Asian Squat vs Western Squat – Introduction
When it comes to the Asian squat vs Western squat:
- What are their benefits?
- Why can’t everyone do Asian squats?
- How can you learn to do them?
It’s often said that mobility is youth.
Mobility is the range of motion available at a joint or joints and is the combination of muscle flexibility and joint health.
Humans tend to stiffen up with age, which makes everyday movements more difficult than they need to be.
Combined with age-related muscle loss, it’s hardly surprising that a large proportion of older people struggle to perform their tasks and chores.
Lifting weights is the best way to maintain your muscle mass, and some exercises are also suitable for maintaining or improving your mobility.
Good exercises for this dual-purpose include:
- Squats (to parallel or below)
- Bulgarian split squats
- Romanian deadlifts
- Good mornings
- Pull-ups and Chin-ups
- Push-ups (especially when using raised handles)
All these exercises take your muscles and joints through a larger range of motion, leading to better joint mobility.
They’re also excellent muscle builders.
But even these exercises may not be enough to optimize mobility.
That’s because most people spend more time in fixed sedentary positions than they do exercising.
So, for example, if you have an office job, you may spend 8-12 hours a day sitting down and only 3-4 hours a week exercising.
This is not enough!
The good news is that there is a mobility exercise that you can do almost anywhere and anytime that will help improve the range of motion in your lower body.
We’re talking about the Asian squat.
This article reveals why and how to do the Asian squat and what makes this such a challenging but valuable exercise.
What is the Asian Squat?
Where the majority of people in Western countries spend their days sitting in chairs, Asians are more likely to sit in a deep squat position.
While this is not a uniquely Asian habit, it’s common enough that the term Asian squat is used.
In simple terms, the Asian squat is used by people as a working or common resting position when chairs are not available.
Native Asian squatters can hold this position for long periods without undue stress.
It’s also a common bathroom practice as Asian toilets often involve squatting instead of sitting on a seat.
In the Asian squat, you squat as deeply as possible so that your hamstrings rest on your calves.
The heels remain in contact with the floor, and there is relatively little rounding of the lower back.
Feet are usually between hip and shoulder-width apart.
Needless to say, if you spend most of your time sitting in chairs, this position will not be comfortable and may not even be achievable.
The Benefits of the Asian Squat
If you have tried the Asian squat already, you probably found it hard, if not impossible.
It’s hard to believe that people find sitting in the Asian squat comfortable, right?!
As such, you’re probably also wondering if it’s worth the time and effort it’ll take to become a proficient Asian squatter.
These are the main benefits of the Asian squat and why it’s such a valuable exercise:
There is a reason that people in Asian countries use squat toilets; it makes bowel movements much easier.
Also, the Asian squat helps move food through your intestines, so you should enjoy faster, more complete digestion and better digestive system health.
Improved lower body mobility
Holding an Asian squat stretches almost all your lower body muscles and takes your knees, hips, and ankles through a full range of motion.
If your lower body is tight, Asian squats could be the cure.
You’ll feel less hunched after a session of Asian squatting.
You’ll sit and stand taller, making you look slimmer and younger.
Poor posture is a leading cause of back and neck pain, and it is common in people who spend a lot of time sitting.
Increased leg strength
While the Asian squat is not a strength exercise, it will still make you stronger.
Getting up and out of an Asian squat, especially after a couple of minutes, will challenge your muscles and improve your functional strength.
Plus, even though the Asian squat is a resting position, your muscles are under constant tension.
A deeper barbell squat
Most strength training experts agree that squats to parallel or below are best for building muscle size and strength.
The Asian squat takes you beyond this range of motion, which will make hitting parallel with a barbell feel much easier.
there is a proven correlation between being able to get up off the floor unaided and longevity.
The Asian squat trains the ability to stand up, which, if maintained into old age, could mean you live longer.
It’s no coincidence that populations that do a lot of deep squats are also the healthiest in old age and tend to live the longest.
Asian Squat Drawbacks
The Asian squat can be life-affirming, good for your posture, and great for your long-term overall health.
But there are a couple of drawbacks to consider, too, such as:
- Feeling dizzy when you stand back up
- Losing your balance and falling over
- Knee pain
- Leg numbness
These drawbacks don’t happen to everyone, and the only way to see if Asian squats live up to their hype is to try them for yourself.
Not for a day or a week, but several times a day for a couple of months.
A long-term trial is the only way to determine if Asian squats are beneficial for you.
Adaptive Shortening, or Why You Probably Can’t Do the Asian Squat (YET!)
Your body adapts to the stresses it’s exposed to.
