Free Audio Lesson: Squat Fundamentals Volume 1

Squat school

Most people in the exercise world seem to agree that the squat is a very natural or fundamental human movement. Babies and toddlers learn to do it perfectly without instruction.Hunter gatherers squat like champs.

Unfortunately, westerners tend to lose their ability to sit comfortably in a full squat by the time they are adolescents. But people in cultures that sit on the floor retain their squatting ability well into old age. If you travel to certain third world countries like Vietnam, you will notice that people even in their eighties enjoy incredible mobility in a deep squat position. It’s a nice demonstration of the way the human body was designed to work.

I think that the squat is such a huge part of our evolutionary heritage that it is hard for our bodies to function optimally without it. Squatting provides uniquely beneficial education to the brain about how to organize the foot, ankle, knee and hip, torso, etc. I would guess that a toddler who never learned to squat properly would never learn to walk. Squatting also provides a huge amount of signaling to connective tissues, bones and muscles, telling them how strong/elastic, long/short, tense/relaxed, hard/soft they need to be.

Many exercises, such as rowing, can be very beneficial, but they are not essential – they are easily replaced by biking, running, swimming, etc. But movements like walking and squatting are so fundamentally human that they are probably necessary for optimal health. In other words, there is no replacing them.

Fortunately, most of us went through a good squatting education when we were young, and developed the skills and physical structure that comes with that. However, years of neglect will erode the skills we used to have, causing us to forget how to use the feet, ankles, knees and hips in an integrated fashion – as they were designed to be used. Years of neglect will also slowly deform the structure of the lower body, shortening tissues that should be long, softening bones that should be hard, stiffening tendons that should be loose, weakening ligaments that should be strong, etc. As always, the rule with movement is use it or lose it.

With that in mind, I have included a link below to a twenty five minute lesson, based on the Feldenkrais Method, designed to improve your ability to sit in a squat. Most of the lesson takes place in the “four points” position, with the feet and hands on the ground, as displayed in the picture above (actually he’s on three points). Although adult humans don’t spend much time in this exact position, it remains very educational to revisit it. We did quite a bit of work here when we were toddlers, because the hands are an integral part of transitioning from sitting to standing. Thus, the natural plan for learning the squat involves significant use of the hands.

One final note. Feldenkrais said that the purpose of his method was to make the impossible possible, the hard easy and the easy elegant. Most Feldenkrais lessons involve making easy movements elegant, but this lesson for many people will be more about making a hard movement easy. So be prepared for some work, and be prepared to rest when necessary!

Click on the link below, enjoy, and please ask questions and give feedback!


For part two of this lesson, click here:

If you’d like to look at more audio lessons based on the Feldenkrais Method, click here.

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28 Responses to Free Audio Lesson: Squat Fundamentals Volume 1

  1. I have a leg discrepancy : my right femur is 1.2 centimeter longer than the left one. When I squat, it gives me low back pain. When i have my shoes, with a lift of 0.6 centimeter under the left heel (only the heel), it’s worse. Do you think I have to stop squatting or insist ?

    thank you for your advice

    • Manu,

      My recommendation is to never move into pain. No move is so valuable that you should injure yourself to do it. But trying to regain a pain free squat is a good goal, and there is lots of info on this blog to help. I would start with the range of motion that is comfortable and build from there. There are a million reasons you might have pain with squatting, and my guess is that the leg length difference is not the reason. See the post on back pain myths (particularly the fourth paragraph for my thinking on that.)

      Good luck and be sure to report back with any results!

      • Thank you for your reply. I have seen the post on back pain, it’s very interesting.

        My own idea was that the fact that the lift is just under the heel (and not the whole foot) could put the hip of the elevated foot forward and increase the lordosis of this side.

        Indeed, thank you for your site in which we understand the body by feeling the underlying principles and not by learning boring technical details

    • Never wear heel-only lifts. Find a flexibility program that will recondition your body, so that it will be able to cope with the leg discrepancy (many people who squat from birth and who have a similar problem go through life pain free). If that doesn’t work, use a full foot length lift. If not, you will create even more problems – imagine you have a three-inch discrepancy and use only a heel lift. Think of how imbalanced your walk would be! Just because your discrepancy isn’t as noticeable, doesn’t mean to say that your walk is not imbalanced if you wear only heel lifts. It is, and over time you will be seriously damaging your meniscus (and give yourself back problems). I speak from personal experience.

  2. Wow I had a great kinaestetic moment yesterday with this recording! I’m really into sport (strength training esp.) and do mobilisation/stretching and SMR beside to fight my natural stiffeness.
    Not really succesfull with that, as I normaly can’t squat down and stay there (can back squat to parallel with almost 2xBW though), while full squatting is almost a benchmark to check mobility.

    BUT yesterday, after the session, I could stay down pretty easily in the low position! OK, that wasn’t really nice looking: toes pointed really outside and feet spread quite much… but hey that’s a start!
    Low squat position with WL shoes also fell much better/stronger!

