WHAT IT IS
The toddler squat (sometimes called the third world squat) isn’t really an exercise or a stretch, however in recent years, it has become both. In parts of the world, the squat is a common sitting position, and it is a shape that the human body holds pretty well, however it requires suppleness and greater than normal mobility in the knees and hips.
The toddler squat is a natural way of sitting, without a chair, in which the strength of the legs and core holds the body in balance. It’s the way that we sit as children, and according to some people in the paleo-fitness communities, it is the way that we should sit as adults. As people, particularly adults have begun to live more sedentary lifestyles, and spent more and more time in office chairs and on sofas, our natural flexibility has suffered, making it more and more difficult to get into this position. This difficulty is something that can be countered through stretching, and as a result of the difficulty in getting into this pose, actually doing it, becomes a fairly powerful exercise.
The main benefits of this pose are in developing greater core strength (as you hold your balance), more strength in your thigh muscles as you hold the legs while in the position, greater mobility through your knees.
People who regularly include the toddler squat in their exercise routine claim that it helps them with any leg exercises – such as squats or lunges – and that the additional flexibility makes them more efficient as runners or cyclists.
Another longer term benefit of becoming more flexible is that you will reduce your risk of sporting injury, and boost your ability to recover from exercise more quickly.
HOW TO DO IT
The toddler squat is a really simple thing to do, which as you get used to it feels more and more natural. Essentially, it is as simple as bending your legs at the knee as you would with a regular squat, and sinking down as far as you can before holding the pose altogether.
In most cases, we lack the flexibility in the knees to go much further than having our legs horizontal with the ground, which puts additional load on the legs when you try and get into a third world squat. You want to extend the knee so that your thigh’s are below horizontal. This ensures that the weight of your body is better distributed by your leg muscles.
You need to lean your body slightly forwards to keep your centre of gravity above your fee, and it also helps to place your elbows on the insides of your knees – again to improve your balance.
It takes a while to get used to the third world squat. At first, you will feel the pull through your thighs and the fronts of your lower legs, and probably spend more time teetering to keep your balance than is comfortable, but as you get more and more used to the pose, you’ll get better at holding it until you arrive at the point you were when you were two or three years old, and could hold it indefinitely.