Also known as the hunter-gatherer squat, this properly performed deep squat position which offers numerous fitness and health benefits is a prerequisite to minimalist running. Chairs, along with our modern conception of “sitting,” were rare in early human cultures where bare feet or minimalist footwear predominated. People instead spent considerable time in balanced deep squat positions while eating, working, or conversing.
The pre-industrial civilization squat promotes mobility in the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. It strengthens core and lower body muscles used in jumping, which is relevant because running is essentially a series of small jumps. The plantar (sole of foot) pressure distribution is similar to proper running form with the center of mass balanced over the balls of the feet. And unlike sitting, the squat is healthy for the back, decompressing and opening the lumbar spine.
To perform the squat, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Flare your feet out slightly. With a firm core, let your hips, knees, and ankles bend substantially as you lower yourself down. Maintain your feet flat on the floor. Most of your weight should be on the balls of your feet, but the heels should also be in contact with the floor. If you’re doing a static version of the squat, maintain this position for up to ten minutes (or even longer if you’re used to it). The dynamic version requires that you quickly rise back up to the start position and repeat, utilizing a light, bouncing motion. A weighted pole of at least 5 kg balanced horizontally across the collarbone with the arms stretched out forward, increases the effectiveness of the dynamic squat by forcing better form.
For many people, the pre-industrial civilization squat is initially difficult to achieve. Particularly for someone used to wearing high-heeled shoes, getting the heel down on the floor may not be possible due to tight calf muscles and shortening of the Achilles tendons. An assisted deep squat position, in which you hold on to a pole or other stationary object in front of you while gradually working into the position, may be helpful.