I work near Chinatown in San Francisco, and I see people squatting at the bus stop, outside the market, playing chess. I know this is the default rest position for a lot of cultures out there, and from what I've read, you're supposed to be able to do it for hours without getting tired or sore. It seems to me that it's a more natural and probably more joint-friendly position than sitting in a chair or standing.
The problem is, I can't do it. I've tried. I just can't get my heels down without falling backward. I feel like the major strain is in my calves, but a couple months of stretching after exercise (cycling) and in the shower hasn't improved things. What am I doing wrong? And if you're lucky/talented/flexible enough to do it, do you notice that it's easier on your body than sitting in a chair or standing at the bus stop?
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Connective tissue changes, but it needs proper stimuli and time, lots of time. The half life of collagen fibres is somwhere between 200 and 500 days.
A simple and good way to build up to a full squat is using a little heel. Shoes with heels are ok for this. Of course you don't use these shoes for walking or running ;)
If you don't own shoes (good for you), use something to mimic a little heel, like squatting with the heels on a little weight, or piece of wood, or a little book, ... You get it.
Simply decrease the height of the heels if you feel like you have gained some mobility. Don't rush it.
You can definitely teach yourself to do it. Not hard. Just takes patience. You can do anything you want. Once you can squat you'll be like wtf how could I not squat before now I'm the sh#T.
The best Mobility WOD I have ever done from that website (cited by other commenters, above), is the 10 minute squat test. The instruction is something like 'accumulate 10 minutes in the resting squat'.
At first, that is hard to do and you have to take breaks. Over time, it becomes comfortable to go the whole 10 minutes or more without taking a break from the full squat position. This 10 minute test requires you to experiment and find, subjectively, what works for you. One day, doing this I realized "Oh, so that's what they mean by inflexible ankles" and another day "this is turning the hips out correctly". These insights require actual practice.
I'd recommend doing the 10 minute squat MWOD every couple of days. Now, I make a point of doing the resting squat when I am playing with my dogs (they are toy dogs) or occassionally when watching TV.
Sigh.....It's amazing how far Western society has regressed in terms of what it is to be a living freely moving animal!....Sigh
Ok. So I'm not really going to expand further upon the earlier comments. Def visit Mobility WOD & look at mobilization for adductor's/hamstring stretch/hip flexor stretch.
Everyone SHOULD be able to deep squat (ass to grass) However, your body no longer recognizes the natural movement pattern required to get your butt down. It's a matter of mobilizing/stretching muscles & practising squatting. Most importantly TAKE YOUR TIME. The below link gives a great explanation of the biomechanics of the squat & you can even fiddle with the bones!
Hope you find this useful.
A 6ft 4inc Deep Squatting Westerner.
You don't yet have squatting facets. They are notches in your talus bones that will allow for enough ankle dorsiflexion. Humans are born with them, but they can fade away over time without use (chair sitting).
You can start with a rolled up towel underneath your heels or practice outside on small slopes of grass. You might need to start with a wider stance as someone has mentioned. Week by week, month by month, decrease the height of the towel or the angle of the slope.
Get a foam roller and learn to use it. Stretching after exercise will only go so far. A foam roller will loosen up stiff tissue and let you relax into the squat.
Practice with a door. Open a door and hold on to the handles while you squat. Bring something to read to pass the time.
Practice every day.
The thing you did wrong was sit in a chair up until this point in your life. It will take a very long time to acquire the mobility/flexibility necessary to squat like that comfortably. It is very hard to reverse years of adaptation, but you might be able to do it if you maintain consistency in your stretching program and practice the squat itself.
I had trouble with the resting squat also at first. But after three years of CrossFit, I can squat all day if needed. For me it was a matter of strength and flexibility in the hips, gluts and quads. If you do lots of air squats and focus on maintaining the lumbar curve (stick your arse backwards) while getting the top of your hips below the knees, you'll acclimate quickly. Also, overhead squats are great for building strength and flexibility i.e., hold the barbell extended over your head [locked out] and squat.
Here's an (hilarious) instructional video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y76UbfBr5vo
Apart form a flexibility issue, it could be that you have long femurs and short torso. Both resting and weighted squats are diffult for people so endowed.