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Lost Art of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines (npr.org)
479 points by happy-go-lucky on Feb 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments

The strangest thing about this is that children know this without any input, and then go bad. I've watched my older son (now 5) go from having a perfect squat and hip hinge to starting to bend over "like an adult" with the arched back.

There must be some reason that everyone, to some good approximation -- I'm in the US and this is what I see, does this the wrong way. Even people who know better seem to require conscious effort to do the motion correctly, myself included.

Maybe it's because squatting and hip hinging are thing that require that you work into the position, rather than "falling" into it. It is strange that it follows cultural lines; possibly it's just imitating what people around you are doing, so fixing this would require some pretty large-scale brainwashing.

I've been doing taichi for about 5 years. In addition to changing how I bend (for the better), about a year in I was in the process of renovating my gait a second time. As a person who always gets asked to 'slow down' it was a weird experience to have to ask others to do the same. Unfortunately for them now I walk faster than ever.

I came to this from a world of leg and back pain. It hasn't fixed everything but I can do almost 5 times as much without tipping over into chronic joint pain.

The quickest things I can relate to people that I learned from this time: 1) Never lock your joints. 2) "Lift with your knees not your back" is the wrong advice. Lifting "with your knees" is loading your quads. That and joint locking put all of the stress on the parts of your knee (cartilage especially) that are already overworked in the western posture.

The correct advice is "Lift with your legs", which takes longer to explain but the Cliff's Notes version is that your legs are 3 joints and lifting with your knees is only using one set of muscles and essentially locking the rest. The right way to lift is to engage your calves, your ass, and your hams.

There's a great saying I heard somewhere about the Problem with Western Posture being that we try to use our hips as a hinge joint and our knees as a ball joint. There are a lot of tight muscles in the hips and upper thighs that have to unclench to get there, and you literally feel like you're falling over while you try to sort that out. But man if you do, I've avoided half a dozen spills that should have put me in the doctor's office and one that would have sent me to rehab for torn ankle ligaments for sure.

The downside of this experience has been that I have to fight an urge to analyze everyone else's posture. I end up staring at people if I'm not paying attention. I probably look like a creep. And some people make me feel sympathetic joint pain. The number of people with fallen arches is crazy.

I've had fallen arches since I was a kid. Is there something I can do to fix it? There was a point where I was doing a lot of barefoot running on the beach and being extra careful to focus on my ankle and foot posture, and I think it helped, but as soon as I stopped running every day I reverted to my old posture (ankles rotated slightly outwards, feet as flat as a board).

I solved most of my back problems by switching to entirely flat shoes. No arch support at all. No heel drop. No sculpted foot bed. Thin soles. They are basically leather moccasins with a 3mm vibram sole.

While making the adjustment, my calves and tendons hurt for a month or so. Then they adjusted, and wearing regular shoes (dress shoes for events) feels so awkward and unnatural that I cannot stand it.

Contrary to what one might imagine, this did not give me flat feet, but exactly the opposite. My arches have never been stronger or more well formed.

My gait entirely changed. I tend to either place my foot down flat, or put down the ball first.

I had the exact opposite experience, in that getting shoes with more and better support helped really correct my gait and give my knees much-needed relief without much other change to my routine. I also have orthotic inserts but I had those before.

>I solved most of my back problems by switching to entirely flat shoes. No arch support at all. No heel drop. No sculpted foot bed. Thin soles. They are basically leather moccasins with a 3mm vibram sole.

sounds like mine, these are what I use: https://www.softstarshoes.com/

what do you use, if not those?

Yep, that's what I buy. Best price you can find for something like this. The only real alternative I have found (for same or similar quality) is using a cobbler, for about twice the price.

I've been wearing these Xeros [1] for a few months now and love them. My gait is noticeably different, and my arches are stronger (though they were not particularly weak to start). I do walk more slowly now though.

[1] https://xeroshoes.com/shop/closed-toe-shoes/hana/

Vivobarefoot makes some great ones as well, and some look normal enough to wear to an office. I have their running shoes and hiking boots as well, all are great!


Wow, the arguments for using thin soles sounds good and I would honestly be willing to give them a shot. But those are some ugly looking shoes :)

I had a fallen arch on one of my feet for as long as I can remember, and doing mindful stretching daily is helping me fix mine. It's a really painful process, if this is anything like yours. Muscles were far too weak in the areas required to use my feet properly, all over my legs.

I'm not a healthcare professional but I would start with stretching your hamstrings like the article says and stretching your feet, getting to know the muscles that you have down there and how they work when you move your feet. You can follow a course or a guide, it may help, but know that every situation is different and you need to listen to your own body, experiment with some motions that you've never tried. Guidance might be good at first, but just don't stop listening to your body and try to avoid making it do something it doesn't want to do, but be aware of it. Unconscious avoiding of stiff or painful muscles gets you in this mess, so if you catch yourself mindlessly going through the motions (it does happen, often), take a moment to assess what kind of trouble you're in at the moment, muscle-wise.

Strengthening all of your leg muscles will help awaken the nerves in your legs. I can't remember the name, but it's a huge one that runs from your hip all the way to your toes that is the culprit of flat feet. Help your legs do work the right way, and then you'll start to see that you don't have to put much conscious pressure on the front of your feet at all to stay in balance.

What kind of mindful stretching, if you don't mind me asking? I have a fallen arch and I'd love to get some resources to fix them.

You could give arch support insoles a go instead of splashing out on expensive and ugly orthotic shoes.


They should give you some extra support and stop pronation problems etc.

There is nothing "wrong" with a low arch. It's just a different genetic adaptation. Don't believe the hype that there is something wrong with your foot that needs attention and dollars to fix.

Considering there are over 100 muscles in your foot, there definitely is something "wrong" with a totally flat foot. A relatively low natural arch is one thing, but fallen arches is a medical condition that can cause complications and can be fixed. And it doesn't take that much attention, and no money at all. Just a few for exercises and learning to use your body correctly.

People get fixated on the arch, what you should do is look at the ankle. If you're rolling your ankles, you should fix that. If your feet aren't that curvy, well your feet aren't that curvy.

My flat feet made me walk splayfooted, which then eventually started giving me knee troubles when I began to walk a lot. I find it a little puzzling to read these kind of takes, testimonials for Five Fingers shoes, etc. If nature could fix everything with no intervention we wouldn't need to brush our teeth either.

