Hindu Squats are a variation of the basic bodyweight squat.
They are very much a full-body compound exercise that engages and works many muscles of the body.
The origin of Hindu Squats
The Hindu Squat can trace its origins to India where it has been used for centuries by wrestlers as part of their training routine. It has helped them in developing extra strength, endurance, and mobility in the legs.
A great Indian champion wrestler called Gamma is believed to have gone 50 years undefeated. As part of his training routine, he would complete 5000 Hindu Squats each and every day! If Hindu Squats helped him remained undefeated, for no less than 50 years, then I’m pretty much sold on their value.
Interestingly European wrestlers who have had encounters with Indian wrestlers have begun to realize the importance of incorporating Hindu Squats into their training routine. This is because they are generally weaker in leg strength in comparison to their Indian counterparts and a lot of European wrestlers are easily defeated by Indian wrestlers.
So what are Hindu squats?
Hindu Squats are a more dynamic and flowing movement variation of the basic bodyweight squat.
There is a much greater requirement for balance, controlled breathing, and coordination of total body movement.
Focused relaxed breathing, a change from power breathing to more natural anatomical breathing.
The squat itself involves lifting the heels from the ground and also moving the knees past the toes during the exercise. This is obviously very different from the basic bodyweight squat where the heels remain on the ground and knees don’t move past the toes.
There is also a rhythmic movement of the arms going on throughout the entire movement. This combined with the need to move up onto toes, and knees moving past toes requires good balance and total body coordination.
It is similar to other squats in that it targets many of the leg muscles. A good aerobic exercise when done with high reps, or over an increased duration. Brilliant as a warm-up exercise as it gets the heart rate up.
Why do squats at all?
Squats are a classic example of a compound exercise; this means they work more than one single muscle or joint at a time. They are the opposite of isolation exercises which work on only a single joint movement per exercise, think bicep curl.
Both types of exercise have their advantages and disadvantages.
Compound exercises ensure a good balance between the muscles being worked. The strengthening gained between different muscles complements each other. However, compounds are not good for targeting single muscles or muscle groups. If you want to target and increase strength or promote growth in just your calves for instance, then a compound movement such as a squat is not the best way to do it. It will work the calf but it won’t target it.
Isolation exercises are great for targeting single muscles or muscle groups. An isolation exercise like calf raises will target just your calves and promote growth, and increase strength in pretty much just your calves. You can even target single legs to address strength imbalances. The advantage of isolation exercises however is also a weakness for obvious reasons.
Hindu Squats Benefits
Are there any benefits to doing Hindu Squats? Well of course there are, let’s look at some.
- Quick total body workout
Hindu Squats are a compound exercise. In one movement they hit the major muscle group of the shoulders, abs, back, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. This can be great if you quickly need a total body workout. Because heels leave the ground it’s better suited to those with poor mobility in that area while doing regular squats where heels and toes must remain fixed to the floor throughout.
- Increases balance and coordination
With the Knees moving past toes, and heels leaving the ground the Hindu Squat is even more of a natural everyday movement than standard squats. This transfers well into other movements we perform regularly in our everyday life.
- Good aerobic exercise
A good aerobic exercise. Since so many muscles are used in this compound exercise the body requires a large amount of freshly oxygenated blood to fuel those muscles. In simple terms, this means it gets your heart pumping quickly.
A fantastic time-saver. Works many of the muscle groups at once. Quicker than working different muscle groups at a time.
- Do them anywhere
Do them anywhere. Since no equipment is required and very little space you can do Hindu Squats just about anywhere
- Improved coordination
The exercise tests balance and coordination throughout the entire movement.
- Works quads harder than basic bodyweight squats
More stress on quads than basic
- Relaxes the mind
High rep sets disengage the mind from other distractions and can be quite meditative once the correct technique has become well engrained.
- Low injury risk
The Hindu squat is a relatively low injury risk due to the fact it is a bodyweight exercise. Particularly important once we begin to move past 35. Now, this doesn’t mean it totally risk-free, obviously the more excess weight you are carrying, the higher the load resistance, and the higher the risk of injury. However, for anybody in good shape, i.e., little to no excess weight, and no existing knee issues then the injury risk is minimal.
