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Squatting on the ground as a resting position.

Squatting is a posture where the weight of the body is on the feet (as with standing) but the knees are bent either fully (full or deep squat) or partially (partial, half, semi, parallel or monkey squat). In contrast, sitting, involves taking the weight of the body, at least in part, on the buttocks against the ground or a horizontal object such as a chair seat. Crouching may involve squatting or kneeling. It is possible to squat with one leg and assume another position (such as kneeling) with the other leg.[1] In adults, squatting (including the use of the squat toilet) is more common in Asian cultures.[2]

Young children[edit | edit source]

Young boy playing at ease in a squatting position

Young children squat instinctively as a continuous movement from standing up whenever they want to lower themselves to ground level. One and two year olds can commonly be seen playing in a stable squatting position, with feet wide apart and bottom not quite touching the floor, although at first they need to hold onto something to stand up again.[3]

Resting position[edit | edit source]

Full squatting involves resting one's weight on the feet with the buttocks resting on the backs of the calves. It may be used as a posture for resting or working at ground level particularly where the ground is too dirty or wet to sit or kneel.[1]

Most western adults cannot place their heels flat on the ground when squatting because of shortened Achilles tendons largely caused by habitually:

  • sitting on chairs or seats
  • wearing shoes with heels (especially high heels)

For this reason the squatting position is usually not sustainable for them for more than a few minutes as heels-up squatting is a less stable position than heels-down squatting.[4][5]

Catchers in baseball and wicket-keepers in cricket assume full squatting positions.

Childbirth position[edit | edit source]

Main article: Childbirth positions

Engelmann's seminal work "Labor among primitive peoples" publicised the childbirth positions amongst primitive cultures to the Western world. They frequently use squatting, standing, kneeling and all-fours positions, often in a sequence.[6]

Various people have promoted the adoption of these alternative birthing positions, particularly squatting, for Western countries, such as Grantly Dick-Read, Janet Balaskas, Moysés Paciornik and Hugo Sabatino. The adoption of these alternative positions is also promoted by the natural childbirth movement.

The squatting position gives a greater increase of pressure in the pelvic cavity with minimal muscular effort. The birth canal will open 20 to 30% more in a squat than in any other position. It is recommended for the second stage of childbirth.[7]

As most Western adults find it difficult to squat with heels down, compromises are often made such as putting a support under the elevated heels or another person supporting the squatter.[8]

Sexual position[edit | edit source]

Main article: Woman on top (sex position)

In the woman on top sexual position (also known as cowgirl), the woman commonly assumes a squatting position over the man, sometimes referred to as a frog squat.

Female urination position[edit | edit source]

Main article: Urination

When not urinating into a toilet, squatting is the one way for a female to direct the urine stream (although many women find that they can do so standing up). If done this way, the urine will go forward downwards. Some females use one or both hands to focus the direction of the urine stream, which is more easily achieved while in the squatting position.

Acceptability of outdoor urination in a public place other than at a public urinal varies with the situation and with customs. Typically, many American males do this standing up, while females squat. However, among the Tuareg tribe in Africa, and in many other cultures the males tend to squat while the females stand.

The choice of urination position, in any case, remains a highly personal one, and depends on the particular nature of the individual's body shape (as not all penises are shaped the same as all other penises; ditto for vulvae).

Defecation position[edit | edit source]

Main article: Squatting defecation posture

Some toilets allow the user to defecate in either the squatting or the sitting position

The squatting defecation posture involves squatting by standing with knees and hips sharply bent and the buttocks suspended near the ground. Squat toilets are designed to facilitate this posture. It is more widespread in the developing world than in the Western world.

Dynamic exercise[edit | edit source]

Main article: Squat (exercise)

Weightlifting moving from a full squat to standing position.

In strength training, the squat is an exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, as well as strengthening the bones, ligaments and insertion of the tendons throughout the lower body. Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength and size of the legs and buttocks. Although the squat has long been a basic element of weight training, it has in recent years been the subject of considerable controversy.