For example, if you run regularly, your body responds by improving cardiovascular fitness, improving muscular endurance, and getting better at using fat for fuel.
After a few months of consistent workouts, your body is equipped to run further and faster.
Similarly, if you lift heavy weights, your body responds by increasing the size of your muscles, which is a process called hypertrophy.
Your nervous system also gets better at recruiting a larger number of muscle fibers, and you get stronger as a result.
Unfortunately, your body adapts to negative stresses as well as positive ones.
Most people spend an inordinate amount of time sitting.
We sit for work, for transportation, and during our leisure time.
All this sitting produces changes in your muscles.
Prolonged sitting causes:
- Tight, short hip flexors
- Tight, short rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps)
- Tight, short rectus abdominis
- Tight, short hamstrings
- Tight, short calves
- Tight, short neck flexors
- Stretched, weak glutes
- Stretched, weak erector spinae (the muscles of the lower back)
These adaptations can be so severe that many people look like they are sitting even when standing.
Their lower backs are rounded, their shoulders are hunched, and their heads jut forward.
All of these adaptations inhibit natural mobility, making movements that should be natural and easy all but impossible.
It’s plain to see how a few hours of exercise a week or a few minutes of stretching isn’t enough to preserve or improve mobility, as sitting is our normal position of rest.
For this reason, as well as lifting weights and doing cardio, everyone should also spend time on their mobility.
How to Do the Asian Squat
The Asian squat is not easy for most people.
Muscle tightness, genetics, lack of practice, and an overreliance on chairs mean you may not be able to do it initially.
Because of this, it’s best to learn the Asian squat by working through a series of progressions.
Even then, you may not be able to squat like an Asian.
However, following these progressions will increase lower body mobility, even if you never get fully “ass to grass.”
Step 1: Choose the right location
Find a place to squat where you can easily access a waist-high object to hold on to.
A windowsill, railing, wall, chair, or table would be ideal.
You can also use a TXR or similar or a barbell in a power rack.
Stand in front of your support handle, ensuring it’s within easy reach.
Step 2: Set up
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and point your toes slightly outward.
Grip the handle and get ready to squat.
Step 3: Lower slowly
Using your handle for balance and support, squat down until you are sitting on your heels.
Go as low as you can comfortably.
Use your arms for balance as required, but try to minimize their involvement.
Push your knees apart and open your hips.
Imagine you are squatting between your knees.
Step 4: Hold
Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
Keep your heels stay flat on the floor, and keep your buttocks as low as possible.
Relax and let your body weight pull you down into a deeper squat.
Breathe slowly and evenly to promote muscle relaxation.
Step 5: Stand up
When you feel you’ve had enough, rise back up to the standing position, using your arms for assistance as necessary.
Try to use your legs more than your arms.
Step 6: Rest and repeat
Rest for 1-2 minutes, and then repeat the above steps.
Shoot for 3-5 Asian squats per day and increase frequency and duration as you feel ready.
You can do all your sets of Asian squats together or spread them throughout the day as preferred.
Step 7: Move away from support
As the Asian squat becomes more comfortable, move away from your support and start doing them unaided.
With practice, you should find that your balance improves, that you can squat deeper, hold the position for longer, and get up more easily.
However, this will take time, especially if you are a chair-dwelling, long-limbed, tight-muscled Westerner!
Asian Squat vs Western Squat – Wrapping up
While there is such a thing as an Asian squat, there isn’t really a Western counterpart.
Westerners squat with a barbell, and usually not much deeper than parallel.
They don’t go into a squatting position to rest; they sit in chairs instead.
That’s one of the reasons many people find the Asian squat so hard – lack of practice.
In terms of bang for your buck, the Asian squat has numerous health benefits to offer and could have a significant impact on your lower body mobility.
However, most chair-dwelling Westerners will find it difficult to achieve, if not initially impossible.
Remember, though, that nothing worth having comes easy, and that includes the Asian squat.
Start easy, build up gradually, practice frequently, and you too may be able to squat like Asian people.
However, we’re not all built to do deep squats, so listen to your body and use other stretching and mobility exercises if the Asian squat isn’t working for you.
Whether or not you will ever be able to sit for long periods of time in a deep squatting position, improving your squat form is a worthwhile pursuit.
They aren’t just an exercise either; they are also a foundational movement pattern in day-to-day life.
It doesn’t matter if you are doing squats for:
- athletic performance,
- fat loss,
- body transformation, or
- body-wide muscle building, this powerful compound exercise will help you achieve your fitness goals faster than almost any other.
Therefore, it is to your benefit to learn how to do squats properly with or without weights.