> If nature could fix everything with no intervention we wouldn't need to brush our teeth either.

Well, I'm not saying nature actually can fix everything, but in case of toothbrushing, it's dependent on your diet. There are peoples knowing nothing of brushing, but they feeding themselves different than we "civilized" people are.

Walking primarily on paved sidewalks isn't really natural either.

Apparently even cavemen did make some effort to clean their teeth (and according to this article, monkeys still do): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2...

Yeah. I have had fallen arches as a kid too, and had issues exacerbated by a bad sprain.

I looked up Youtube videos on how to do it. There is something involving a pencil and a penny to know where to "push" down to the floor without collapsing the arches. Then it is a matter of practicing walking and moving with those feelings until it can be done without thinking. I chose to practice this during martial art practice, hiking, and day-to-day walking.

From a PT my instructor uses: your arches are impacted by weak gluteus minimus muscles. Try to keep your heels under your hip bone. Imagine your feet are straddling a board if that image helps.

Concentrate on carrying your weight on the knife edge and the ball of your foot. Feels like a paradox but do the knife edge exercise for a while and you’ll figure it out. Good exercise to do while waiting in line or shopping with someone who is slow.

Do you have a link to what the "knife edge exercise" is?


Sorry, I'm using unfamiliar terminology from martial arts.

Look at the bottom of your foot. The metatarsal for your pinkie toe is supported by a pad of flesh that it theory can touch the ground almost all the way from your heel to the ball of the foot. With fallen arches the ankle rolls in, the mid foot starts to touch the ground and the strain on the ligaments of the arch and the inside of the ankle are increased.

On the hand, that is the same side you would use to 'karate chop' someone. Ie, using your hand like a knife. The knife edge. Some people use the same term for the foot.

In the 80s they used to put giant insoles into your shoes and it made walking painful until 1) the insole compressed or 2) you twisted your ankle out so you wouldn't put all your weight on the insole. But it turns out it's better for people to manage this on their own and you have shoes like Vans that hardly have an insole at all.

One thing I've found personally but not in the literature, if the shoe is tight around the ball of your foot, you are not going to be able to get your foot posture right. If you need a wider toe box for your feet to be comfortable, solve that problem first before trying to solve the fallen arch problem. Before I threw out my old shoes I would get all sorts of recurring foot pain when I wore the 'uncomfortable' ones.

You can get new shoes, thinner insoles, or lace your shoes differently to get a little more room. I've saved a couple pair of shoes by doing both (insole and relace) to them.

Google “Kelly Starrett collapsed arches”. I don’t work on it enough, but some of his advice has definitely helped me.

Besides collapsed arches, Kelly Starrett has written multiple books on basically moving properly, including this classic hip hinge. I sort of became obsessed with his mobility teachings for a year or so after reading his "Deskbound" book (https://www.mobilitywod.com/deskbound/). Part of the problem is that we sit all day, and sitting in chairs is so ingrained in our culture. At some point we forget how to move properly, and our body begins to adapt to the awkward positions it's forced to sustain for hours on end every day. We develop scar tissue in key areas in order to strengthen and lock our spines/shoulders/hips in place in the bent over sitting position, such that when we do normal human movement tasks our primary muscular movement systems are out of commission due to lack of mobility. So our secondary and tertiary muscular movement systems need to be used instead, like our lower and mid-back muscles for bending over. But these are weaker and were never meant for long term repeated use. So we end up hunching over with terrible back pain all of our lives. The classic hunchback old person who's a full foot shorter than he was 40 years ago that we see here all the time is not a thing in places where people are physically active their whole lives and squat or sit on the floor instead of sit in chairs.

> The correct advice is "Lift with your legs"

When you do it right, you know it. The whole leg is involved, and the butt, and the lower back.

I think people avoid it because they're lazy - or "sedentary", to use a nicer (?) word. Seems like a bit more effort to lift with your legs.

However, if you're active and in good shape, it actually feels more natural to lift with your legs. You can just drive so much more force into the ground. You're far more effective this way, whereas lifting with your back suddenly appears weak and quite sketchy.

I have had similar experiences rebuilding my posture, gait, arches and such with baguazhang -- including analyzing other people's posture. (Though that is not such a bad thing if you are finding postural weaknesses to exploit in other people, if you are into that kind of a thing).

I do the same thing! I'm also a taichi practitioner and am constantly working on my gait and posture.

What kind/style of taichi do you practice? I do Chen style under a guy in Montreal and try to get to workshops when the big guys are in the northeast.

I've had fallen arches since a kid and was told I can never be a runner and I'll have a tough time with my feet.

Nowadays I run mountain ultra marathons and my feet are fine, my flat arches give me no trouble at all.

Fallen arches are not a problem.

Lots and lots of people with plantar fascitis are rolling their ankles. Sometimes I get lazy and lump them all in together with the 'fallen arches' crowd which is really something different and nothing I said here is going to help you with that. Apologies for the mixup.

But if you are rolling your ankles, do yourself a favor and figure that shit out while your ligaments are still in good shape.

Watch for your son to start heel-striking too, if he isn't already.

I think you're right about the large-scale brainwashing! But I think another essential part of the solution is going to be re-evaluating our society's relationship with sitting. I don't think it's a coincidence that the "tipping point" for a lot of children, where their movement patterns degrade, is when they start sitting primarily in chairs, rather than on the floor.

Think heel striking happens because of the large heels we have have in shoes. I wear zero drop shoes and focus landing on mid/front foot is much easier. Didn’t realize how different my walk is compared to others until my coworker recognized me in a different building because of the way I walk.

Was also told to heel strike by my mom, makes less flopping noise doing so. She has a way of doing what blends in, doesn’t want her kids to be different, the whole largest nail gets hammered.

> Think heel striking happens because of the large heels we have have in shoes.

I think you are right. I had to wear "normal" shoes after wearing zero-drop shoes for about a year. Within a few minutes of walking, I was back to heel striking.

You can find cheaper, but I've replaced the insoles in almost all of my shoes with Superfeet Carbons. They're a hair thinner than most insoles so they open up the toe box a little bit too, and having enough space in the toe box totally changes how I walk.

