The Art of The Squat Stance 

_DSC9120 (2)
“ Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy”. – Sun Tzu

To understand the fundamental value of the squat stance is to appreciate a position that provides efficiency and effectiveness for multilateral function. 

We recognize The squat movement stance as essential for activities  basic human function such as sitting, lifting. However, in sport this fundamental yet complex stance provides the stage for executing a multitude of sportive tasks.  It is a position that also reverberates resilience to external forces. 

Functionally the squat stance represents a position of readiness

The squat stance can be recognized for its ability to place athletes  in a resourceful and efficient position for a multitude of functionally active movements.  In the squat stance one improves their ability to store potential energy for accelerative, jumping evasive, or attack like maneuvers. The squat stance employs  multitudinous function from a position of great stability when standing. In the Squat Stance one has the ability to maximize potential energy for synchronized use toward various evasive, jumping accelerative actions as well as the ability efficiently recover and/or absorb energy from these same maneuvers by returning toward the same squat stance.

         The squat stance demonstrates a complex composition of factors necessary toward understanding  human movement as it can reflect kinematic elemental systems such as neuromuscular control, strength, stability, and mobility from the ground up or standing position (Myer et al., 2014).  The various systems and components which support orthograde human posture owes its complexity, shape and function from human evolution and the evolving environment that has laid touch to human beings from their beginnings.  The human to environment relationship is an important foundation for exploring the art and special qualities of human movement.  And the squat stance a version of human upright posture,  unique among all mammalian creatures is a useful place to start. 

To appreciate the squat stance, one must evaluate human environmental demands – especially in sport. 

“Whatever one may think of it, the upright posture does not offer sufficient advantages for it to have persisted according to the classic criteria of natural selection …sufficient advantages” must have existed, and our ancestors were definitely able to fulfill the functional requirements of their environment and eventually acquired an erect locomotion. (Niemitz, 2010).

 

From an evolutionary perspective,  there appears to be a number of sufficient advantages for the transition from hominin quadrupedalism to bipedalism, that includes  the ability to resourcefully navigate varied environments, as well developing useful approaches to attack, defend and intimidate.  It is believed our early ancestors, valued bipedalism for the advantages it brought within their wooded habitat of the forest as well as the nearby shore where they walked and waded in shallow water finding rich food with little investment (Niemitz, 2010). The value of standing upright may rest on our ancestors desire to efficiently step through and around barriers in search for nutrients or resources.  Evolutionary scientists have also suggested that the adoption of bipedalism in hominins was associated with aggressive displays in which bipedal posture made the individual appear larger and more threatening.  Leading theory also suggests that early humans adopted an upright posture and gait to be able to wield resources for attacking and defending against their predators (Carrier, 2011).   

In the end, an evolutionary development associated with sufficient advantages in attacking, defending, intimidating and navigating multiple environments translated into  a closed-chain kinetic movement  that requires the activation of well over 200 muscles for proper function and serves as the biomechanical and neurological basis for several functional and multi-joint sporting movements.  The squat dynamically recruits most of the lower-body musculature, including the quadriceps femoris, hip extensors, hip adductors, hip abductors, and triceps surae as well as upper body  and supporting muscle groups such as the abdominals, erector spinae, trapezius, rhomboids, and many others) to facilitate postural stabilization of the trunk. (Schoenfeld, 2010)

Squat1To fully appreciate, the vastness in function and complexity of a simple squat is to recognize that balancing upright on two feet is fundamentally a human quality, one relegated to nature’s highest form of cognitive ability  The vertical arrangement of head, trunk, legs and feet with task specific links in the neck, spine, pelvis, knee and ankles to dynamically balance together is a testament to the power in design of nature or the divine.  The human being, a freely moving construct, in spite of the forces acting on it, exists on capricious ground, always an inch or two away from falling – and yet remains erect. In other words, The defying nature of human ability to stand resistant to fall, in spite of nature’s force, is a consequence of human cognition and construct.  

Dr.  Soo Borson Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Director, Memory Disorders Program, University of Washington School of Medicine defined “Cognition” as broad range of largely invisible activities carried out by the human brain.  These activities include perceiving, thinking, knowing, reasoning, remembering, analyzing, planning, paying attention, generating and synthesizing ideas, creating, judging, being aware, and among others, having insight. (Borson, 2010). It is believed that these developed abilities give way to the potential for a habitually  erect stance maintained through the processing of gravitational and non-gravitational information.  Dr. John r. Skyoles desribes this processing as as a species specific vertical balance faculty that only came to be fully exploited through the evolution of early humans, larger brain size and the development of higher levels of cognition. 

