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The Third World Squat
December 29, 2007 5:24 PM   Subscribe

The Third World Squat (Some images not 100% safe for work) When it comes to training someone who's new to the world of squats, deadlifts, and the fine art of picking up heavy stuff, I've found a substantial disparity in the learning curve between North Americans and those from third-world countries . . . There are a variety of possible reasons for this, but there's one dominant variable that's a great predictor of a trainee's immediate potential before they even step foot in the gym: The third-world squat.
posted by jason's_planet (48 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
OLOL
posted by fire&wings at 5:42 PM on December 29, 2007


How to do the Asian Squat.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:46 PM on December 29, 2007 [5 favorites]


I've also heard this called "The Toddler Squat", because (as one of the images in the linked site suggests), just about every single one of us could squat deeply and perfectly when we were wee kids. By the time we spent hours on the couch watching tv, or hours in school behind a desk, just about all of us lost the knack. (Those of you with kids, can you round them up and report on how well a 2 year old does compared to, say, an 8 year old?)
posted by maudlin at 5:54 PM on December 29, 2007


This squat is truly third world. Every time I try it my first world belly gets in the way.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 5:55 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


My knees hurt just looking at pictures of the squat. I am 40 and 25 lbs. overweight.

On the same site you can read Steroids for Dummies. Yikes.
posted by mecran01 at 6:05 PM on December 29, 2007


this is how you are supposed to poo. very essential.
posted by eustatic at 6:07 PM on December 29, 2007


It's also how you're supposed to give birth.
posted by chihiro at 6:09 PM on December 29, 2007


Ha. I guessed that would be it.

I forced myself to "learn" the third world squat - along with sitting cross legged - when I realised one day that I was getting extremely inflexible (FWIW, I found sitting cross legged much harder to get used to).

I do the third world squat at half time during the team chat at touch rugby games. It's an excellent stretch, especially for the Achilles.

So, how good am I, then?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:14 PM on December 29, 2007


referencing eustatic: in most Asian countries, toilets are made for squatting, not for sitting.

(When I lived in Singapore, I had to get used to one of these babies - it's easier than you might think!)
posted by micketymoc at 6:18 PM on December 29, 2007


eustatic: this is how you are supposed to poo. very essential.

Absolutely. I squat Asian style by standing on the toilet, but for some reason people can't just digest this ancient method of squatting.
Tip: I like to pretend that there are bad guys in the bowl and that I'm doing some serious high altitude bombing, it's fun and improves your squatting in no time.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:20 PM on December 29, 2007 [5 favorites]


I can put my feet behind my head, but I could only barely do this. It's the ankles, right?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:24 PM on December 29, 2007


Tim, it's ankles, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
posted by schroedinger at 6:28 PM on December 29, 2007


Funny-- I don't have any trouble doing this, but I do sit like that sometimes, usually when playing sports outdoors (I don't like sitting cross-legged, or otherwise, on grass). That said, when I do squats in the gym, I definitely don't get down that low.

I wonder, though, if it has anything to do with playing catcher in baseball, which I also did during my younger years.
posted by synecdoche at 6:34 PM on December 29, 2007


I squat like this all the time. Mainly because my city coucil are too tight to put benches at bus-stops. Try doing it with a bag full of books. I have ankles like tree trunks as a direct consequence.
posted by Jilder at 6:34 PM on December 29, 2007


Toddlers look exactly like uncivilized savages when the squat (and at other times, but let's stay on topic). I've noticed it many times.

I'm not sure the thigh muscles are doing much work at all. It looks like they are kind of hanging from their knees and/or sitting on the calves. If only I could decipher more of their language, I could ask them.
posted by DU at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2007


Looks kinda like a yoga pose called Malasana, or Garland Pose. That "Asian Squat" video is right on the money - I used to squat like that when I was doing physical labor - it's so much more comfortable and stable than squatting on your toes...trouble is, it pretty much looks like you're taking a dump, so unenlightened folk will try to give you a hard time about it.
posted by facetious at 6:38 PM on December 29, 2007


Wide Stance.
posted by Balisong at 6:43 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hell yeah. Sometimes, you just wanna sit down, and thats how.
posted by saysthis at 7:06 PM on December 29, 2007


Wow, that's incredibly comfortable. I've never tried it before, but once you are in the stance, it is quite stable. At first, I was sort of stressing my shins to keep balance, until I realized I could just sort of lean back and let my heels hold everything up.

Posture is a really interesting part of health, to me. Mine is awful, from my job (which I describe as "sitting for 9 hours each day"). I always wonder what kind of misshapen hunchback I will look like in my middle age.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 7:08 PM on December 29, 2007


I learned this squat in Uzbekistan, and have found a great deal of use for it out in situations when I want to sit but the ground is muddy. Thank you, third world squat!
posted by barnacles at 7:30 PM on December 29, 2007


I find some of the above comments that imply that "we Westerners" who cannot squat like this are somehow morally/physically inferior to our purer Third World brethren to be somewhat annoying. I'll take a western-style toilet over a squat toilet any fucking day of the week.