(Ecco shoes tend to be low-rise already, but for some reason their insoles always squeak for me. I replace them for my sanity, not because the replacements are lower. But other brand have a taller heel).

I still heel strike when I walk, but only barely. The knife edge of my foot lands just after my heel, instead of what most people do which is lift their toes a half inch to an inch. Ouch.

You might like Altra shoes; they're zero drop and have a very open toe box. I'm about 9 months into wearing them, and I love them. They felt weird for the first couple of weeks because of the open toe box, but after that anything else feels wrong.

I buy Lems. About $80 for sneaker when on sale. Best fit for me, I have wide feet, and look somewhat normal. They have hiking shoes too.

Just wear basic vans or converse. $45, zero drop, no cushion, extremely minimal.

definite NO on the converse, and didn't like styles on vans. I have wide feet, so classic looks are out as converse only has them in normal width, same issue with my PF Flyers.

Same, almost all of my shoes are near zero drops, including my hiking(mountain) shoes. I've always walked around the house on the balls of my feet as well. I hated hearing people stomping around on floors, and I just naturally adapted not to.

One of the things I noticed when I was living outside of the US is that you can tell who grew up with furniture and who didn't; those who didn't can sit on their heels with their knees on their chest in perfect comfort for hours. I can barely get into that position even while hanging onto something for support.

The most trying thing about traveling to Korea and visiting my wife's family, for me, is the extent to which you're expected to sit on the floor and eat, sleep on the floor, etc.

I wonder if it has to do with too much sitting in chairs? Prof. Galen Cranz discusses some of the effects on posture of western sitting styles in her book, "The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design". Though not scientific, she compares the common slump shouldered, curved spine posture of many westerners to the (better) posture of those who grew up without frequent chair sitting. It may be there is also a connection to lifting posture.

I left another comment up-thread, but yes, definitely. Watch someone in SE Asia or parts of Africa where people commonly work without chairs or tables; their knees are insanely flexible.

It’s more likely their hips and ankles are really flexible and this lets them fully use their knees. Loss of range of motion in the knee is relatively uncommon.

Knees aren’t flexible. Hips are.

It's because we are supposed to be really good at squatting, but modern life just doesn't require it.

The biggest difference is not squatting to use the toilet. Until modern toilets, humans squat without sitting to poop. More sitting = less squatting, which leads to not squatting to pick up things since our muscles are underdeveloped.

I stopped sitting on toilets about 14 years ago after a camping trip when I realized how much I preferred squatting. I will never go back unless forced to due to injury.

So what toilet setup do you use most frequently? In the western world, all the toilets are the sitting type, as opposed to the squat-type ones commonly found in India and elsewhere.

I just lift up the toilet seat and squat over the bowl. It's only tricky on taller toilets but normally works perfectly fine. In fact, using public toilets it feels a little more hygienic as you don't actually have to touch the toilet seat or bowl.

I believe it's part of the reason my upper leg muscles have remained strong even when work has put a halt on exercise for longer periods of time.

I would be open about this if asked but never bring it up unsolicited in conversation as in the past I have found it regarded as outright bizarre.

Even if you squat over the bowl — that’s not a full squat... I’m quite familiar with this maneuver from a lifetime of squatting over public toilets to pee. Using a squat tube potty is a much more natural squat position.

Look into a Squatty Potty. An extension that is basically a stool to help you raise your feet and knees into a more squatted position to help defecate into the toilet. Or just bring a wide stool to the toilet with you that raises the same.

I got a $150 chinese thing that fits over the toilet and folds up. but the squatty potties are like $30.

As gross of a conversation can be, I always found proper squatting in the back-country pretty much makes toilet paper unnecessary.

Children usually are proportioned to make squats easier as well.

As an adult, not being able to air squat with parallel feet isn't necessarily a symptom of bad body mechanics, muscle imbalance, or ankle mobility. It could just mean I've gotta big booty and a small head. Which incidentally, I do.

As an aside, I always found it so strange seeing men with a huge ass, and a normal sized body. Something I always associated with women, and having large hips. Sorry man!

Perhaps I should say, "Well defined"? I'm an amateur athelete, and one of my specialties is cycling. If you have proper glute activation, it gets developed. But so are my quads, hamstrings, calves, etc. I do not have very pronounced hips - my hip bones are not wide. Glutes are the biggest muscles of the body and the hardest to exhaust in endurance activities.

I love my body.

Big difference between muscle ass, and a fat ass. Good job!

Kids probably also do it more because they frequently fall on their face when they try to bend over, until they get the hang of the whole balance thing

I wonder about that too. I'm especially bad in this. I have zero flexibility and never really liked stretching I grew up stiff and abusing joints and ligaments to lift stuff.

My ideas :

- having longer limbs change your gestures

- muscle strength and stiffness with time, which is something we do like to optimize way above "proper posture"

- lack of understanding of physics and muscle control (to move in the best way you have to distribute efforts in many limbs, which is less natural, especially in societies where complex movements are rare)

Do you do any sports or weightlifting or yoga? Sounds like you’re overthinking what comes naturally to people who use their bodies frequently.

None for now, I'm waiting for my knees and heart to recover.

Overthinking is what I do.

When I lived in Taiwan, I could from a distance tell a Chinese American apart from the local Chinese simply from the way they walked. Most of us could. It is very cultural.

Placing children in seats and forcing them to not move for entire days, with repeated exposure from age 4 and on.

It's a natural movement -- culture is not natural.

I think it's a cultural weight issue. Bending your knees takes quite a bit of strength when you are morbidly obese.

I also see a lot of healthy, young, and skinny people lean over to the side when getting up from a char. Instead of scooting forward then standing up.

Has anyone heard of the third world squat?

It's a joke from weightlifting forums but also has some truthful parts.


It’s not a joke in the weight lifting world, it might have a funny/vaguely offensive name but as far as any serious weight lifter is concerned, if you cant third world squat and hold it for a while you should really get your a low bar back squat form checked before going to appreciable loads.