Yoga squatting posture[edit | edit source]

Main article: Garland Pose

Malasana, also known as Yoga Squat or the Garland Pose, is a yoga pose.

The pose is a squat with heels flat on the floor and hip-width apart (or slightly wider if necessary), toes pointing out on a diagonal. The torso is brought forward between the thighs, elbows are braced against the inside of the knees, and the hands press together in front of the chest in Añjali Mudrā.[9]

Partial squat[edit | edit source]

A partial squat is an intermediate stage between standing and full squatting, that is, standing but with the knees bent. (In contrast, stooping involves bending at the waist rather than just the hips and knees). This may be used in a variety of contexts often as a "ready for action" posture:

  • the batsman's posture in cricket when waiting for a delivery.
  • waiting to receive a serve in tennis
  • used in the Alexander technique, as "the monkey squat" also known as the "position of mechanical advantage"[10]
  • ready for action in sumo wrestling.
  • to avoid back strain it is important to bend the knees whenever you lift a heavy object.[11]
  • plié in ballet is a type of partial squat balanced on the toes only and the legs turned outwards. (The grand plié has the thighs parallel to the ground like a parallel squat or demi-plie where the thighs are at about a 45% angle to the ground).
  • the parallel squat, often used in weight training, is just short of a full squat where the thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Monkey Kung Fu a Chinese martial art which utilizes ape or monkey-like movements as part of its technique.
  • a Besti squat is a figure skating move.

Lunge[edit | edit source]

A lunge is a variation of the partial squat where a leg is moved forwards with the knee bent but the other remains straight thus moving the upper body forward in line with the bent knee. For example:

Walking while squatting (stalking or prowling)[edit | edit source]

Stalking or prowling is essentially walking while in or close to a full squat. This is designed to be a walk that maintains a low profile. A good soldier can keep the profile as low as a regular crawl.

Positive health effects[edit | edit source]

In the 1970s, Denis Parsons Burkitt developed the idea that the use of the natural squatting position, in particular for defecation, protects the natives of Africa and Asia from various illnesses:[12][13]

Largely stemming from this, research is now increasingly being done into various squatting benefits:

Tetralogy of Fallot[edit | edit source]

Main article: Tetralogy of Fallot

Older children will often squat during a Tetralogy of Fallot "tet spell". This increases systemic vascular resistance and allows for a temporary reversal of the shunt. It increases pressure on the left side of the heart, decreasing the right to left shunt thus decreasing the amount of deoxygenated blood entering the systemic circulation.[18][19]

Negative health effects[edit | edit source]

  • Knee osteoarthritis - There is increased incidence of knee osteoarthritis amongst squatters who squat for hours a day for many years.[20]
  • Bilateral peroneal nerve palsy - There is evidence that sustained squatting may cause bilateral peroneal nerve palsy. A common name for this affliction is squatter's palsy although there may be reasons other than squatting for this to occur.[21][22][23]
  • Stroke - A study shows that squatting for defecation may trigger a stroke. However, the study did not compare squatting with sitting for defecation, and did not measure the blood pressure of subjects straining on a western toilet.[24]

Squatting facets[edit | edit source]

