meanwhile we, mere mortals of the office-bound variety, can only dream of such lofty squat perfection.

Some of us devote hours to mobility and squat practice in the quest to achieve what comes effortlessly and naturally to a toddler.

The research tells us that the ‘industrialised’ world has the highest levels of reported back pain and that traditional cultures have remarkably little. This is despite the reality that most adults from these traditional societies daily undertake ‘harder’ physical activities than than we do and have lives that involve considerably more physical exercise.

It is has been posited that the reason for this disconnect (between daily physical labour and the lack of back complaints in traditional societies) is because people in these cultures rarely sit in chairs for long periods of time.

As a collective they are considerably less sedentary and, crucially, when they need to rest they squat on their haunches rather than collapse into a comfy armchair.

Squatting is what your body was designed to do.

We are all born with this capacity to perform a weightlifter’s perfect squat, then through exposure to the modern world we generally lose this ability.

For me, my years working in the corporate world, sitting on a ‘death pod’ (chair) certainly took away some of my ability to squat well. I’m now fighting every day to get it back through regular, unloaded squatting and mobility.

Recently I asked one of my colleagues who couldn’t perform an air squat a year ago (and is now squatting more than his body weight) if squatting had changed his life.

He replied “Yes, to have that flexibility in my lower body is amazing!” – notice no mention of strength, gains or having massive thighs to show off in summer?

A sportsman doing a squat on a cube in a gym.

He’s absolutely correct too. When your hips are tight and your lower-back is taut you move and walk differently.

Your body works on a ‘use it or lose it’ approach.

If you don’t use a full-range of motion your muscles and joints begin to tighten and atrophy. The bottom of a squat incorporates a full range of motion for your ankles, hips and knees. It’s likely that if you cannot keep your heels on the floor when squatting it’s because you haven’t squatted regularly enough.

Too many of us do not move our bodies as nature intended.

Forget about squatting double your body weight or going for that new personal best. You’re missing the point.

This is a health and mobility issue and whilst this may not concern you now, Father Time catches up with all of us. I guarantee you that your years of neglect will cause regret down the line unless you adress it soon.

So, let’s all rise from our comfortable chairs more often and simply squat.

Fortuitously, in this post-Covid world, many white-collar workers have the opportunity to work from home. This is your chance to squat more often without attracting sidelong glances and ‘weird guy in the office’ rumblings. Take that marketing report and read it squatting!

It has often been said that ‘if something’s important to you then do it often‘ So I’m challenging myself (and throwing down the gauntlet to you) to every day perform this handy little sequence from the master of movement, Ido Portal.

And, afterwards, simply sit in the bottom of a squat for 3 minutes.

I promise you, with as little as a few minutes per day holding at the bottom of a squat you’ll be impressed with how much better your body can feel when it moves as it was intended.

And if you’d like some more information on how to alleviate back pain, see here.