For those struggling getting in to this position I have two bits of advice:

1. Use a door frame to support yourself initially and really sit back on your heels and hang on the door. It will burn in your adductors so go easy initially. Once you feel comfortable with holding yourself up with the door frame, start to brace and then let go of the door, even for just a second and catch yourself before falling back, to get a feel for balancing yourself. After a few weeks you won’t need the door frame. 2. Stretch your calves, poor dorsiflexion (closing the angle between your shin and the top of your foot) is common and a pain. Everyone should be able to have their toes about 4 inches from a wall and touch the wall with their knee without lifting their heel. Start at one inch and hold it for 30 seconds on each leg once a day, after a week move to 2 inches. I’ve gone from 2 inches to 6 in about a year and has done wonders for my squat.

Finally, when you see people in this squat position in Asia etc you will notice that their spine is rarely flat if they are fully down in the squat. This is generally fine so long as the spine is not loaded. The aim of the deep ass to grass third world squat is not to hold it with a perfectly straight back, the point is to stretch out the positerior chain and, in the cases of people actively using it day to day, to give a comfortable position to work on things low down without forcing their spine to take the weight and job of supporting their bent over action, the aim is to transition that load into the glutes.

Sources: 2 years of extensive physio therapy to recover for a herniated L5S1 disc caused by a lifelong spinal defect exacerbated by mountain bike crashes and heavy dead lifts. If you have back pain seek the advice of a physio therapist with back knowledge before messing about yourself.

Thank you! Hopefully this will help with squats, I can NEVER do them without hurting my back, but I can deadlift 110% bodyweight fine and I've never known why.

Sadly in my country proper form isn't all that common and I've seen so many people do squats with plates under their heels, so finding a knowledgeable expert isn't easy.

Thanks for the tips ... now, one thing I commonly hear when people are talking about proper form for barbell squats, is that you shouldn't move your knee past your foot; while this advice suggests the opposite is required.

So, coming from a relatively ignorant position with regards to physio therapy ... which is it? :P

From the parent:

> when you see people in this squat position in Asia etc you will notice that their spine is rarely flat if they are fully down in the squat. This is generally fine so long as the spine is not loaded.

the exact same thing applies to knee position. You don't want your knees past your toes when loaded, when unloaded it's totally fine.

ahhh, I see the distinction now ... you can get into that super deep squat when you're just chillin'. But if you're squatting at a rack, you would maintain a different form.

A joke ?? The joke's on us!

Remember, ancient Romans were masters of the world, but they drank wine from lead cups, used lead for plumbing etc. Just because a culture is kinda dominant at the moment doesn't meant it can learn nothing from other parts of the world.

I for the life of me cannot do this squat. I've explored all sorts of stretches, yoga, etc. It's the most limiting factor in my weightlifting.

I've gotten to the point where I will hover at the squat rack, spot someone doing an ass to grass, and interrogate them how they got there. Nothing I've learned has worked. I just fall backwards, every time.

>I just fall backwards, every time.

Without knowing anything, I'd say check your back angle - it's probably too vertical. If you're falling backwards, point your nipples at the floor.


But really, just find a weightlifting coach and spend some money to get some coaching sessions. They can fix this stuff in minutes.

And if you find the vertical back angle more natural, you should try high bar squatting. With high bar you will also benefit from having your heels slightly raised with a plate under your heel or weightlifting shoes.

Your ankle to knee and knee to hip ratio can make this easier/harder due to centre of gravity position.

The three areas I've identified to work on for myself are ankle mobility, hip flexibility and hamstring flexibility.

I realised that hamstring flexibility impairs my hip mobility, and my hamstrings are good by average standards - I can touch my knuckles on the ground from standing position after warming up.

Are you saying the more flexible your hamstrings are the less mobile your hips are or am I reading that wrong?

My hamstrings are super tight (can't barely get to my ankles when bending over) so any tips on what you did to increase your hamstring flexibility would be welcome too!

No, the opposite, if your hamstrings are tight then when you are trying to flex your hips you're also having to fight against your hamstrings at the same time.

Hamstring stretches are pretty well trodden, yoga or any kicking martial art will have a wealth of material for how to increase your hamstring flexibility.

I literally learned only a couple months ago that not being able to squat like that is a thing. (And no, I'm not a third worlder either). Incidentally I also learned a while back that I have somewhat hypermobile joints so maybe that's that.

See my comment at the same level as yours, it might help.

When I was a kid I'd play with toys (Tinker Toys, erector sets, Construx, etc.) for hours in a squatting position. My parents thought it was really strange that I could do that for so long.

I'm not sure I'd be comfortable doing that now, but getting into the "third world squat" position is easy and natural for me still. I guess I should do that more before I can't.

I oddly ran into a description of something like this from someone that was a prisoner of the Japanese during WW2.

Something about how every Japanese soldier, officers included, would squat while doing stationary tasks.

That is, if i understood the description correctly.

My Japanese aunt does this while gardening, and I can confirm that it's much easier on the back--although I barely have the balance to pull it off myself. Photo of the squat below.


Yeah, but I had heard it called "the Asian squat"

I've always heard it called the "slav squat".

Same here. I'm in Europe - i wonder if the name gets attached to whatever the nearest ethnic minority that practices it is?

It's even got a subreddit:


I think the least ambiguous name is "wall facing squat". Good for googling more information.

The "slav squat" isn't heels to ground, though.

After visiting Vietnam I was inspired to start squatting more rather than sitting down or standing around outside.

It was hard at first, your achilles tendons and hamstrings need stretching out from years of disuse, but now I can squat for ages. The key is that you need to stretch out enough that you can squat right down with your feet still flat on the floor and a straight back. It's very comfortable once you get used to it.

I can't do that squat. My hamstrings aren't flexible enough due to too much sitting in the first world.

I couldn't do that at first either, but I learned to do it. The key is stretching exercises and practicing wall facing squats. You can progress in a few ways, like sitting on a low couch and then trying to get up without supporting yourself with your hands. Hint: place knees wide and move your head forward (but not pas your knees).

Of course you wouldn't be able to do it on the first try, that's a fairly "advanced" position for someone not used to that sort of movement. It's like everything else in fitness, you have to (very) slowly work your way up to it.

As a comparison I've been doing karate for 15 months, I'm over 40. I can now kneel down for long enough to do a seza (kneeling bow) but still can't sit back on my feet; it's still painful for me however, not as much as it was.

Mind you, even as a child I was unable to sit cross-legged (without holding my ankles and arching my back) and found floor sitting immensely awkward and uncomfortable.

My impression is that amongst the different "races" we have different ranges of body shapes; I am relatively convinced that this makes some actions and positions more difficult. Maybe squatting is such a movement.

