You’ve probably seen pictures of people from Asian countries performing a deep squat. You might even have friends who have traveled to an Asian country and returned home telling you that it was common to see a particular Asian sitting position, where people in a deep squatting position in at what seemed to be ‘random places’.
What is the Asian squat? The Asian squat is a deep squat performed by people living in Asian countries for both practical and cultural reasons. People from this region are raised to sit in that position for resting or to substitute sitting in a chair. Public restrooms also have toilets on the floor, requiring people to squat down.
In this article, I’ll explain the biomechanics of the Asian squat, why Asians can squat so deep, what makes it so hard, and whether you can do it too. We’ll start by looking at some pictures of the Asian squat, so you know what it looks like.
The Asian Squat Phenomenon: What Is It?
Many people in Asian countries prefer to squat than stand. When you go to a country in Asia, you’ll see an Asian sitting in a deep squat as soon as you walk down the street.
It’s a common resting position instead of lying down, leaning, or sitting in a chair.
In addition, the Asian squat (sometimes called the kimchi squat, Korean squat, or Japanese squat) is used while performing everyday tasks, such as eating, reading, smoking, doing laundry, talking on the phone, and countless other activities.
I currently have a friend traveling in the Philippines, so I asked him to take some pictures of the “Asian squat” throughout the course of his day.
Many households wash their clothes by hand, and performing the Asian squat while doing laundry is a common practice.
It’s also common practice to eat while performing the Asian squat, especially if it’s just a snack rather than a standard meal.
Here’s a lady performing the Asian squat while hanging out with her cats.
This is a lady preparing bamboo for garden construction while performing the Asian Squat. This is considered a much more comfortable position than ‘bending over’ to do the same task.
The family that my friend is staying with likes to perform Asian squats while playing games together.
It’s also important to recognize that in many parts of Asian countries toilets are not commonplace. The reason for not having toilets is because it’s viewed as more sanitary when there is no skin-to-skin contact on the same toilet seat between different people.
Instead of a set, a pan is provided and people are expected to squat down to go to the washroom. This is the case in public restrooms, and while some households in urban centers have toilets, the majority of homes in rural areas still do not.
Check out what the Asian squat toilet looks like and how to use it:
The idea of ‘squatting down’ to go to the washroom is one of the major cultural differences between the “East” and “West”, which is why so many travelers from Western countries are surprised by the Asian squat.
How to an Asian Squat With Proper Form
The Asian sitting posture requires a person to sit their hips between their ankles in a flat-footed squat position. At the same time, the torso is usually upright, and the heels are flat on the ground, just like they are when you are performing a Slav squat. The multi-segmental position requires superior hip, ankle, and knee mobility to perform correctly.
If you want to test out the Asian squat for yourself, try the following:
- Find a stance with your feet shoulder-width apart, if not slightly wider.
- Flare your toes out slightly.
- Crack at your hips and knees simultaneously, and begin lowering yourself to the floor.
- Think about keeping your body weight over the foot’s midline to ensure you’re not rocking forward or backward.
- Squat as deep as you can while trying to keep your torso relatively upright and your heels on the ground.
- Rest your arms on your knees.
- Hold in this position for several minutes and try to feel your muscles ‘relax’.
What Makes The Asian Squat So Hard?
The Asian squat position might be hard if you can’t get low enough or you don’t have the stamina to hold it for long durations. It looks completely different from a Western-style squat, which is often not as deep. So, why can’t everyone do the Asian squat?
If you’re struggling with knowing how to Asian squat, you likely have one of the following issues:
1. You don’t have the right limb length proportions
The ability to squat deep will not be easy if you were born with certain limb-length proportions.
Your body is divided into segments, which are the length of your bones between certain joints. For example, your leg is divided into two segments: the lower leg and upper leg.
The lower leg consists of the tibia, which is the distance between your ankle and knee.
The upper leg consists of the fibia, which is the distance between your knee and hip.
The proportions between your lower leg and upper leg will make it more or less difficult to perform the Asian squat position.
If you have the following proportions, you’ll find it naturally harder to squat deep:
- If you have a long femur (upper thigh bone) compared with a short tibia (lower leg bone)
- If you generally have long legs (both upper and lower segments) combined with a short torso
This is not to say that deep squatting is impossible for people with these limb-length proportions. It just means that getting into a ‘deep squat’ will be harder, and might require a bit more forward torso lean than someone with opposite proportions.
