Do your hips or glutes (“butt muscles”) ache every time you bend over? Does a seemingly simple cleaning task sometimes lead to a sprain or pulled muscle?
If so, it may be a sign you’re sitting for too long every day. Sitting at a desk or couch for long hours can lock hip flexors and glutes, and stiffen overall mobility over time (1).
Luckily, there is a perfect exercise for stretching out the hips and glutes – the deep squat! Performing this squat regularly will help reduce stiffness in the ankles, knees, and hips, and prevent lower back pain. It may also improve mobility, stability, and posture in other lifting exercises (1).
Follow the steps below to try this satisfying routine for yourself.
How to Perform a Deep Squat
(Optional) Hold onto something at waist- or chest-level, like a pole or the back of a bench or chair.
Spread your legs to shoulder width.
Bend your knees and squat as far as you can without lifting your heels or toes. Make sure to keep your back straight.
Hold the squat for 5 deep breaths. Slowly stand back up.
Repeat 2-3 times. Perform the set 8-12 times – or 5-10 minutes every day.
Tips and Variations on the Deep Squat
Alternate the distance between your feet. Try performing the squats with your feet at shoulder width, and then half or twice your shoulder width (1). Repeat as desired.
Tense up your muscles. On every other squat, try tensing up your glutes and thigh muscles when you’re in squatting position to give your muscles a good squeeze (1).
Use a resistance band or power bar to hold your squat. If you find it difficult to stay in the squat position, try securing your legs with a band or tucking your knees beneath a bar while you are holding the squat (1).
Hold a weight to keep your back straight. If you find yourself bending your back as you squat, hold a 10- to 20-pound plate with your arms at a shoulder level as you perform the exercise. Once this becomes easy to you, try holding the plate closer to your chest or overhead until you can hold a squat without bending your back (2).
Deepen your squat gradually. If your ankles feel too stiff and strained when squatting, try loosening them up a little at a time. Stand with your toes four inches away from the wall, and then perform the squat, just until your knees touch the wall (2). Every two weeks, stand an inch further away from the wall.
Test your hip and ankle flexibility. If deep squats are difficult to you no matter how many tips you try, you might have a medical issue with your hip joints and/or muscles. To test your hip flexibility, lie down on your back with a rolled towel beneath your lower back, just above your belt line. Then lift your knees to your chest without using your hands until they are bent 90 degrees. If you cannot perform this exercise, even with repeated training, consider seeing a medical professional about hip stiffness (2).
Other Ways to Stretch Your Body after Sitting for Too Long
Here are some more tips for reducing pain and stiffness in your hips, lower back, and glutes – or avoiding sitting still altogether:
Lean back when you’re sitting. Reclining a little, rather than sitting up straight or leaning forward, will put less pressure – and, consequently, less strain – on your lower back.
Invest in a standing desk. Alternate between sitting down and standing up while you work to relieve stress on your lower back and hips. Alternatively, simply stand up and reach for the sky with your arms every 20-30 minutes of sitting still.
Try performing chair exercises as you work. Whenever you feel your legs start to stiffen, just point your toes and straighten your knees until your legs are parallel to the ground. Then relax your legs, and repeat as desired.
Do light stretches every night. Relieve pain in your lower back and hips with simple stretches, like The Child’s Pose. Kneel, sit your hips on your heels, and then bend forward until your upper body is draped over your lap and the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.
Walk for 15 minutes or more every day. Even a brief walk once a day will help stretch out and relax your body. So make sure to get 15 minutes or more of simple walking a day – or ask your workmates to make your next meeting a walk-and-talk.
Swim, run, or attend yoga sessions 2-3 times a week. Performing active, sustained, heart-pumping exercise can improve your blood flow – and give all your muscles and joints a good workout. Try to get active with aerobic exercises like swimming, running, or biking at least 2-3 times a week, for 20 minutes or more.
For more tips and exercises for relieving back pain, check out 10 more exercises to reverse damage from sitting for too long and 9 lower back stretches for a painless night’s sleep.
1) Gaddour, B. (2017). Why All Men Should Deep Squat For 5 Minutes a Day. [online] Men’s Health. Available at: https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/squat-mobility-hacks?utm_campaign=Men%27s+Health&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_term=1012908871 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].
2) Hartman, B. (2017). How Can I Squat Deeper?. [online] Men’s Health. Available at: https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/how-can-i-squat-deeper [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].
Image and video sources:
1) The Pirate (2017). Exercise Tutorials Deep Squat – workout routine for women at home New 2017. [YouTube] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpsqLwWOcZ4 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
2) menshealthmag. (2017). Instagram post by Men’s Health • Sep 15, 2015 at 12:14pm UTC. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/7pp8rIMEdN/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].