The Asian squat, The Slav squat, and the deep squat are all the same thing. They require you to go deep in your squatting position until your buttocks touch your ankles or fall in their line.
Sounds easy. Isn’t it?
Well, the catch here is that you need to do this while keeping your feet properly grounded to the floor. Now that's what many of us are unable to do.
The main reason why westerners are unable to squat deep is because we do not have the required ankle and hip flexibility, muscle balance, and core strength.
Thankfully, the tightness in the angle, hip flex, calves, back, and core can be easily fixed with some stretching and strengthening exercises. In this blog, we will provide you with a detailed guide on how you can increase your squat depth and master the art of Asian/Slav squat.
To begin with, let's learn what is the proper form for a deep squat.
The Deep Squat: What Is the Correct Posture?
Image courtesy: https://gmb.io/squat/
This image pretty well sums up the exact posture that you need to maintain while performing deep squats.
- Deep Squatting (also known as Malasana in yoga) requires you to have 35-45 degree of ankle dorsiflexion i.e. you should be able to maintain 35-45 degree of gap between the foot and the shin like the below image. This angle is 1.5 to 2 times more than what you need when you do half/parallel squats.
- You need about 135 degrees of knee flexion like the below image:
- You also need about 125 degrees of hip flexion, a lengthy spine, a strong core, and an ability to balance yourself in that position.
If you do not have this amount of flexibility, you won’t be able to get into the deep squat without lifting your feet. You will most likely topple backward as soon as you take your butt a bit down from its parallel squat position.
An interesting thing to know about Asian/Slav/Deep squat/Malasana is that it doesn’t require immense physical strength. It just requires basic flexibility. So, you might be an avid gym rat and yet, you may not have enough flexibility to go down on your heels.
You might find it strange but go and try it right away. You will be surprised to know that it isn’t as easy as it looks. If you are lucky enough to have that flexibility, you may just reach there but you may not be able to hold this position for a minute.
Asian and Slavic people can stay in deep squats for minutes and do almost anything imaginable while squatting including eating, drinking, doing a business deal, teaching kids, gardening, or waiting for a bus!
Don’t get disappointed; Asian squat is not an Asian thing exclusively. We all are born with enough flexibility to squat deep but since we don't do it often, our muscles start to stiffen. You may have noticed your baby squatting in his/her early years. That’s what all of us do, but, over the years we stop squatting. If we continue our practice, we will be able to squat throughout our life, even when we are in our seventies (provided we don’t suffer from knee pain).
To master the art of deep squatting, all you need to do is to regain your ankle, hip, and spine flexibility. And, this is quite doable. The below-mentioned exercises should help you. We strongly recommend you start doing these exercises before attempting Asian squat. If you aren’t flexible enough and you force your body to go in a position for which it is not ready, you may end up with a sprain or injury.
Mobility Exercises for the Deep Squat
Floor hip flexors
Knee to chest stretch
Reclined pigeon stretch
Spine and lower back exercises
As mentioned above, if you try to deep squat with tight hips, quads, and ankles, you may end up injuring yourself. So, do not rush. Take your time and prepare your body. These are fairly simple stretches that you could easily incorporate into your exercise routine. If you are already an active person, you should be ready to squat after a week of doing these exercises. Or else, you may give your body one more week. Once you feel you are ready, here is how you can start deep squatting.
How to Start Doing the Deep Squat
If you have dedicatedly done the above exercises for a week or two, you have most probably regained a decent amount of squatting flexibility. Here is what you need to do now:
- If possible, find a slanting place to attempt your squats for the first few days. Driveways are the best or maybe a slating landscape. Face towards the downward slope i.e your toes need to be towards the downward slope. Now, your heels will automatically remain above the line of your toes. This will prevent you from falling backward, which is quite common among beginners. Make sure you have something or someone to hold on to, just in case you fall. Don’t bother if you don’t have a sloping surface; you can start on a flat surface too.
- Stand near a pole, power rack, a doorframe, or anything stable that you can hold. Spread your legs hip-width distance apart. Start squatting as if you are going to sit on a chair. Go down as much as you can.
- Stay in this position for at least 20-30 seconds. You can hold something if needed.
- Repeat it 3-5 times and do it 2-3 times a day.
- Gradually increase your holding duration to 2-3 minutes and then to 5 minutes.
- Slowly start leaving your support object but stay close to it so you can hold it when required.
- Once you can balance yourself well without any support, start deep squatting for every activity you can such as watching TV, reading a magazine, taking out groceries from your kitchen cabinets, loading or unloading clothes in your washing machine, etc.
Dos and don’t of deep squatting
- Do keep your feet shoulder-width apart. You may begin with more gap between your legs than required but slowly start bringing them closer until they fall in line with your hips (or a bit further). This could take some time and you may have to hold something to balance yourself until you are ready.
- Do not round your shoulders and spine. The shoulders should be rolled away from your chest and your spine should be straight (slanted but not rounded).
- Do keep your chest up. Well, if you keep your spine straight, your chest will automatically flatten.
- Do not hesitate to move your feet 20-30 degrees tilted outwards from your chest. Only extremely flexible people can keep their toes facing straight.
- Do make sure your knees and toes fall in a straight line. If you don’t adopt this form, you will not be able to balance yourself and may end up falling backward or spraining your lower back. To prevent your knees from going over your toes, you can practice wall squats for some time. See this image for reference:
- Initially, you will feel some discomfort while doing a slav squat. But, if you feel unusual, unbearable pain in your knees, ankle, or back, stop practicing it immediately. If the pain doesn’t subside within a few days, see a doctor. Chances of such injuries are rare if you prepare your body well and take baby steps towards deep squatting. This is the reason why we strongly recommend you to build up your flexibility with the help of the exercises listed above.
- Always have a pillar or something strong to hold on to while you squat. Test your body for at least a month before giving up the support. Wrist, ankle, and back injuries are common when you topple while squatting.
Please note that Asian or slav squat is not a workout (unlike half squat or parallel squat); it is a resting position. You must not feel a strong intense burn in this position as you do in a parallel squat. Rather, you should feel an overall relaxing stretch in your body.
Deep squatting isn’t as easy as it looks. It requires more-than-average balance and flexibility and, to achieve that, you need good practice. Don’t give up because, at the end of the day, the flexibility you will achieve will help improve your mobility, posture, balance, and muscle coordination, thereby reducing the chances of injury.