The Deep Squat: The Most Productive Exercise of Your Day

By Arlo Gagestein, CSCS, LMT

Seats have ruined more American lives than not wearing a mouth guard has. Hour after hour, we sit behind desks, steering wheels and dinner tables, getting weaker, decreasingly mobile, and less pleasing to the eyes. Our posture suffers, our core gets lazy, our hip flexors grow tighter, our backs weaken, and we spend half our gym time trying to figure out why everything hurts.

Contrarily, across the third world, people drop effortlessly into rock bottom squats and sit there as long as necessary. Old ladies can sit in a deep squat preparing food and cooking for hours. Their balance is solid, their range of motion unrestricted, and unsurprisingly, they have little lower back pain. There are few chairs, toilets don’t exist, and if anyone owns a bike, it comes with at least two passengers.

 Children can easily sit in a deep squat playing for hours without ever
being taught how to do it. In many countries, this ability carries on
throughout the remainder of their lives. In the United States, as we
grow older we unwittingly figure out a way to screw it all up.

Try this quick experiment. Stand up, because you are no doubt sitting or lounging right now as you read this. With feet barely wider than hip width apart, sit back into a deep squat. Use your hip flexors to pull yourself down as low as you can go and then RELAX into the rock bottom position.

  • Is it uncomfortable?
  • Do you feel pressure on your knees?
  • Do your hips limit your depth?
  • Do your heels come up off the floor?
  • Do your toes turn out and your arches collapse?
  • Do your knees want to cave in?
  • Are your legs beginning to fatigue?

 Force your knees out to keep them in line with your feet. If necessary, push your knees
out with your elbows or triceps. Resist the urge to let your medial arches collapse and
instead distribute your weight on your entire foot. Once you are in position, relax. Feel
free to slowly shift your weight slightly forward, backward, and side to side.

Your goal is to hold this position for 3 minutes. Remember to relax. This is a mobility exercise, not a strength exercise. Tomorrow, do it for 4 minutes. The next day, hold it for 5. You should easily be able to do 10 minutes, but we’ll start slow. It will likely suck. This is good. This is also where our daily deep squat becomes interesting and increasingly beneficial.

Focusing on your goals is difficult. Focusing on them with distractions is even harder. Focusing while experiencing pain and discomfort can be nearly impossible, but that is exactly what you will be training yourself to do. People usually give up on their goals either when the distractions are too great or the process is too uncomfortable. This daily mobility drill is also a great time to focus on your goals. If you are a fan of vision boards, this is a great time to focus on your vision board.

If you have a single primary goal, focus on that. Focus on what you need to accomplish today to reach your goal. If you are about to workout, spend some time thinking about why you about to do the workout you are about to do. Get your mind focused on and primed for a productive training session. Maybe your goal is a BJJ belt promotion, an upcoming tournament or MMA fight. If you are a fighter with a fight coming up, focus on your opponent. Visualize how you will outwork and outperform him. Win the fight in your mind long before you ever step in the cage.

Dedicate this daily time to your goal. WHY do you want to achieve this goal and what are you willing to sacrifice to get there?

Spending a few minutes each day focusing intently on your goal will make a tremendous impact on whether or not you reach it. Improving your hip mobility and core stability while you focus on your goal makes this quick drill one of the most productive ways you can start your day!

Arlo Gagestein is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a BJJ purple belt, a gym owner, and author of the books Warrior Core: Core Training Secrets for the Modern Combat Athlete and Battle Tested: How to Train Like Your Life Depends on It , which will be released on Veterans Day 2016.