Working the muscles together in unison means your muscles will be better balanced against each other. This lowers the chance of injuries developing as a result of strength imbalances between dependant muscle groups.
Hindu Squats muscles worked
The rhythmic arm motion used during the exercise gives them a light workout. For a greater workout of the shoulders, light weights can be held. Only do this once you can comfortably perform the Hindu Squats unweighted though.
- Abs and lower back
The entire movement of the exercise requires strong abs and lower back to maintain control good posture, balance, and coordination throughout.
These are used as you begin to push yourself back upwards. This also happens to be the largest muscle in your body. Powering upwards faster will work this more.
The quads also work with your glutes to push you back up.
These as used to pull you back down into the descent. They are also engaged while they control the descent.
Used extensively whilst you keep yourself on your toes. If you’re on your toes you’re using your calves!
Are Hindu Squats bad for knees?
Due to the amount of movement made by the knees during this exercise, it is an acceptable enough question.
The answer in general is that Hindu Squats are not bad for the knees. In fact, if anything when done correctly they will strengthen the knees.
However, for someone carrying an excess of weight, then that will be a different story entirely. The risk increases with the extra load. Problems will occur during any exercise when pushing or pulling against an excessive load. A load that is more than the current strength of the muscle and/or joints can handle will struggle and ultimately fail.
So, for those in good shape, your knees should be fine. If you are overweight then you will need to proceed with caution.
How to do Hindu Squats
- Important keep back straight and vertical, heels of the ground.
- Using a mirror or someone to observe your technique to ensure it’s correct can be a good idea.
- Start by standing tall and straight with arms straight out in front, feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Start to pull hands and arms toward chest, almost like a rowing movement.
- Once arms reach the chest start moving them vertically down, towards the floor, with palms facing to the rear. Simultaneously begin the squat movement.
- On the downward movement, the heels will start to lift from the ground and you will naturally move onto your toes. Your knees will also start to move past your toes which is ok.
- At the bottom of the exercise start moving upwards again whilst swinging the arms forward to eventually extend out in front again at the top of the movement.
Breath in on the way down and out on the way up.
What are Hindu squats not good for?
Although Hindu squats are a good all-around exercise, they are not good for building huge amounts of muscle.
Since they’re a bodyweight exercise, your own bodyweight is going to limit how much you can increase the load you will work against.
You will pretty quickly reach this limit unless you are going down the road of very high reps.
Hindu squats for those with mobility issues
Not everyone has the good grace to be injury-free. More often than not the knees are one of the first joints some of us will develop an injury or limited movement. There are three main areas to be concerned about here, those are shoulder, lower back, and knees.
- Knee pain
If you need to then wear knee braces, these can help provide extra support. Take things slowly to begin with, progressing a little at a time to where you feel comfortable each time. If needed a small stool or chair can be used to provide support at the bottom of the movement. This will reduce pressure on the knee joint.
- Lower back pain
If you experience back pain while doing Hindu Squats then only move downward until the point of pain is felt. As you progress you may be able to go lower as the back begins to strengthen. If you can’t though don’t worry too much about it. You can still complete them without going all the way down.
- Shoulder pain
If you have shoulder mobility issues then you can just limit the height you raise your arms. You might notice that your range of motion increases as your fitness in this exercise progresses.
There are only two main options to progress in the Hindu Squat. You can increase the number of reps and sets or you can increase the load by introducing weight to the exercise.
At some point, the increasing number of reps and sets will become unrealistic in relation to how much time it will take.
The extra load can be introduced in the form of a weighted vest and or small dumbbells. If attempting this progress slowly in small steps.
Hindu Squats vs Regular Squats
My initial thoughts on this before actually trying the Hindu variation was “how different could they really be”. To look at them the differences are quite subtle. When you actually try them though there is a big difference in how they feel when doing them.
The Hindu Squats have a much greater demand for balance and good coordination. Regular squats don’t have the same demand for balance due to them being performed flat-footed.
Overall, I think this is a great exercise and a little something extra over the basic bodyweight squat. The requirement for extra balance and coordination can only be beneficial. They’re tough but addictively satisfying to do. If haven’t tried them yet then what are you waiting for! Go do some Hindu Squats.
As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts, advice, questions, or opinions related to this article.
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Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness, or exercise.
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