There is a lot of discussion in the fitness and Pilates industries recently about functional fitness – exercises that can be related directly to our daily lives and our ability to function well within our lives.
Squats are a classical example of a functional exercise. If we move well through our daily lives, each time we pick up an object from the floor, clean out a stable, sit down in a chair or get up from the sofa, we squat. A correctly executed squat keeps the spine in its neutral position – following its natural curves – and works the musculature of the Gluteals and legs, which take the bulk of the ‘load’ or weight of the movement and therefore protect the spine.
A mini squat with an upright trunk equals the Dressage 3 point seat position and a deeper squat with a hinged forward trunk equals a jumping 2 point seat position.
A deep squat which takes this a little further has a myriad of benefits for riders – it is a functional movement and an ancient movement, people squatted to cook, go to the toilet and rest, and in some cultures they still do. A deep squat moves the joints of the hips, knees and ankles through their full range of movement – if you read my Blog post ‘Move in all planes and axis to improve your time in the saddle’ you will understand the importance of regularly moving beyond the small range of movement required for riding to maintain and improve joint health and muscular strength. A deep squat also works the musculature of the Pelvic Floor eccentrically, which means it it is stretching as it is working, therefore increasing the strength and tone. This creates an open and conditioned Pelvic Floor which is important for a deep Dressage seat.
Like to try a deep squat? Try this –
- Stand with parallel feet wider than hip bone width apart.
- Lengthen tall through the crown of your head and activate your core. Bend your knees as you simultaneously hinge forward at the hips, keeping the spine in a neutral position.
- Take you arms out in front of you as you squat to counter balance yourself.
- Try and go as low to the floor as possible, tight calves may restrict this, if so, take hold of the back of a chair, a stable door or pole to support yourself.
- Keep the spine as close to neutral as possible, and use you Gluteal muscles to bring you back up to standing.
- Try 10-20 per day.
Personally I love deep squats, they feel great, they are fun and I know they are beneficial for all aspects of my life and my riding, I try to do them every day.
I would love to know if you feel the same after you have tried some.