The key to seiza is increasing the range of motion in your ankles. Definitely different people start at different places in terms of that range of motion, but unless you have an injury, you can eventually get there. A couple of quick tips: warm up before you do it -- even going for a quick walk will help. Don't force it. Try to stretch the ankles out a bit, but if it starts to get painful, stop. If you do it too much, you'll get inflammation in the joint, which will just make things take longer. Try to do seiza for short periods during the day. Ideally do it once an hour, but because you might feel self conscious doing it at work, etc, just try to do it whenever. Definitely every day. You can easily go from not being able to do it, to being able to sit seiza through a whole raft of boring speeches from the CEO at a Japanese staff party in only a few months :-)

Interestingly, the squat is a very similar problem, but in the opposite direction -- your ankles need to bend the other way. Lack of range of motion makes it so that you can't position your weight forward enough to stay on your feet. There is also the compounded problem of needing the flexibility in your hips.

Finally, sitting cross legged is also related to ankle range of motion -- but in a kind of diagonal way. To sit comfortably cross legged you have to be able to put the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Of course, this requires flexibility in your glutes as well, but if you don't have the range of motion in your ankles, your feet/knees are always going to hurt. A full lotus position is actually easier on your joints, but requires a lot more flexibility.

Anyway, like I said, there is definitely a range of starting places for flexibility for each person, but no matter where you start you can get there (barring injury, or other kind of unusual mechanical problem). Strangely, I find seiza to be the easiest of the three positions even though I initially found it to be the hardest (after you fix the range of motion problem in the ankles, there isn't really any flexibility you need).

I didn't know what I was doing was called seiza, but I've been getting better at it thanks to jiujitsu. My knees are the biggest obstacle due to untreated osgood-schlatter during my teens, but I'm working on it. Hopefully I'll be able to seiza and squat comfortably by the end of the year.

Interesting tips, thanks. I do have ankle stiffness, but can 'point' well (was a swimmer as a youth). We warm up fully before seza at our dojo too. Will have a look at it. Oss.

I can do it, but it's not that comfortable.

My lower back arches severely if I do it, which I regard as not a proper squat.

there is a yoga position like it. i have always squatted that way, so its easier for me than most. not sure where it came from, but if i am waiting in line, instead of standing there i drop to the 3rd world squat

As a westerner I got pretty used to doing this while I lived in Korea. It's really pretty comfortable once you build up the muscles.

I really wish that it was doable in skiboots :/

Anyone who's performed a deadlift knows the hip hinge. I recently was testing my one rep max and due to fatigue my back arched instead of doing a proper hip hinge. The pain stayed with me for days and was pretty agonizing. This was about 5-6 weeks ago. Since then I've been deadlifting perfectly w/o pain.

I second this and would add that powerlifting, done right, would fix your posture and you'll naturally get into the proper pose for everyday things (picking something off the floor).

Yup I can't believe how much lifting heavy things improved my posture and reduced lower back pain!

I no longer perform the conventional deadlift as a part of my routine (due to several injuries) but I completely agree with this. In my opinion the best ways to learn how to hip hinge are the deadlift and kettlebell swing.

I've recently switched to the RDL (Romanian Deadlift) with significantly reduced weight and higher reps and I personally prefer it for my lower back and hamstring training. The conventional deadlift is a great movement though if you can perform it correctly.

I also recently incorporated RDL's into my routine. Mainly to hit the hamstrings with more weight as the hamstring curl machine has a pretty low max weight and in general is annoying to perform.

I was just recently thinking that the deadlift is probably the lift I enjoy the most. There is a rawness to it that just makes it so satisfying. Also it's usually the lift where you can lift the most so that adds an extra touch.

The deadlift is killing my hands though. My callouses are starting to become a bother and my hands are pretty raw for any other lifts later in my session.

// I'm making the assumption here that you're _relatively_ new to strength sports. If I've misjudged that, sorry!

> My callouses are starting to become a bother and my hands are pretty raw for any other lifts later in my session.

Calluses hurting late into your training session but not the beginning is typically a sign that you're not taking very good care of the skin on your hands.

Donny Shankle, a very accomplished weightlifter, has a really good video on hand care here[1]. It's sport specific for weightlifting, but it applies pretty well to strength training in general.

In addition to what he says, I've had really good success with a combination of a corn/callus shaver[2] and a dremel tool. The goal is to take the peaks off the calluses such that they're more or less flat to the rest of your hands. My typical routine for palm callus care, performed every few days, is to shower so that my skin is relatively soft, shave off any parts of the calluses on my palm that are protruding above the plane of the rest of my palms, and then smooth it out with the dremel's grinder tip set to low speed.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otorSGl3sG0

[2] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001CYC4BG

I love my callouses. My girlfriend will touch them and complain, which just makes me feel more manly lol. Plus there's something satisfying about grabbing onto one of my wooden tools (don't make this gross) and having that grain-on-grain feeling that I didn't get when my hands were softer.

My callouses are starting to become a bother and my hands are pretty raw for any other lifts later in my session.

In gymnastics and archery, there are special gloves and stuff. In archery, I had a leather worker make me a custom grieves when I could not find one at any store (back before online shopping was a thing).

Hoping you can find something that helps.

I had this problem too once the weight got up there. liquid chalk really helps, it's cheap! Also (I think someone else posted a link) I realized that I was gripping the bar wrong. It should really be mostly your fingers that hold your bar and not the "meaty" part of the edge of the palm. It seems weird at first but it helps.


callouses should never be a problem in weightlifting, it’s a matter of grip, here’s Mark Rippetoe: https://youtu.be/_ZBmiQm4MF4

> My callouses are starting to become a bother

You can always do what climbers do, and trim them with a razor and a steady hand.

You may want to try out pulling sumo instead of conventional. It's a bit easier on your body and is the preferred method of most power lifters.


Why not both? Reddit's favorite PPL routine has both. RDL on leg day, Deadlift on Pull 1.

Training Hip hinging (in my case with kettelbell swings and deadlifts) has helped me a lot with lower back pain. I definitively am more aware of my back when picking up things.

I find most trousers make it hard to do this. Maybe it was better before the current low-waist style took over, but the way my trousers or jeans tend to fit, there's insufficient space in the back of the leg, in the thigh region to allow for proper hip flexion.