    I prefered to wear my WL shoes (with heels) for the session as I didn’t want to suffer from the lack of flexibility of my ankles (tibialis anterior can almost cramp due to my effort to dorsiflex) and the feet collapsing… Don’t know if it was wise, but it was much more pleasant / less frustrating this way.

    Of course I’m planning on doing future session barefoot.

    BTW, the contra-lateral pattern was very hard on one side: homo-lateral pattern would take over automaticaly if I didn’t pay attention to it. I even had some “not programmed to do so” moment; like when you draw a circle with a finger and try to draw a circle but counterwise with the foot of the same side (then I would rest as this indication of fatigue).

    Wow… this post is way too long, sorry about that! :-)

    • Francois,

      Thanks for the interesting observations. The post is not too long, I love to get feedback. Great to hear you got a good result. I had some good results from this lesson too, which is why I posted it. Interesting about the contralateral pattern.

      • Hi! Coming back to giving some more feedback!

        Well front squat, back squat, and (light) snatch catch feels much better: more stable while I feel I got rid of excessive tension in my hips.

        I’ve just done lesson 1 of the package: got me thinking a lot about the difference between head position and eyes position, regarding trunk function.
        I bet I will need much less effort tightening my upper back while squatting, if I pay attention to my eye position, not only to the positio of my head/neck…

        May I ask what’s your take on flexible falt feet. My perception got actually better (I wear posture insole), so now when I’m fresh the foot print isn’t ugly anymore, there’s a slight arch…

        But my ankles still collapse when I (sit-)squat with no shoe-heels, and feet need to point really outward. Yet I don’t feel anything stretching around my ankle/foot…

  3. Are 2 questions ok?
    1) I am only able to do this remaining flat footed if i really round my back? Is that ok? My heels try their best to lift though.
    2) How often do you recommend this drill and also the other4 in the package?
    ps i am an olympic lifter so the full squat should feel like home!

    • Colin,

      2 Qs R OK!

      The general rule in a Feldenkrais lesson is that you can do whatever you want within the parameters set by the instructions. The lessons are designed to let you discover the best form for you as opposed to telling you what the best form is. Rounding the back is fine and probably completely necessary to do the lesson.

      I would do the lessons as long as they seem interesting and productive. If they are getting boring, that is a sign you aren’t learning anything. Doing them like drills or exercises probably won’t help much. After you are pretty famiilar with the moves, you can start trying to find your own variations – explore different movements and/or things to be aware of while moving. Good luck!

  4. Hi Todd,
    My Mom is a Feldenkrais teacher,however,this is the first time i ever did a lesson.
    I felt impatience at the beginning, a need to move quicker,had to restrain myself,i wanted to move differently from your instructions.
    It took some time to settle in,your observational instructions were very helpful in particular when lying on my back,there was a dramatic shift every time i was in that quite position,that awareness sharpened and became very detailed in my mind’s eye and i felt delight just at that simple the end of the lesson walking on two points ,my legs,i felt smooth,velvety,i was ready to hunt or something and missed my 5yo boy ( in school now)who always always wants me to play cheetah with him:))
    i will forward this to my Mom,
    Thank you for a wonderful lesson.

    • Inbar,

      I’m very pleased you liked it and thank you very much for the feedback and kind words. Best of luck. Oh, and there is a vol.2 of the same lesson in case you interested …

  5. I attempted to do basic squat lesson,but, was not very successful.
    I had a total right hip replacement 5 years ago.My right leg muscles are much weaker,I have restriction in hip flexion and rotation and my right leg is now 2cm shorter.On éxtreme’ movement ,like squatting I get a pain in my lower back.I manage the for point squat with my fingers touching the flour and my right heel raised about 2cm off the ground ,with a nagging pain in my lower right back.
    Should I try the session again with my right hand on a raised step,or just try to see if I improve by repeating the session?

  6. Todd,

    I thank you to be reminded on this specific lesson on 4 points. I did this last year in one segment of my Feldenkrais training but somehow it went to the back of mind and now I am pondering for long times how to get more flexibility into my hips, knees, ankles and my spinal erectors just to do squats. I am a former Power Lifter and hurt myself.
    This lesson just blasted me away and !!! more important !!! this lesson shows all the more how much ahead ATMs are in contrast to conventional stretching exercises. One needs to feel the difference. I just did.
    I see a lot of potential doing this lesson with props or with elevated hands for people with difficulties or people in an elderly home. Starting like this and then working ones way up, or down to the floor, has life inducing benefits.

    Thank you for sharing this with us


    • Thanks Christian glad you liked it. 4 points has always been one of my favorites. I come back to it all the time as part of a quick warm up or nervous system reset in prep for some activity.

  7. Thanks Todd, this was really awareness raising! I knew in theory my hips & thighs are tight but with this I could really feel it! Even getting into the four points position was a little of a challenge. Also (not surprising) there are whole stretches of my back & hip I can’t really feel. This was my first experience with Feldenkreis, I’ll try this exercise a few more times & then check out the next one.

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