The existence of squatting facets on the distal tibia and talar articular surfaces of skeletons, which result from contact between the two bones during hyperdorsiflexion, have been used as markers to indicate if that person habitually squatted. Babies are born with squatting facets but they usually disappear over time if that person does not habitually squat as he or she grows older, because of remoulding of the bone.[25][26][27]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hewes GW: ' World distribution of certain postural habits' American Anthropologist, 57, (1955), 231-44
  2. includeonly>Dobrzynski, Judith H.. "An Eye on China's Not So Rich and Famous", The New York Times, 2004-10-17. Retrieved on 2010-04-07.
  3. Slentz K, Krogh S Early Childhood Development and Its Variations (2001)
  4. Mauss, Marcel. Les Techniques du corps 1934. Journal de Psychologie 32 (3-4). Reprinted in Mauss, Sociologie et anthropologie, 1936, Paris: PUF.
  5. Save knees when squatting
  6. Engelmann GJ Labor among primitive peoples (1883)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Russell JG. Moulding of the pelvic outlet. J Obstet Gynaecol Br Commonw 1969;76:817-20.
  8. Balaskas J Using the squatting position during labour and for birth
  9. Garland Pose. Yoga Journal. URL accessed on 2009-06-12.
  10. The Monkey Squat (Position of Mechanical Advantage)
  11. Lifting technique
  12. Burkitt DP Some diseases characteristic of modern Western civilization British Medical Journal 1973;1;274-278
  13. Trowell HC Burkitt DP Western Diseases: Their Emergence and Prevention (1981)
  14. Burkitt DP Hiatus hernia: is it preventable? Am J Clin Nutr 34:428, 1981.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Burkitt DP Varicose Veins, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Haemorrhoids: Epidemiology and Suggested Aetiology British Medical Journal, 1972;2:556-561
  16. Squatting for the prevention of hemorrhoids?
  17. Colon Cancer - Why Is It So Common In The West, But Not In Other Places?
  18. Murakami T (2002). Squatting: the hemodynamic change is induced by enhanced aortic wave reflection. Am. J. Hypertens. 15 (11): 986–8.
  19. Guntheroth WG, Mortan BC, Mullins GL, Baum D. Am Venous return with knee-chest position and squatting in tetralogy of Fallot. Heart J. 1968 Mar;75(3):313-8.
  20. Liu CM, Xu L Retrospective study of squatting with prevalence of knee osteoarthritis - 2007
  21. Macpherson JM, Gordon AJ Squatter's palsy British Medical Journal, 1983
  22. Kumaki DJ. The facts of Kathmandu: squatter's palsy. 2 January 1987;257(1):28.
  23. Toğrol E. Bilateral peroneal nerve palsy induced by prolonged squatting. Mil Med. 2000 Mar;165(3):240-2
  24. Chakrabarti SD, Ganguly R, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A Is squatting a triggering factor for stroke in Indians? Acta Neurol Scand. 2002 Feb;105(2):124-7.
  25. Squatting Facets – Little Bones That Make A Big Difference
  26. Barnett CH Squatting facets on the European talus J Anat. 1954 October; 88(Pt 4): 509–513.
  27. Trinkaus E Squatting among the neandertals: A problem in the behavioral interpretation of skeletal morphology Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 2, Issue 4, December 1975, Pages 327-351

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Squatting as a resting position

  • Hewes GW: The anthropology of posture Scientific American, 196: 122-132 (1957)

Squatting as a dynamic exercise

Squatting in childbirth

  • Gardosi J, Hutson N Randomised, Controlled Trial Of Squatting In the Second Stage of Labour 1989 The Lancet, Volume 334, Issue 8654, Pages 74–77
  • McKay S. Squatting: An Alternate Position For The Second Stage Of Labour Am J Maternal Child Nur 1984;9:181-183.
  • Nasir A, Korejo R, Noorani KJ. Child birth in squatting position. Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association 2007/1;57:19-22
  • Paciornik M, Paciornik C Birth in the Squatting Position (1979) Polymorph Films
  • Paciornik M, Paciornik C Commentary: arguments against episiotomy and in favor of squatting for birth. Birth 1990 Dec;17(4):234, 236. and Birth 1991 Jun;18(2):119.
  • Paciornik M Use of the squatting position for birth. Birth 1992 Dec;19(4):230-1.

Health effects of squatting

  • Chakravarty A, Chatterjee SK, Chakrabarti S. Blood pressure changes during squatting—a study in normal subjects and its possible clinical significance. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India. 2001 Jun; 49(): 678-9


  • O'Donnell TV, McIlroy MB. The circulatory effects of squatting. Am Heart J. 1962 Sep;64:347-56.
  • Sharpey-Schafer EP Effects of Squatting on the Normal and Failing Circulation Br Med J. 12 May 1956; 1(4975): 1072–1074.

External links[edit | edit source]

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