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The Full Squat

When is the last time you performed a full squat? Not a Western squat, but a full squat—one where you squat all the way down? In yoga, the full squat is referred to as malasana—and the position is one of the most basic of human postures. If you visit other cultures in places like India or Asia, you’ll see people squatting for long periods of time instead of sitting in chairs.

The full squat refers to a position where the rear end is close to the floor and the knees are flexed to the point where the back of the thighs rest against the calves—with the heels flat on the floor. Young kids instinctively find this position during play. Unfortunately, in our culture, as we grow older and more dependent on chairs—not to mention modern footwear with its raised heels—we can find it more difficult to perform a full squat.

But difficult things are often worth doing. A full squat is a way to reverse some of the bad habits caused by the modern lifestyle. It can be performed as a bodyweight exercise, as a way to reach something on the ground, or simply as a rest position (instead of sitting in a chair).

In a full squat, the back softens and releases from head to tail as the ankles, knees, and hips flex. The heels root the hips back, and the spine lengthens as it rounds. In addition to strengthening and stretching the feet and ankles and increasing mobility in the hips, the full squat allows the back muscles to broaden.

The full squat offers a variety of benefits:

  • Improves posture
  • Stretches the back
  • Improves mobility in the knees and ankles
  • Strengthens hips and glutes
  • Improves digestion

Want to build a full squat into your regular program? Start slowly and work your way into it.

  • Use support: The TRX can be a great tool to help reduce the amount of tension placed on the knees when attempting to squat.
  • Prop the heels: If you are tight in your hips, groins, calves, and Achilles tendons, your heels may not reach the floor. You can support the heels with a blanket or a half foam roller. This will help you maintain good posture and put more weight in the heels without having to fully extend the calves.
  • Support the knees: If your knees ache in a full squat, place a blanket behind them—between your calves and thighs—to help decrease the amount of flexion. Make sure it is evenly placed behind both knees. The thicker the blanket, the less flexion in the knees.