Hindu Squats. An Effective Body Weight Exercise for Fat Loss and Mobility.

September 6, 2010

So I have recently decided to add Hindu Squats into my routine. Due to the fact that I don’t want to increase leg mass, I’ve avoided barbell squats the past 10 years. I’m not saying that squats are bad, there just is a certain point where too much lower body mass becomes cumbersome. In my opinion intense cardio intervals develop legs that are functional and defined without getting too big. That being said, squats do help your body maintain good hip mobility and lower back flexibility. If I’m perfectly honest with myself, I’ve lost a bit of flexibility these past 10 years. So I have found that Hindu Squats are the perfect solution to get the positives of the barbell squats (mobility and flexibility) without the negatives (excessive lower body mass).

Hindu Squats

[Here’s a picture from the Holi festival in India. It is a spring festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others. On the main day of the festival people throw colored water and colored powder at each other. It would be cool to see this in person some day.]

Why Can’t You Just Stretch for Mobility?

Static stretching just doesn’t get the job done when it comes to true flexiblity and joint mobility. I recently conducted an interview with Special Forces Trainer – Scott Sonnon. He explains it like this…

“In general, static flexibility training is meant to change the resting length of soft tissue. It stretches tissues long or hard enough to cause a permanent deformation, much like pulling a plastic bag until it can’t spring back to its original length. You certainly could address tight muscles that way, but ultimately it’s a danger to joint integrity, and it isn’t helpful for muscle growth or sports performance.”

So static stretching isn’t really a long-term solution to flexibility. You need to move on a regular basis through a full range of motion. This is what Scott calls “Mobility Exercise”. Deep squats done properly are a great mobility exercise.

A Case of “Hip Flexor Inflexibility”?

So I got some pretty darn tight and inflexible hip flexors. What is the big deal with tight hip flexors? I’m asking for another lower back injury with tight hip flexors. When your hip flexors are tight, your lower back has to compensate and hyperextend to make up for when the hips can’t fully extend. By avoiding the squat and deep squatting motions these past 10 years, I haven’t been actively working hip flexor mobility. Tight hip flexors also can cause a pelvic imbalance and bad pelvic tilt.

Squatting Motions Will Actively Stretch the Hip Flexors

So although I don’t want to increase leg mass and the size of my glutes, I need to incorporate some type of squatting motion into my routine. I suggest you do the same. A good active stretching and mobility movement is “Prisoner Squats”. Since you have your arms behind your head it forces your lower back to remain arched. The goal here is to squat down into a sitting motion and sit back, instead of allowing your knees to travel too far forward. Craig Ballantyne does an awesome job demonstrating in this video.

[So go down without letting your lower back round at the bottom. This will probably not be as low as Craig demonstrates in this video. Pushing your rib cage forward helps as you go down. Keep the weight on your heels.]

So Prisoner Squats Are Going to Develop Mobility

So where do Hindu Squats come into play? We are going to do Prisoner Squats to develop mobility and Hindu Squats as a way to reinforce the motor patterns around this new mobility. What does that mean? Well Hindu Squats are a high rep fat burning body weight exercise that can be done for high reps. After we do a set or two of prisoner squats for 10-15 reps, we will do an extended set of Hindu Squats as our cardio workout for the day. Insuring good form for dozens of reps will retrain these crucial pelvic and hip muscles to become mobile again. We are training these muscles to reinforce joint mobility.

So How Do You Perform Hindu Squats?

So this will take a video for sure. Luckily I found a good one on Youtube by Matthew Armstrong. I will show you the video first and then explain the steps. It is a fast and rhythmic movement, so it is easy to miss some of the key points.

[So it is basically a nonstop motion. As Matthew explains it can be done for hundreds of reps. I wouldn’t recommend that until you have done these for a couple of weeks first.]

How to Do The Hindu Squat

1. Start with your hands pulled into your chest and feet shoulder width apart.

2. Squat down while keeping your back straight and bring your arms down behind you for balance.

3. Unlike the Prisoner Squat, you are going to want to roll up onto the balls of your feet as you lower down. At the very bottom you will almost be up on your toes.

4. At the bottom, swing your arms forward as you push up of your toes.

5. Your arms will reach out in front of you as you approach the top. Once you reach the top, your heels should be touching the floor again and then you pull your hands back in towards your chest. At this point start the movement over.

6. The breathing is important and different than other exercises. Exhale on the way down and inhale on the way up. Do this for each and every rep. The breathing is as important as the movement.

7. Start with 20-30 reps and slowly work up to 500. Within time, you will want to do this for 500+ reps for 15 minutes straight. This is easier said than done…and is a serious cardio workout.

Here’s A Video That Explains the Arm Motion…

[As you can see it takes practice to get the timing right.]

How You Can Incorporate These Into Your Routine?

I would suggest trying to get in a session of Hindu Squats 2 times per week to reinforce good hip mobility. I will most likely do these in place of my steady state cardio 2-3 times per week. I would recommend 2 sets of 10 of prisoner squats as a warm up to get the lower back and hips primed. I would also recommend 1-2 sets of prisoner squats afterward and possibly a set or two of back bridges, if you want to really insure great posture.

Note: I would love to hear your comments. Have you guys ever done Hindu Squats? Do you plan on implementing them into your routine.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

D.Pramod February 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Sabina, The Baithak technique displayed here is authentic… and Yoga does NOT recommend going very deep although you do not rise on the balls of your feet… refer to the Utkatasana illustration and description in Dr BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga… it is more of a half-squat than anything you have described…

Rusty, Static stretching is a great way to increase long-term flexibility… it’s proper place is not at the beginning of a workout but at the end when applied to already warm muscles… in the traditional way or marga, yogis get up in the morning, complete their toilet, have a cold bath and then do dozens of Suryanamaskaras at a fast clip to get the body hot and sweating and THEN go into the Asana practice; some of these (not all!) asanas do involve static stretching but by then their bodies are well warmed up…

Imad June 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I’m from India and my great-grandfather was a wrestler (we call them pahelwans) who did thousands of Hindu pushups and squats daily (we call them dands and baithaks). He didn’t suffer from bad knees AFAIK and neither did any other pahelwan I ever heard of. I suppose too much of anything is bad for you, even if it’s a “good” exercise. Kept in moderation I’m sure the Hindu squats (and pushups) will benefit tremendously.

ikram September 3, 2014 at 7:32 pm

i want to lose my weight and tammy what can i do and my weight is 73 kg
tammy is 40 inch

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