Heels touch ground when Slavs squat around
June 13, 2019 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Picture a Russian male stereotype. What image comes to mind? Is it a guy squatting in an Adidas tracksuit? A People's History of the "Slav Squat"
posted by dephlogisticated (32 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Feet flat on ground - new friend found
Heels in sky - Western spy

This is actually the Central Asian squat, appropriated by the Easternmost Slavs.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:15 AM on June 13 [17 favorites]

My daughter taught me how to slav squat. It's really comfortable and is now my preferred way to idle outside when nobody is looking.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:16 AM on June 13

It's still pretty common in Asia and Africa
posted by Oh_Bobloblaw at 9:17 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]

[Couple comments removed. If you want to talk about your own personal or cultural connection to stuff in the article, that's fine, but let's skip outright stuff that can read as uncontextualized "here's something I heard/saw about x other group of people" stuff. That gets into uncomfortable stereotyping/othering territory really quickly.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:40 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]

I wish I could squat flat footed like that but it feels like my knees will explode. Too many chairs and benches in my youth I guess.
posted by Pembquist at 10:30 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]

I was surprised when I found out that a lot of Americans can't squat flat-footed. I found this out when people in the graduate lounge of my linguistics department were for some reason discussing the slav squat, and it turned out that the only people present who could squat flat-footed were international students or field linguists.

(Though, guy on the left in that photo has his heels up.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:46 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

All children can squat but in some cultures we lose the habit and the ability. Probably 50% of American adults who can squat are baseball catchers. BTW, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on squatting.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:54 AM on June 13

I found out westerners couldn't squat, as a group, that one time I took a bodybalance class in a gym here in a more expat-y area, and when the sequence went to a deep squat pose, all the locals were visibly relieved because now they can relax and the expatriates were in varying degrees of trying not to tip over.
posted by cendawanita at 11:17 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]

Following a brief wikipedia rabbithole took me to Hardbass, characterized by its fast tempo (usually 150–175 BPM), donks, distinctive basslines (commonly known as "hard bounce"), distorted sounds, heavy kicks and recently occasional rapping … a central stereotype of the gopnik subculture.
posted by migurski at 11:22 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I was surprised when I found out that a lot of Americans can't squat flat-footed.

I had a similar confusion in yoga class when I finally one day realized that most people don't sit cross legged with their knees up in the air on purpose for unfathomable reasons, but cannot in fact just let them rest on the ground.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:44 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I wish I could do the flat-footed squat. Every time I try it it feels like my ankles are about to snap.
posted by Automocar at 12:54 PM on June 13

I don't think I'd ever heard of this before but it seems pretty sensible, like you always have your own built in chair and don't end up with a dirty butt.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:49 PM on June 13

bro bro seriously bro seriously
posted by entropicamericana at 1:57 PM on June 13

OOOHHHH I am excited that I now know about other squatting traditions.

The short film "How to Do the Asian Squat"* inspired me to ask my non-Asian friends to try. My working theory is that it helps to have a longer torso to leg length ratio. I'm like 70% torso (maybe only a slight exaggeration) and my friend who is 35% torso could not squat for the life of her.

* The first comment under that Youtube video is "Slavs seem to be the only whites that can do this."
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:59 PM on June 13 [8 favorites]

My working theory is that it helps to have a longer torso to leg length ratio.

Oh, that makes sense! I don’t have a cultural connection to squatting but can do it easily, for yardwork and such, even though I’m pretty out of shape/sedentary. (I like that my short legs are finally good for something)
posted by The Toad at 2:14 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]

The short film "How to Do the Asian Squat"* inspired me to ask my non-Asian friends to try.

Many years ago (it's copyright 2002) this film inspired me, a completely unexceptional middle aged white man with an average leg-to-torso ratio and an average slightly-overweight American physique, to learn (or re-learn) "the Asian squat." I was ultimately successful.

I can't remember anything about the process. I know I couldn't do it, then later I could. If I could manage it, it couldn't have been very difficult, honestly. Probably requires more stupid obsessive persistence - and loose pants - than anything else.

My wife still freaks out a little bit when I do this. It is often pretty useful in housework situations, in playing-on-the-floor-with-kids situations, and in hiding from ninjas situations. Worthwhile skill.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:38 PM on June 13 [6 favorites]

My working theory is that it helps to have a longer torso to leg length ratio.

i'm like 70% leg so this theory is flawed; imo it's all about the hip flexors, but! after my neck surgery i was hilariously incapable of anything remotely like a normal squat so i guess there's something about ease of spinal elongation as well?
posted by poffin boffin at 2:47 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

Sunflower seeds! I had no idea.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:55 PM on June 13

My working theory is that it helps to have a longer torso to leg length ratio.

