Tutorial Thursday #26 – What we have unlearned

Every day you can observe an unbelievable phenomenon in our western civilization: We, the city folk, have unlearned the basic movement patterns!

However, you can’t really argue that it won’t be helpful to be able to carry things for a bit and to be able to get into a deep squat position. And it is exactly the deep squat that is the perfect example of how we overrule our genetics and force a certain movement style on our anatomy.

Our heritage of evolution

Shouldn’t we rather move according to our anatomy and genetics? When observing toddlers and infants you can quickly see that they move intuitively according to their abilities. Rolling from the back to a face-down position, crawling, running, kneeling, and squatting are elementary movements that are essential to human development. They play a major role in orientation, exploration of the environment, and in the process of becoming independent. The deep squat for example is the first choice when toddlers want to pick something up from the floor or take a break.

It is amazing that they intuitively perform this movement flawlessly. It is safe to assume that their parents didn’t actually show them this movement. Since children tend to imitate a lot from their direct models this could have been a reasonable assumption.

However, you have to take into consideration that toddlers have different anatomical relations than adults. Their center of gravity is higher because of their relatively bigger heads. Additionally, they possess a significantly higher flexibility in their joints.

Why do we lose this gift over time?

The most influential reason is probably the invention of the chair. At the latest, the virus is implanted at the first day of school. The better part of a whole day is spent in an anatomically suboptimal position. Your back is often rounded, the gluteal muscles are soft or weakened, the hip flexors and the whole front of your body may be shortened. This can lead to major problems in the long run because the spine is not in its natural double s-shaped flexion. Many people will not bend their hips more than 90° all day.

Simply following the motto: ‘what you don’t use will fade away’ the hip joint will slowly start to reduce its range of motion.

Wearing shoes with heels over a long period of time will create a similar effect. The back side of the legs is permanently shortened and impairs the mobility of the ankles. If you still go into the deep squat your center of gravity will be too far behind the feet and holding this position will demand significantly more strength and will feel uncomfortable.

However, sometimes it can feel so good going down into the deep squat and stay there for a while.

The lumbar spine can relax in a different position, the digestive organs can work better (this is also the reason why the toilets in some countries are simply holes in the ground, by the way), and the articular cartilage will receive additional impulses in the form of pulling, pushing, and shearing loading.

So my tip for you: approach the movements slowly. You can re-learn these movements. With little tools like the aeroSling suspended pulley trainer you can simplify this exercise. It allows you to adjust your bodyweight, and with it the intensity of the exercise, by adjusting your position in relation to the mount.

Your goal should be a free squat in which the buttocks are underneath your knees in the end position.

  • feet shoulder-wide apart
  • toes point straight forward (or 5-10% rotated outwards at max)
  • the sole fully touches the ground and the full weight rests on the metatarsus
  • bend hip and move your buttocks down and back
  • keep the natural hollow back and leave the head in a neutral position
  • move knees outwards
  • move the buttocks as low as possible

Get functional,

Your Fabien

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