Finding a good fit is easier said than done for probably most of us. Fortunately there are also new stretchy fabrics (including wool and denim) that give wonderful range of motion even when tightly fitted, or (in an unlucky situation) ill fitted. For example, you can find men’s slim fit jeans that look normal yet are flexible enough for even yoga or rock climbing.

Now that I found a brand that fits my build and uses this type of fabric, regular, non-stretch denim feels so constricting I avoid it entirely (and without, ahem, having to resort to men’s yoga pants).

I've seen a few cheaper brands add a great deal of flex to their jeans and it's done wonders for my locomotion. I can 100% agree they're great for rock climbing too, while not looking terrible day to day.

Stretch would help, but unfortunately I don't like how stretch fabrics feel at all.

I’d give it a shot. The RM jeans have virtually the same look and feel as regular denim; you barely know they’re stretchy fabric until you feel it give way as you bend. Otherwise, they’re exactly like regular jeans.

These fabrics don't break down so the external cost winds up in our oceans with every wash or the inevitable throw-away. Just buy less form-fitting natural fibers ("dumb" cotton, denim, wool, hemp, etc)

Which brand would that be?

Check out Banana Republic "Rapid Movement Denim" and also Calvin Klein. There are undoubtably others in a range of styles and price points.

I like Patagonia’s “performance” denim. http://www.patagonia.com/product/mens-performance-straight-f...

Some Levis have stretch fabric - I buy 514s, there may be others. Make sure that the label calls out the stretch material.

Thought that was an unfortunate typo - I wear the 541 Athletic Fit Stretch jeans, and remember the 514 as the old, constricting straight fit. But apparently they're making 514s on stretch now, too.

I rock the stretch 511's as my daily wear these days. I have large calves and thighs and while the fabric does rub it also gives me my full range of motion. I wouldn't want to work out in these things, but I probably could if I had to.

Prana and north face have some good stuff. You might want to watch for sales, but super comfy.

Pants with a gusseted crotch will help with squatting and hip-opening. My personal faves[1] also have some lycra in the fabric. Also seen in pants marketed to climbers (they make it easier to climb, and also to sit in a harness).

1: https://www.duluthtrading.com/store/mens/mens-pants/62752.as...

I second Duluth trousers. I had difficulty finding pants that fit since I'm a little shorter but have bigger legs. Getting pants with larger legs means a larger waist and a belt only helps cinch that up so much. Gusseted crotch trousers fixed all that. I've worn both the ballroom jeans and their khaki pants and they're both worth it.

A bonus is, if you're into martial arts, being able to kick above the waist or 'roll' (Judo/BJJ), you can still do so in those pants.

This is another reason why I advocate yoga pants for men!! :)

After making my own clothing(because sewing is the ultimate 2d->3d mind game), I would be okay with mens yoga pants.

Easy to make, comfy, can be made in many colors.

Guess I'll be back here to show off my Mens Business Alternative Yoga Pants...

(would there even be an interest in posting it here?)

The last couple years I've become more active in my daily life. My jeans just aren't allowing me to do random physical stuff i'd like - there are range of motion issues. (Mostly I worry that the crotch will rip out if stretch too far or step too high).

I would love an alternative to jeans that doesn't draw attention and provides the durability of jeans in addition to better range of motion.

These exist at the top-end of the market: Outlier (https://outlier.nyc/) makes a number of styles using technical/outdoor-gear inspired fabrics cut like more normal trousers and slim-fitting jeans.

Okay let me think about this problem this week, I'll probably have something in the next ~2 weeks.

I totally agree about jeans having limited ROM. I think the future of fabrics is a 90%+ Polyester and 4%+ Spandex blend. These stretch so they look really good, and they can make plenty of colors/prints(But I'd probably do black)

Not sure how the durability is for this, they are stretchy, so they wont tear at the seams, but they might not be good for laying bricks.

Other concerns:

>The pattern. The best designer is Victoria Secret. To get 1 pair of their technology to tear down and reverse engineer is 40$, but it wont be perfect because they are designed for females.

>Culture. I'm ultra paranoid about my clothes being workplace inappropriate. The idea is to be Business Alternative(Business Casual is lazy, Business Professional is try hard). I have dark blue hair but a business professional looking haircut. I believe we will still need belts and pockets to look professional. For my first pair I'll probably do navy or black. The goal here is to change Fit, not colors or details.

>Tightness- Fitting clothes look better than loose clothing. I think the biggest issue would be to have it fit around the hip, but not be ultra right around the butt and thigh. This is going to be the most critical.

Finishing my thoughts now-

This is giving me the idea that instead of belts, we should merely have a 'collar' around the waist to keep the pants up. This collar is stretchy and will allow bending.

Any other thoughts, I'd like to hear. I dont see many people trying to innovate on mens business clothes, but there are new fabrics that didnt exist 100 years ago, and I think there just arent enough men complaining.

Awesome! Looking forward to see what you come up with - I like this idea of "yoga pants inspired clothing for men".

The idea of 5-minute deep stretch breaks (that is, going to do some serious stretching without needing to change pants) is very exciting :)

They do have yoga pants for men at Lululemon. While abhorrently expensive ($100+) they look fantastic on a male body. Most of their men's pants have a looser fit as well as a boot cut. Lululemon is actually a clothing company that knows bodies. They basically redesigned athletic wear into something classy-cool and fashionable. I feel comfortable wearing their All The Right Places pants in a business casual setting (of course with a blouse, jacket, and nice shoes).

I think you just described Dickies / "work pants".

that's exactly what i was thinking, was about to post the same thing.

I've had similar problems with jeans, and lately I've switched over to these: https://www.prana.com/stretch-zion-pant.html

They have a bit of stretch and are more durable than jeans, and I don't feel out of place wearing them in any kind of casual setting.

I find pants from manufacturers like KÜHL [0] are great for this. They're sturdy, look nice, and have panels that allow for a lot of flexibility.

[0] http://www.kuhl.com/kuhl/mens/pants/radikl/

I’m actually wearing some Uniqlo EZY jeans that are really just sweatpants disguised as jeans. They’re just as comfortable as sweats but appear to be jeans to the uninformed observer. Maybe you should check those out.