Anyway...my Japanese wife can squat, but I cannot, although I tried very hard to learn to do so. A Japanese friend of mine spent six months in Australia where he received high praise as a welder. Why? Because he would squat as he welded, and could brace his welding hand with his knee, making very straight, precise welds.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:31 PM on December 29, 2007


I'm a lifelong squatter, and a Westerner, and was amazed when I first realized that not everyone squats. How do you get through life without it? It comes in handy all the time around the house, and it was absolutely invaluable when I was a mass transit rider in SF. There were just so many times when there were no places to sit, and the Muni was an hour behind schedule.

That being said, I don't buy that squatting ability crosses over to weightlifting technique that easily. My personal trainer had a hard time teaching me proper form, and even with tons of practice, I still don't like performing squats unless she's around to keep an eye on my gangly self.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:45 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can put my feet behind my head, but I could only barely do this. It's the ankles, right?

That's what it was for me (back of ankles, or Achilles tendon). After a few weeks my Achilles were stretched enough to do this comfortably. Before that I was tipping forward too much.



trouble is, it pretty much looks like you're taking a dump, so unenlightened folk will try to give you a hard time about it.

Same here! And this *ahem* shits me royally.



In the toilets at one of the universities I attended there were signs extolling students NOT to stand on the toilet seats and squat. My faculty had a huge Asian (not citizen / student visas) intake.

There were also signs above the urinals saying PLEASE FLUSH. I would get a sharpie add ASIAN STUDENTS: PLEASE FRUSH. I would then laff to myself and think about how funny I was I yam a racist.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2007


I find some of the above comments that imply that "we Westerners" who cannot squat like this are somehow morally/physically inferior to our purer Third World brethren to be somewhat annoying.

Personally, I think less flexibility is indeed physically inferior to more flexibility, although clearly that's not the whole of physical health.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:07 PM on December 29, 2007


I can squat, I just can't stand back up. Knees don't cooperate any more.

Is it bad that when I walk sometimes my knees make it sound like I'm walking on a sheet of bubble wrap?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2007


Am I making excuses,or do my incredibly long Anglo legs and short torso make this a little difficult? (The legs help in doing a full lotus, though.)
posted by kozad at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2007


I've never had a problem getting in or out of a squat, and I've always found it a completely comfortable resting postion. But when I was a kid in grade school, my teachers would always insist on sitting 'Indian Style' (I believe it's called 'criss-cross-applesauce' these days). My lower back hurts just thinking about it.
posted by maryh at 8:41 PM on December 29, 2007


Ah, the Asian squat. I also have done maryh's cross-legged sit in school and it's really comfy. The version with the feet on top of the legs is easy as well.
posted by divabat at 9:08 PM on December 29, 2007


At the risk of oversharing, I guess I'll tell you that I went through about 80% of the pushing stage of labor in this position, although at 9 months pregnant you're really up on your toes a bit more because your stomach and breasts overbalance you somewhat.

My midwives were totally impressed. Apparently they try to encourage many moms to do this, but few can. I had been practicing, though, because once you think about it a bit, it really is the most natural position to labor/push in (although right at the end they moved me to a different position because I was starting to black out a little with each push and they didn't want me collapsing in a heap at an inopportune moment). Anyhow, I attribute the squat to the fact that the pushing stage of my labor only lasted about 20 minutes.

Now I see my son in the same squat, and he just looks so stable, natural and comfortable. I hope he never outgrows it.
posted by anastasiav at 9:18 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is the most amazing website I've ever seen. If you go into the "Features" section, it's like a Being John Malcovich-style portal into manhood!

Why men need pals, with an extended introduction about vaginas.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


Squatting when giving birth is associated in some studies with a higher rate of perineal and anal sphincter tears, possibly because it promotes a fast delivery. FWIW.
posted by not that girl at 9:39 PM on December 29, 2007


I do not remember ever being able to squat. I remember about age 8 being unable to do so. These days, I can't even bend my knee much beyond the 90 degrees of a sitting posture, but I'm seeing the doc about that (there is lots of pain). But my knees have always been built poorly.
posted by Goofyy at 10:09 PM on December 29, 2007


I still don't realllly get the mechanics. I have been limber all my life. Not in the ankles-behind-the-ears league but a free wide range of movement, particularly in my legs and ankles. I can actually do the squat, but on the flat it is never comfortable and quickly hurts the tendons/muscles at the bottom of my shin going into (the front of) my ankle unless I uncomfortably lean a bit forward with my arms outstretched, elbows resting on knees as a kind of counterbalance or ballast or whatever. Or with, you know, a wall or a pole in back of me.

I say this after having practised the squat every.single.day for nigh on 2 years while I was in Vietnam. Every day, I swear. And nothing ever changed. I never ever got any better at achieving a low energy state for the position. On a slight downhill incline: perfect! And hugely comfortable, no problem at all. But on the flat I am unable to understand why I can't get to a position of comfortability about it. The 3rd world obviously hates me. Bastards.
posted by peacay at 10:41 PM on December 29, 2007


peacay: I still don't realllly get the mechanics.

