Updated: Oct 23
Squats are a classic exercise to develop leg strength. We enjoy practising a variation known as the Hindu Squat as it promotes not only strength but also balance and control.
Before we go further, a word of caution: check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and always work-out within your limits. A personal trainer can also help with technique and specific skills.
Originating in India, Hindu squats aka ‘baithaks’ have been successfully used by wrestlers for hundreds of years. Unlike the traditional Western (vertical) squat, the hindu squat incorporates a forward to rear arm swing and keeps the heels off the floor for most of the movement. This provides a number of benefits:
The heels raised position creates extra work for the calves and the quads, developing strength. Hamstrings also benefit.
The knees come forward of the toes (this might be a concern for some) so the exercise conditions the knees and develops strength. Bullet proof knees, and ankles. This is beneficial for functional or natural movements required in daily life, getting up and down from the floor to pick up items, shopping or children!
The forward to rear movement of the arms works to open the shoulders and improve posture.
Once you get the movement right and into the swing of it, the heart gets racing providing a decent aerobic workout. Breathing has to be coordinated with the movement.
You don’t have to race to get the numbers higher and the exercise completed. Take time to practise the movement correctly and build up from there.
How to Practise a Hindu Squat
This is the basic movement, we have added links to videos below:
With a relaxed body stand erect, feet shoulder width apart.
With shoulders relaxed extend your arms straight in front of you at chest level, look straight ahead.
Slowly lower your hips to the floor, keep your spine straight, breath out. As your lower, lift your heels off the ground and move your hands behind your body. Once fully down, your hands will be behind your back close to the floor and commencing to sweep forward.
Slowly rise, coming down onto your heels. At the same time your arms and hands move forward, brushing past the heels.
As you rise further, raise your arms to the front to return to the original starting position with arms extended out.
Whilst we enjoy traditional squats, we feel that the hindu squat delivers added value to one’s workout especially if time is short. It is an aerobic and strength exercise that develops balance, co-ordination and mobility at the same time. When you practice the exercise just be cautious to mind your balance, especially when you start to tire. Do not push further than your comfort level.
As part of a balanced training regime don’t ignore upper body push or pull exercises as these are equally important to develop balanced strength. Cardiovascular exercise (running, cycling, swimming, dancing...) should not be ignored. Proper diet, nutrition and sleep are all vital for growth and recovery so to make maximum progress and justify the investment of your time and energy, do not ignore other elements of your health.
Enjoying, gaining satisfaction, from exercise is vital. Explore different programmes, find a workout that you enjoy.
Strength training is essential for long-term health, it cannot be ignored. Alternatives to traditional calisthenics exercises include yoga or animal flows. These provide excellent workouts that involve strength, mobility and flexibility. Not sure what exercise you want to do or might enjoy? Experiment. Sign-up to local trial classes, meet new people, explore the opportunities and have fun!
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