The first step in appreciating and understanding the squat stance is to recognize that the multitude of skeletomuscular adjustments that allow for a constant perpendicular uprightness of the body axis to the ground in direct gravitational alignment, is born of (among other factors) a human brain capacity to balance. In particular, our evolved and developed human scope provides enough perspective to execute a complex balance system.  In a study published by the act of bioengineering and biomechanics, researchers defined human balance as  a system of organs and mechanisms, which generate postural reactions to counter the displacement from the equilibrium position of the body centre of gravity, and which control eye movement in order to maintain a stable image of the environment (Olchowik, G., et al.. (2015).  More than a system of generating reaction, the human balance system, is one that collects and communicates information for the execution of control and movement. It is a conglomeration of interdependent parts which serve to sense or collect valuable information through vehicles such as the vestibular, visual, proprioceptive systems, the musculo-skeletal system and the central nervous system. Interestingly, an important component in understanding balance is that to achieve it optimally, one must be able to collect and communicate impactful information ideally.

Perspective, a fundamental quality of art,  presents itself in the basis of human locomotor function and to the feasibility of the Squat. To glean information for function is important in movement and life, but perhaps as equally important is the perspectives in which we acquire such information. Leonard Da Vinci once said “Make yourself a master of perspective, then acquire perfect knowledge of the proportions of men and other animals.” This insight also serves as a central tenet to human movement and perhaps life.  Gain perspective, qualify these varied forms of information and acquire knowledge as well as an understanding of your environment. Researchers at the Medical University of Lublin, portray this idea in their description of sensory organization and its role in achieving human balance 

“Signals from the sensory organs are integrated in the central nervous system in order to maintain body balance. These signals are used to determine the position of the body’s segments relative to each other and to the environment. The displacement of the centre of gravity from the equilibrium position is also determined. The signals from the sensory organs are used to varying degrees, depending on the stimulation conditions. The greatest contribution is from those which provide the most reliable information about the actual displacement of the body centre of gravity from the equilibrium position.”   – (Olchowik et al., 2015)

Achieving the squat stance is the capacity to sense valuable information, from many perspectives, in a manner that is organized, hierarchal, systematically checked  for the purpose of making appropriate decisions to display a balanced state and to maintain a position which enables the potential for a multitude of higher functions.

       Biomechanists note that proper organization of sensory information, in maintaining body balance, leads to reliable sources of information about the position of the body centre of gravity for a given stimulation of the sensory organs. Insight into these various perspectives of sensory information and the faculty which organize them is a useful measure to gain appreciation for the complexity of the squat position and the systems that are intrinsic to the maintenance of balance and decision making.

There are three sensory systems which are understood to contribute to the maintenance of balance at all times.  We know them as the vestibular system, the visual system and the somatosensory system. These systems contain elements such as sensory receptors and communication vehicles or afferent neurons that are critical to providing information to the squat stance position.  However, each system and its parts are weighed and organized differently depending on both task and environment. 

_DSC9120 (1)When we maintain the squat stance with our eyes open and our feet placed  shoulder width apart,  it is the somatosensory and visual systems  that are chiefly involved in providing sufficient sensory information to maintain the balance necessary  for this quiet standing position.

        However, if we were suddenly required to squat on an unstable surface (such as a stand up paddle board in the middle of a  lake), the vestibular system suddenly becomes more involved in achieving a balance squat stance position.  (Li, Zhang & Dobson, 2018).  The flexibility in reliability of systems necessary for attaining information for balance  in an upright standing position is due in part to the inherent differences within each system as well as the vehicles which implore their function.

 

 

References:

Borson S. (2010). Cognition, aging, and disabilities: conceptual issues. Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics of North America, 21(2), 375–382.

Carrier, D. (2011). The Advantage of Standing Up to Fight and the Evolution of Habitual Bipedalism in Hominins. PloS one. 6.

Li, L., Zhang, S. & Dobson, J. (2018). The contribution of small and large sensory afferents to postural control in patients with Peripheral Neuropathy. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 8, 218 – 227

Myer, G. D., Kushner, A. M., Brent, J. L., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hugentobler, J., Lloyd, R. S., … McGill, S. M. (2014). The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength and conditioning journal, 36(6), 4–27.

Niemitz, C. (2010). The evolution of the upright posture and gait—a review and a new synthesis. Die Naturwissenschaften. 97. 241-263.

Olchowik, G., et al.. (2015). The human balance system and gender. Acta of bioengineering and biomechanics / Wrocław University of Technology. 17. 69-74

Schoenfeld, B. (2010). Squatting Kinematics and Kinetics and Their Application to Exercise Performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 24. 3497-3506.

Skoyles, John. (2006). Human balance, the evolution of bipedalism and dysequilibrium syndrome. Medical hypotheses. 66. 1060-10688.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s