One of the quirks is that the hamstring group of muscles:

* flexes the lower leg
* extends the upper leg

But when you squat you:

* extend the lower leg
* extend the upper leg

So the "hammies" are working against each other at some stage during the squat, with the all-powerful quads being the over riding factor. You can actually feel a point of inflexion in the squat exercise when the hammy group stops fighting itself so much.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:18 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


thehmsbeagle: This is the most amazing website I've ever seen. If you go into the "Features" section, it's like a Being John Malcovich-style portal into manhood!


Below a link to a biceps brachii article by a Canadian body builder:

General Montcalm was surrounded. He'd been sent to the military command of New France (what would later become the Province of Quebec) and now he was surrounded by English troops who demanded his surrender. His response: "I'll answer you with the mouth of my cannons!"

Superb stuff.

Also note the very off topic picture of the Spine-Breaker 5000 in the squat story!

nb: Cannons or guns is oft-used slang for biceps.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:18 AM on December 30, 2007


Americans are more likely to be overweight than the Chinese, and extra pounds are associated with a higher risk of arthritis of the knee.

But elderly Chinese men and women are more likely than older Americans to suffer from the disorder, perhaps because of the common practice of squatting.
(New York Times article from 2004)
posted by Peach at 12:56 AM on December 30, 2007


That looks like my Cold Morning, Hot Shower Few-More-Minutes Squat.
posted by Free word order! at 3:47 AM on December 30, 2007


Because if you can't squat like asian you are not manly, you are fagot ! Kapish ?

Christ, what an audience for an otherwise interesting subject.
posted by elpapacito at 6:57 AM on December 30, 2007


anastasiav, I'm jealous, my midwives wouldn't let me squat through labour as they worried I'd get the heartbeat monitor-line all tangled up, so they asked me to lie down after about an hour of squatting and standing up. Luckily I didn't have much longer to go so I wasn't too uncomfortable.
posted by dabitch at 7:02 AM on December 30, 2007


It's pretty prevalent in rural mexico. The thing that first befuddled me on my initial journeys in the 80's was the lack of toilet seats in public restrooms -- until I noticed the footprints on the rim. It was most common back then to remove the seat, and just climb up on the bowl of a regular toilet and squat, though I haven't seen that so much in recent years.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:05 AM on December 30, 2007


I can do the "Asian squat" and like freshwater_pr0n have often used it due to broken down or delayed subways .... tis comfy. I am also one of the few people in the gym who does ass-to-grass squats though (actually I often have the squat rack to myself because of all you boys doing your endless bench and curls), so that probably helps.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:00 AM on December 30, 2007


Huh. Guy's a SEAL, but since the Navy's been gone from Subic long enough that even the Chiefs who remember Olongapo are probably all retired now, he probably never heard it referred to as the "PI squat," a reference to the USN's onetime Pilipino hosts. When I was working out with free weights, this one erstwhile trainer told me I was "squatting wrong" but it felt pretty natural, letting the biggest muscles in my lower body (quads and glutes) take up all the strain.
posted by pax digita at 8:38 AM on December 30, 2007


I'll take a western-style toilet over a squat toilet any fucking day of the week.

When the toilet isn't clean I'll take the squat toilet, thanks.
posted by ersatz at 10:11 AM on December 30, 2007


On the same site you can read Steroids for Dummies. Yikes.

This is the most amazing website I've ever seen. If you go into the "Features" section, it's like a Being John Malcovich-style portal into manhood!


Yeah, t-nation is pretty goofy most of the time. It has a lot of macho puffery and pimping dubious overpriced supplements. But once in a great while, they carry something decent. Like this one. Oh, and Dan John. Dan John's stuff is definitely worth reading.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:15 AM on December 30, 2007


The article was interesting, but I really appreciate the introduction to this website, which I'd never heard of before. There is a shit ton of useful info there.
posted by vito90 at 12:39 PM on December 30, 2007


I squat quite a lot, just because I find it comfortable. The website is most appropriately named...
posted by 999 at 7:28 PM on December 30, 2007


Being Indian, I've had to do this quite often when using public toilets. The most astounding variation of the toilet I have encountered is the hybrid squat + Western style. I imagine a standard Western style toilet with the seat replaced by two step like things on either side. So presumably if you want to use the toilet Western style you could sit down on the toilet, or Indian style by squatting on the steps. Here's an example of what I mean. Of course, in my opinion, doesn't really do either function really well since who wants to sit on a dirty toilet seat that's been stepped on by countless people in dirty shoes and no one wants to have to clamber onto a squat style toilet that's lifted off the ground either.
posted by peacheater at 5:16 AM on December 31, 2007


The article was interesting, but I really appreciate the introduction to this website, which I'd never heard of before.

Thank you! Glad you liked it.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:59 PM on January 5, 2008


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