I like to wear hiking pants that are synthetic blends - the grey ones without outside pockets look fine and are very stretchy, enough to do yoga

This is the way to go. These are comfortable, warm and breathable, and look decent.

Before going down the path of fashion pioneer, I would suggest taking a look at "Rapid Movement Denim" ;)

It will change how you regard jeans (and what you can do in them).

> (would there even be an interest in posting it here?)


give me like 2 weeks, I'll hit up the fabric store and Victorias secret.

First run I'll probably learn a lot. Second run will look good.

Just buy less form-fitting pants. The cost of all these synthetic fibers in our oceans isn't worth the fashion.

You jest but I tend to think it'd be much better for posture and breathing if pants with more flexibility and wiggle room were in fashion for men. E.g. sweatpants. I had a teacher at uni who wore those and I thought he looked rather funny, but in retrospect I can empathize.

Some companies make "dress sweatpants", e.g.


but I never bought any because even in promotional pictures they still tend to look too much like sweatpants.

I have come to the point with my back and hip pain where sweatpants is about all I can wear. I can't even wear most underwear. Any constraint at all around my hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back just yields excruciating pain after just a few minutes. Jeans are completely out. Most days I can't wait to get home so I can switch into my pajama bottoms.

Physiotherapist, doctor, chiropractor, all shrug and look confused when I describe this.

Luckily my employer doesn't care what I wear to work.

Dress sweatpants could be a lifesaver for me.

I'm glad that odd recollection can find a use :)

In my case it's just discomfort but I'm curious as to why constraints around the waist don't get discussed more in articles about posture. For me it's one of those things that annoy all day long, hovering slightly below awareness level.

Normal jeans are too restrictive. I wear stretch Levi's 511 and some stretch chino and khakis and I have the full range of motion that I expect. I can do deep squats in these things no problem. I do have issues with the fabric rubbing on my thighs and calves but I get that in pretty much any pant regardless.

How certain are you that you've appropriately fit yourself to these pants?

Well, obviously I haven't! The trouble is, it's very hard to find trousers that do fit properly. Generally speaking, trousers that will fit even passably around the thighs/butt will be loose at the waist, so after I exhaust my shopping motivation I end up with a compromise that I can get into but I know isn't a perfect fit by any means. The current slim-fit fashion certainly doesn't help.

Dress pants have been my best bet, but the brands and models I've found to fit tend to come in a very limited range of fabrics - black all around!

I've been wearing Craghoppers trousers -- mostly zip-offs, but the non-zip are the same fit -- for several years. Brilliant for me, when even with 'loose' fit jeans I normally can't fit my thighs into anything even vaguely resembling my waist size.

UK link, I'm afraid: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00H99Z992/

Are you male or female? My wife had been (rightfully so) griping about how difficult women's clothes are to find. Getting good fitting pants that are modestly prices and don't wear out in some short amount of time like 3-4 years is very difficult.

I have sheared off my belt buckle bending over like this. My waist when hip-hinging is significantly larger than without.

The kettlebell swing is a great way to train/fix your hip hinge. Squatting is also another movement/position we in the west have seemingly lost the ability to do well.

If I could, I would upvote this 100 times! I can only confirm that, after spending a year or so trying to perfect swings, front squats and low-bar back squats, I felt my posture, strength and fitness were as never before. At the age of 38.

Yep. Properly squatting and deadlifting fixed my back for me too.

Same, I've also been doing kettelbell sumo squats/goblet squats to help flexibility and kettlebell deadlifts for hamstrings. Huge improvement to my lower back pain I was experiencing in the past.

I give my workouts thought so those are proper form. When I pick something up, I don't consider anything and curl my back.

It's just habit. If you decide to do proper form picking things up, just practice a bunch and try to remind yourself to do it right. If you catch yourself doing it wrong, do it over right. Eventually you'll have the good habit.

Good call. I will try to reprogram myself the same way. You never know when something becomes heavier than you thought, and that's when your back gets thrown out. Especially anything involving children.

I can imagine it being the same as indicating, or putting on my seat belt in the car. Seatbelt is always first thing on, last thing off - and I never change lanes without indicating, it's fully automatic and doesn't require conscious thought.

To add to this,I keep the weight low until I feel really confident I can maintain proper form moving up in weight even when fatigued. For example if I can do 10 sets of 10 reps of swing at a weight without compromising form, I would look to increase weight.

Nice - My trainer went through that with me (and we still do it that way when trying new things) and the results were amazing. When it is time to go up with wieght, it's much easier. Interestingly - when doing very heavy weight (e.g. on a max out day) I know if it's too much early enough into the lift to bail with much lower risk of injury by practicing good form!

Just for other would be developers who are too young to know.

Don't use a bad seat for 15 years and don't sit funny and not for long periods. Also find ways to stretch your leg muscles from the calf up every couple of days (A good 30 mins). Almost every time I had a major back outage stemmed from my left leg muscles which pull on your lower back when tight.

A great invention would be a seat/table which started at 0 degrees and over the course of the day moves to 45 degree recline so that weight is constantly redistributed to different parts of the skeleton.

Another one I've run into, make sure that the surface of your chair is level (left to right). There have been several cases where I've run into issues because either the chair seat itself was bent or a bushing at the bottom of the lift tube had failed introducing a few degrees of tilt. Barely enough to notice, but enough to throw your back out of line over the course of several hours.

What about a standing desk or walking desk?

I think standing desks are great. I usually use mine for about half the day and adjust it to a seated position for the rest of the day.

I will say, though, that while standing or sitting, your posture will dictate how well that time is spent - it's pretty easy to mess up either one. If you stand with your shoulders back and the weight evenly distributed on your hips and back, it should be possible to stand for many hours at a time. If you sit, making sure you sit up straight and keep your spine curved naturally and making sure you get up a few times to keep your circulation going in your extremities, you should reduce most of sitting's bad effects.

> And the hip hinging is sprinkled throughout sports. Weightlifters use it when they do what's called a deadlift.

Now, I'm by no means an expert, but I can confirm this. Powerlifters generally try to perform deadlifts with a "neutral" spine. This doesn't exactly mean "straight"—you can consult a good coach for details—but it's pretty close. Here's a pretty typical demonstration which is good enough to visualize it, though other coaches may differ in the details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AObAU-EcYE

As I understand it, the idea is to distribute the weight evenly around the spinal disc, and to avoid putting too much pressure on the front edge of the disc by curving the spine forward.

