Can people squat comfortably if they are sufficiently lean? Or is there a knack?

The other day I saw someone squat on his heels for a smoke, and I wondered why for some people squatting (in this manner, like this gentleman) seems to be less onerous than standing, even it seems for long periods of time.

For myself squatting for more than a few seconds is excruciatingly uncomfortable but standing for hours on end is not a problem (I recently supervised a bouncing castle for 9 hours without pause - a concentration not a leg problem).

Now this may be because I am fat at BMI 29, but when I was a slim teenager I also couldn’t squat for long.

Also anecdotically, when my father and some other guys were taken prisoner by Americans in April 1945 the latter didn’t have handcuffs or somewhere to lock them up, so they were made to squat on their heels overnight (they took turns to fall over from time to time), the idea apparently being that with cramped-up legs you cannot suddently make a run for it. Now these guys were as lean (I saw photographs of my father at the time) and as well exercised in the legs as you can expect from 18-19 year olds after marching around a lot at the tail end of losing a war.

So, is there a knack to it? Do you need the right kind of leg development? Simply lots of practice?

I do not know whather I can do that–I haven’t really tried.

I do know that I cannot sit on my heels; my butt hangs above my heels, separated by a space, and the whole experience is extremely painful about the knees. I have ‘short tendons’. They have been like this since high school at least; I discovered that I cannot sit on my heels when I took karate then.

I’m working to become more flexible, with trainer and all, but I’m not sure whether he can stretch me enough to make it possible for me to sit on my heels.

Well, Asian people from various places do it all the time, so one assumes there is indeed an element of practice to it.

I think it must be practice, because squatting seems very prevalent in Asian cultures, and not at all in European. I can’t imagine there’s a genetic difference, can you?

I am incapable of squatting with my heels flat as your link illustrates. But I knew a girl in grade school who took ballet, and she could. So I can only assume it’s a matter of acquiring the flexibility while young and maintaining it into adulthood.

So your Dad fought for Germany during the war? How interesting! Was he a true believer, or did he have no choice, or doesn’t (didn’t) he talk about it? Your English is excellent, btw, if it’s not your first language.

I’ve done it to work on cars, but cannot tolerate it for long.

Average weight, 6’2"

I’ve always been able to do that.

I can do it on my heels, but I’m a little more comfortable up on my toes a little.

I think that women have a harder time with this. My wife is flexible, and somewhat trim, but her weight is in her ass, and she can’t do it.

Another data point about an Asian. I once had a martial arts instructor, Korean, who routinely would squat and be flat on his heels. I realized at that time that, like others above, I could not go all the way down on my heels without losing my balance.

In an effort to save my back, I’ve gotten a lot of practice from squatting while picking things up or putting things on low shelves or such. Squatting is much kinder on my legs and hips than standing, but it kills my feet, especially since I have to put my weight far forward on my toes to keep my ass from making me topple over backwards like a defective Weeble.

I can do it, but as another female, I find it most comfortable if I have one foot flat on the the ground and am on my toes on the other foot. It seems to offset the ass-weight problem somehow.

Apparently there are in fact instructions.

Test: following the instructions linked above, I can do the Asian squat with my back against the wall, and it is more comfortable than the western squat. However, without a wall at my back, I just topple straight over. I am female, and my center of gravity is low.

It’s mainly a flexibility issue. Women may also need a bit of a wider stance than men.

I work with preschoolers, and they squat like that all the time during play. Most of us assistants and teachers also spend some time squatting to get down to eye level with the kids, but we all seem to prefer having our heels up a bit. I suspect if we did it as much as the kids, we’d stretch our internal rigging enough that squatting with heels on the ground would be no problem.

When I first started working there, it was difficult to squat for any amount of time. I’ve since lost weight and gained some muscle in my legs, and it’s easier - I think the extra padding may have been interfering with the blood flow to my legs in that position. But even if the padding is reduced and the blood flow problem improved, something just doesn’t want to stretch enough to let my heels touch the floor.

Yep, it’s flexibility, not weight. Specifically, tension in the Achilles tendon, that big thick ropey one behind your ankle, prevents a flat foot (“Asian”) squat. Thanks to our shoes (women especially, but also men), our Achilles tendons are generally shortened a bit in Western societies. Some practicing and stretching over time, and even fatties like me can squat flat footed - and a flat foot squat is the key to a comfortable, sustainable, stable squat.

I don’t see how flexibility can be the problem, since I can do it when I’m backed by a wall. Unless maybe I’m supposed to shift my weight forward more in order to balance, and I can’t do it because I’m insufficiently flexible?

Just tried doing it today and…fall. FAIL! :o

I’m svelte and fairly flexible. Well…maybe not THAT flexible. Maybe I’ll try doing some exercises and seeing what happens in a few weeks.

I agree that it’s practice and flexibility. I couldn’t do it very well at all as a relatively skinny teenager. Then when I had a couple of toddlers and was up and down all the time picking up toys, playing, etc. I got much better at it for a while.

I can do it with my heels up or with my heels flat.

I’m not particularly in good shape, although I’m not fat. I’m OLD, though (58 this month, yi!).

When I worked retail I’d arrange to straighten some lower shelves from time to time, because this kind of stance was, in fact, a nice break from standing.

That’s it exactly. If your Achilleses are too tight, you lean too far back to balance, or you bring your heels up to balance and can’t maintain that stance 'cause heel up is very tiring and unstable.

I’ve never been able to do it even as a skinny teenager.
I remember at the local roller rink kids in quad skates squating with their feet and knees together rolling along flat footed.
I was jealous since whenever I tried my ankles wouldn’t flex far enough and I’d either go up on my toes or fall backwards.