If you’re interested in learning more about how body segments impact movement, you can read our articles on CONVENTIONAL VS. SUMO DEADLIFTING and HOW TO FIX FORWARD LEANING IN SQUATS.
2. You don’t have the adequate mobility
The greatest limitation in performing the Asian squat is having a lack of mobility.
The Asian squat requires a superior level of mobility in the hips and ankles in order to perform correctly. Even if you can perform a Western-style flat foot squat quite easily, you might struggle to reach sufficient depth when trying to do the Asian squat.
In a 2009 study, it was shown that a person’s level of ankle mobility is strongly associated with the ability to assume a proper deep squatting posture.
While some people have biological limitations in mobility because of how their bones attach to their specific joints, everyone will have a natural degree of mobility that can be improved with training.
The problem is that most people aren’t forced to work on their mobility because their day-to-day activities don’t require such improvements. For example, in Western cultures, a person may drive to and from work and then sit at a desk all day. For this person, improving ankle flexibility and mobility is not necessarily a concern for their daily requirements or quality of life. Regular mobility will reduce ankle, shin, hip, and knee pain in all areas of your life, especially when squatting.
However, in Asian cultures, children work on their natural ankle mobility from a young age because they are raised to use the deep squat in various parts of their daily lives. In addition, as they get older, their daily activities require them to continue to maintain this level of mobility.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your ankle mobility, check out our article on 9 TIPS TO SQUATTING DEEPER.
3. You haven’t practiced the squat enough
If you’re able to squat deep enough, but you just don’t have the stamina to hold the position, then it’s simply due to the fact that you haven’t practiced the position enough.
It will take several times practicing the deep squats for your muscles to get flexible enough to squat deep. Then, once you’re squatting deep, you need to learn how to ‘relax’ in the bottom position rather than straining, which can take time to teach your muscles. My advice is to practice three sets of 60-second holds every day. Within a few weeks, you should start to feel more comfortable performing the Asian squat. You can also try one and a half squats to help you achieve a comfortable deep squat.
Is Your Ability To Do The Asian Squat Genetic?
A study showed that 100% of Asian people could do the Asian squat, but only 13.5% of Americans were able to perform the Asian squat correctly. While your genetics can influence the shape and length of your bones and your ability to get into a deep squat, lifestyle factors are also an influential component of your ability to do the Asian squat.
In particular, your hip, knee, and ankle mobility and flexibility will impact your biomechanics. Your ability to squat deep will be hindered if you have very poor mobility in your lower body joints. Similarly, if you have a sedentary lifestyle and sit down a lot, the muscles around your hips will be tighter, and this can prevent you from sitting in a deep squat.
Can You Perform The Asian Squat?
So can you perform the Asian squat?
Most people can be trained to squat deep; however, as mentioned previously, the degree to which you find it easier or harder will depend on your bio-mechanics and level of mobility.
It’s been shown in a 2013 meta-analysis on human limb bones that some Asian countries have naturally smaller limb length proportions compared with other populations.
So while these populations may find it easier to get into a deep squat, this doesn’t exclude you from practicing to squat deeper.
If you want to squat deeper you simply need to work within your own individual mechanics. For example, someone with shorter lower limb lengths might have a more upright torso. Someone with longer lower limb lengths might have a more forward-leaning torso.
Don’t worry so much whether you look exactly like someone else while squatting, just simply practice getting your hips lower and keeping your weight over the mid-line of your foot.
In terms of ankle mobility, the key to an Asian squat is keeping your feet flat on the floor. For this, you’ll need to work on loosening the muscles in your calf and making sure you have the greatest mobility possible through your ankle joint.
Here are three exercises that you should do to improve ankle mobility for the Asian squat:
Banded Ankle Dislocation (2 sets of 20 reps)
Single-Leg Downward Dog (2 sets of 20 reps)
Soft Tissue Calf Release (60-sec)
Are There Benefits To The Asian Squat?
There are several benefits to performing the Asian squat:
- Asian squats allow you to keep your core muscles engaged in order to maintain balance and have an upright posture. Instead of sitting or slouching in a chair, which doesn’t utilize your core, try to spend part of your time in a deep squat.
- Asian squats work several muscles of the lower body without much effort. By simply sitting in a deep squat, the muscles of your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are activated to maintain your position.
- Asian squats can improve body awareness, which will translate into other activities in your daily life. By understanding where your hips, knees, and torso are in space relative to each other, you can have better control over your limbs and body.
- Asian squats have been shown to help pregnant women during labor and delivery because it teaches the pelvis to open, which assists in the baby’s descent.