I seem to be able to do it easily (if not yet for a long time) and the ratio idea checks out for me. I'm also mostly torso.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:57 PM on June 13

Yeah, I'm recently into yoga, and another chubby stiff American dude, and it's going to take me years to do something as simple as this. Lots of years.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 3:05 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

Sometimes an extraordinarily timely MeFi post comes along and suddenly everything makes sense.

See, yesterday, Kid Ruki and I were both squatting outside petting our bonus cat, when Kid Ruki pointed to her feet, planted firmly on the ground, and told me that it had taken her a long time to be able to do that but it still kinda hurt. I think I literally smiled and nodded.

Then I read the comments here and thought, wait, Americans squat on their toes? How do I squat?

So I checked. Yup, feet fully on the ground. I’m hyperflexible. My joints do their own thing. And I find squatting particularly comfortable so I do it a lot. I think my poor kid put herself though a lot of discomfort so she could squat like me. Thanks for letting me know!
posted by Ruki at 3:49 PM on June 13 [6 favorites]

This is a little strange to me...obviously it is definitely possible for the delightful old human body to get so rickety and banged-up it can't squat with flat feet, but...you have to squat with flat feet to lift weights. Pretty sure even...I guess the Slavs don't have a good non-racist name for non-Slavs I can use wittily here...do that?
posted by praemunire at 5:48 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I don't think physical features count so much for the squat to work, just practice. Because yeah, practically everyone is born with the capability and children do it best, but if you habitually don't do it, you'll lose your hang of it, because I noticed this amongst Asians as they go up the class ladder or are from the more western societies.
posted by cendawanita at 7:12 PM on June 13

We definitely don't do it in Poland, so much for the Slavic part of it. I could have used it when taking part in a certain theatre ritual in Japan - if you have to squat every time an actor passes you at the stage door (so that people behind you can see them), for a cast of 70+ that's a damn lot of squatting. I fell over a lot and the Japanese ladies laughed.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:36 PM on June 13 [5 favorites]

I actually remember went I stopped being able to seat flat-footed, and sit cross-legged with my knees down: because it was a policy at the school I attended back then that it was bad for our hip development and all those variations were forbidden. I only went there for a year, and at my new school, my new best friend was from a culture where squatting was deemed necessary for all situations where you don't want to touch the floor with anything other than your feet (= all situations). So when I told her about the old school's policy, she wisely (for a ten year old) said: if literally billions of people are doing this and doing fine, then it's probably rubbish.
Today one might add probably some racist rubbish.
posted by mumimor at 10:30 PM on June 13

I cain't squat fer squat. Yup, american.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:55 PM on June 13

you have to squat with flat feet to lift weights

It's a little bit different because you have several hundred pounds of weight on your back with tends to help you get a little deeper and you just kind of bounce out of the bottom of the squat by activating the stretch reflex. The rules for squat depth in powerlifting competitions require that the crease of the hip be at or below the top of the knee at the bottom of the movement. So a "powerlifting style" squat isn't terribly deep.

Athletes doing squats for other sports where developing strength in the whole range of motion they might find themselves typically squat deeper, called an "ass-to-grass" squat. You typically can't lift as much that way although it still builds strength about as well. Olympic lifters will squat extra deep as well because the snatch isn't typically limited by squat strength but the extra range of motion makes it easier to catch the weight when they whip it up over their heads.

Ankle mobility tends to be the limiting factor for most people to be able to squat to full depth with flat feet but the hips can limit it too. If you elevate your heels by an inch or so you'll likely be able to squat deeper more comfortably. Depending on how your hips are shaped it can also help to move the feet out a little wider or a little closer and playing with the angle of your toes can make a difference as well.
posted by VTX at 6:32 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]

I can do the slav squat, but for me (and if I copy the majority of the pictures) my feet are farther apart than an 'American squat'. My natural squat is with my feet about 4-5 inches apart and pointed forward, heels off the ground. The slav squat has feet that are about 6-12 inches apart and feet pointed out at angles, feet flat. There are 2 photos where they are doing the hybrid - feet close together pointed forward, flat feet. That is something you seem to have to be insanely limber to do.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:55 AM on June 14

Follow up: Kid Ruki thanks you all and has informed me that I really did smile and nod.
posted by Ruki at 11:34 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]

Depending on what kinds of toilets are conventional in your society--or whether toilets are conventional at all--squatting can be a necessary life skill. I would go so far as to postulate a direct relation between (loss of) adult squatting and the availability of the western sitting-style toilet.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:20 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]

When I was younger I often used to squat heels-on-ground when I had to wait around for something and there wasn't a chair. (Funniest time: when I was working a horrible temp job at Bechtel Corp. in SF, I squatted in the hallway waiting for a meeting, and someone called security on me. Maybe they thought I was a Russian spy!)

But then I blew my knees out in a series of accidents, and now I can still get into a perfectly flat squat ... for about three seconds, and then my knees start screaming at me. *sigh*
posted by Kat Allison at 3:49 PM on June 14

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