- Asian squats while going to the bathroom can open up the colon more, and allow for faster and more efficient removal of waste. It’s how our ancestors went to the bathroom for millennia.
The Asian Squat vs The Slav Squat
The Asian squat and the Slav squat are very similar, but there are a few key differences between the two.
Firstly, the Asian squat involves sitting back on your heels, whereas the Slav squat involves sitting down in between your feet.
In the Slav squat, your feet are placed either shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, with the toes pointing outward. This is unlike in the Asian squat, where your stance is narrower, and your toes point forward.
What To Read Next: Lumberjack Squat: What Is It, How To, Benefits, Common Mistakes
For practical and cultural reasons, deep squatting is important in many Asian countries. While it may be hard for some people to perform the Asian squat based on their limb lengths, everyone can learn how to squat deep with enough practice and mobility work. If you plan a trip to an Asian country, learn how to do the Asian squat before you travel and be prepared to perform an Asian squat to go to the bathroom.
What is the purpose of Asian squat? ›
Asian squats are good for mobility, flexibility and lower body strength. If you imagine Olympic weightlifting movements, adopting an Asian squat puts the weight on the legs, as opposed to taking more of the weight on your back which can often lead to injury.Is the Asian squat really that hard? ›
The reason for this is that it requires a lot of mobility and flexibility on the ankles and balance. Most people cannot perform the Asian squat easily or without discomfort because they lack or have lost these qualities over time.What is the difference between Asian squat and squat? ›
The main difference between the Asian squat and the Western squat is the squat depth achieved. The Asian squat will involve being able to squat deep enough to allow the hamstrings to touch the calf muscles.What are the benefits of holding the bottom of a squat? ›
- Increased strength. The deep squat has been shown to be more effective at building the glutes and inner thigh muscles than a standard squat ( 6 ). ...
- Lower back and pelvic stability. ...
- Functional movement training. ...
- Do more with less.
- Increased mobility.
For now, try to hold the deep squat position for as long as you can tolerate, and take a break. For example, set a timer and get into position for maybe 10-30 seconds at a time, with breaks of standing in between the deep squat reps.Why can't I keep my heels ground when I squat? ›
Heels rise in the squat because you lack ankle mobility or flexibility in your calves, you're wearing the wrong shoes for squats, or you have an improper bar path when descending into the bottom. To fix, you need ankle mobility drills, proper squat shoes, and a bar path that keeps you centered over your mid-foot.What is the hardest squat exercise? ›
Front squats are more difficult than back squats because of the mobility and technical demands in maintaining upper body stability. In addition, the front loaded position challenges muscle groups like the back and core and are often the limiting factor in front squatting as much as you back squat.Is squatting good for your back? ›
Squats can be a great way to condition your back muscles in order to help reduce back pain. Back pain is rampant in our country and there are plenty of people who could benefit from performing squats daily. Current statistics show 80 percent of people will have back pain at some time in their life.Why you shouldn't squeeze at the top of a squat? ›
“A squat should finish with your ribs stacked over your hips. Focusing too much on squeezing your glutes can create a pelvic tuck that pushes your hips too far forwards,” explains strength and conditioning coach Pennie Varvarides. That can lead to pain or injury as you'll be overloading the spine.What does squeezing at the top of a squat do? ›
"Think about 'squeezing' or 'clenching' your butt cheeks together, without allowing your hips to move forward. By isometrically contracting the glutes at the top of a squat or deadlift, you'll actively target your glutes and engage your core while keeping the hips level and your spine in a safe, neutral position."
How many squats should I do a day? ›
Regarding how many squats you should do in a day, it depends on how many days per week you're working out. 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps squats will be ideal if you're working out daily. But if you only work out a couple of times a week, then 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps would be sufficient.What happens when you don't squat deep enough? ›
If a client is unable to sit low into a squat and has poor ankle mobility, their knees will not track forward. In these clients, it is common for the heels to come up off the ground or for their weight to shift forward.Is holding a deep squat good for knees? ›
It has been suggested that deep squats could cause an increased injury risk of the lumbar spine and the knee joints. Avoiding deep flexion has been recommended to minimize the magnitude of knee-joint forces.Should you be on your toes or heels when squatting? ›
The truth is though, there's only one correct foot position for the squat. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with your toes pointed out about 10 degrees, says Andrew Sakhrani, CSCS, a Montreal-based strength coach.Should you squat with elevated heels or toes? ›
Elevating your heels when performing a squat will do two things: Increase squat depth, and transfer force and emphasis to your quadriceps. Heels elevated squats better activate the muscle fibers of your quads because it increases the range of motion at the knee while decreasing the range of motion at the hip.What is the easiest squat for knees? ›
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a good way to start and to take pressure off the knees is with a wall squat (3). Resting your back against the wall forces good form too. You can also make squats safer for bad knees by reducing the range of motion. Squat only as deep as you can go without pain.What type of squat is easiest? ›
1. Prisoner Squat. The prisoner squat is one of the simplest squat variations because it just uses your bodyweight. It is a great staple exercise for anyone to add to their regime, especially for beginners starting out.What is the easiest squat for beginners? ›
- Place feet shoulder-width apart and look straight ahead.
- Line up your knees directly above your feet.
- Lower your weight until your thighs are parallel to the floor. ...
- Focus on keeping your abs tight and a natural arch in your back.
- Stand back up until your knees and hips are straight, but don't lock them.
Walking, swimming, and biking may all help reduce back pain. Start with short sessions and build up over time. If your back is hurting, try swimming, where the water supports your body. Avoid any strokes that twist your body.Is squatting good for sciatica? ›
As a general rule, you should avoid squatting, twisting, running, jumping, or any high-impact activity if you have sciatica. You should also avoid bending forward with straight legs or any seated or lying exercise that requires you to lift both legs off the ground at the same time.
What is the best exercise for lower back pain? ›
Walking. Walking is good for low back pain because it's a low-impact exercise that offers the benefits of regular physical activity without aggravating the muscles and tendons of the lower back. It uses and stretches muscles in your back, is easy on your joints and can reduce bone and muscle loss.What was Arnold Schwarzenegger squat? ›
Arnold says his best gym powerlifts were: squat 545 lbs. (247 kg.), bench press 500 lbs. (227 kg.), and deadlift 710 (322 kg.).What is a dragon squat? ›
Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Cross your right foot behind you to the left and back corner of the room as you bend both knees. Return and repeat, alternating sides. Keep your hips and shoulders forward as your feet cross and bend.What is the significance of front squats? ›
Front squats help you work your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. This exercise also helps you improve your core strength and posture. It also helps athletes prevent injuries, as by working your quads you improve your mobility, speed and endurance.What is the purpose of Hindu squat? ›
Benefits of Hindu squats. Doing Hindu squats helps you to gain an awareness of how your body moves and stays in balance. So, you'll quickly learn how to properly align your body to maintain both balance and control. Plus, as you shift your weight forward onto your toes, your center of gravity moves forward as well.What are the benefits of primal squats? ›
Benefits of doing primal squats
Regular performance is an excellent mobility exercise that can strengthen the core and leg muscles to make everyday tasks such as walking, going upstairs, or carrying heavy items easier. When muscles in the lower body are strengthened, the risk of injury is significantly reduced.
Like with back squats, front squats increase muscle mass in the lower body. The front squat muscles worked primarily include the quadriceps (quads), glutes, hips, and hamstrings. If your goal is to build the perfect glutes, front squats can help with that too. They also help strengthen the spinal erectors.What are the benefits of front squat vs regular? ›
The front squat will work your upper back muscles and mainly the quads in the lower body. The back squat will work more of the glutes and hamstrings in addition to the quads. It also engages the lower back muscles more than the front squat does.What are sissy squats? ›
A sissy squat is a quadricep targeting exercise that focuses on leaning backwards and bending from the knee to achieve the bottom of the position, rather than hinging from the hips and sitting down like in a traditional squat.Why do people squat in China? ›
This is mainly because squatting toilets cost less to build and maintain than seated ones. Squatting toilets are also considered more hygienic: Not only do they minimize bodily contact with the pan, they also prevent unhealthy practices in a country with only partial awareness of good sanitary practices.
Do squats burn belly fat? ›
There are numerous benefits of squats for weight loss and this is primarily because squats work on your quadriceps, glutes and hammies. In fact, if you've ever wondered “hey can lose belly fat by doing squats?” - our answer is Yes! because this versatile exercise also targets your abdominal muscles.What happens if you do body squats everyday? ›
Doing 100 squats a day is a great way to build your leg and core strength, improve muscular endurance in your lower body, and establish a routine. It's also a good way to add movement to your day other than just walking and getting in more steps.How many squats should I do per day? ›
When it comes to how many squats you should do in a day, there's no magic number — it really depends on your individual goals. If you're new to doing squats, aim for 3 sets of 12-15 reps of at least one type of squat. Practicing a few days a week is a great place to start.