A similar effect can be achieved by keeping the back closer to upright and lifting with the legs, as seen in several squat variations.

Of course, the other things that may help are having enough muscle and not carrying too much abdominal weight. Anecdotally, weak spinal stabilizer muscles seem to contribute to some people's back pain.

Yeah, although neutral to flexion is fine for a lower back for a squat or a deadlift. In fact, with a heavy weight, good luck NOT flexing your lower back on a deadlift or at the bottom of a squat.

The 'upright' squat you described is an Olympic lift variation - called highbar squat. I was going to send a link over but I hesitate to toss a random article or video (some of which are crap). But it's probably easy to watch an Olympic lift video from the olympics, as that's the cream of the crop.

A squat positioning with more of a hip hingeing is more of a Powerlifting squat. I can definitely recommend Rippetoe's explanations here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhVC_AnZYYM even though I myself do high-bar.

As you can see (especially as explained in the video), the bar positioning plays a role in how upright your back is as you squat (since you mentioned that aspect). It's because of the center of gravity and the straight-path of the bar. It's obvious if you see an illustration of the bar path and these positions.

However, a 'neutral' back, I don't know, I'd call it more of a flexed back (which may be neutral under load). A neutral back might be more of a gymnastics-specific thing.

Regardless, core strength (meaning lower back, abs and obliques, among other things) is VERY important here.

Neutral is not implying unflexed or unengaged. It's just the position. You'd better be tight as hell through your whole squat/DL though.

I watched this Alan Thrall video a few years ago and it helped me understand the difference between a squat and a deadlift. The deadlift is the same (for most) as the low bar squat and the table bend mentioned in the article. No more back problems.


I basically stopped using furniture altogether years ago because it became apparent how it was interfering with the natural preservation of my ability to bend over and get down and up from the floor without effort.

Observe your average older person who lives a life employing furniture pick something up off the floor, or pick themselves off the floor. It's not uncommon for them to need assistance in the latter case!

If they had no furniture all their life, unless they were injured, they wouldn't have these problems because they couldn't possibly go through life without being able to get off the floor regularly having no furniture around.

It's also proven to encourage me to move more throughout the day, as well as stretch more. The floor is spacious, it's luxurious, and unstructured. It invites me to move around, stretch, and reconfigure myself when one position gets stale or something is going numb.

Furniture is structured, it's almost like bondage. You must sit in this chair design this way, your back must be up at this angle, your legs go here. It's totally unnatural and honestly seems like an awful compromise in part to increase density, and perhaps project wealth over those who live in furniture-less, largely empty rooms, or maybe it's just good business to sell furniture to everyone. And in the process it's preventing you from having to bring yourself to the floor and back up to standing height dozens of times every day.

There were some studies I read about geographic regions with the largest concentrations of the oldest living people. I don't have the link handy, but one of the things they observed was an exceptional number of these places didn't use furniture. They noted how the lack of furniture naturally kept the people limber into old age.

I love sitting on the floor now. It's become incredibly uncomfortable and simply annoying for me to sit on furniture. When I'm with my peers, and I'm not even that old - if we all end up sitting on the floor somewhere, I'm shocked at how visible the difference is already. Many adults are not able to be comfortable on the floor becuase they don't have the necessary flexibility for the variety of floor positions that would otherwise be available to them. It's because they stopped spending time on the floor after childhood, because in the west successful adults use furniture. You want to be successful, don't you?

That's a good idea! How do you use your computer/laptop? What about eating? And how long did it take for you to get used to not having furniture?

I don't know, it's all the obvious techniques you'd imagine in lieu of furniture. Whatever is comfortable and practical. The orientations vary, constantly, that's part of the value. When one position becomes tiresome, a reconfiguration occurs.

I'm not a good person to ask about time to adapt, I stopped sleeping in beds as a teen opting for the floor. So I was already pretty well acclimated by the time I decided to get rid of the rest.

Physiotherapists have given me a variety of reasons why, but I basically can't bend over in the way they are suggesting.

> "Oh yes! In order to hip hinge properly, your hamstrings to have to lengthen," Shapiro says. "If you have tight hamstrings, they prevent you from bending over easily in that way."

My hamstrings are incredibly tight and exercise and daily stretching haven't helped. The problem is my entire biomechanics are wonky. I barely use my abs, instead putting the load they would usually do onto my hamstrings, tightening them.

The only solution is for me to get a specialist therapist and retrain myself on how to move, walk, run, etc. I work a traveling job, so that's basically not possible right now. On the bright side, I look totally normal in my movements.

I need to get to bed, so I'll save you my (continuing) story of retraining my body to move. But this is from the mystical days of old when FAQs on Usenet contained magical information: https://archive.org/stream/Stretching_and_Flexibility_Brad_A... Hope it helps you!

Not sure what you've tried in the way of stretching, but I have some advice that you can take or leave, that I learned in my time in the Marine Corps, where I was doing MMA, running, lifting and swimming 5 times a week for about 4 hours total of exercise a day. (I got a bit fat and lazy as a civilian but I'm working on that these days)

First, most people don't spend enough time on their stretches. The most common mistake I've found people have in their stretching is they only do a stretch for ~30 secs to a minute. Try spending exactly 5 minutes on each stretch, and I mean each stretch even if it's on the same muscle group, which brings me to two.

The other main mistake I've corrected family and friends on is lack of variation in order to target the full area of muscle fiber on a muscle. They do one stretch in one position for a certain muscle, say, hamstrings, and think thats it. Even if you spend the amount of time suggested, if you dont target the whole muscle you will just have a small line of flexible muscle fiber while the rest of your muscle doesnt. Let me explain, so I'm sure you already know the standard hamstring stretch either single or both leg style. The best way to vary a hamstring stretch is to rotate your foot. First, to the inside, then to the outside. You will notice the different muscle fibers it gets. Then you should also try variations with your foot as far away from you as possible, and as close to you as possible. Try adjusting your hips on the single leg hamstring stretch to get slight variations as well. This is just an example, almost every stretch has small variations like this that pay off great dividends if you do them regularly.

In total, during my fit days, I was spending about 30-45 minutes each morning and each evening stretching, with random quick pnf stretching done throughout the day.

I know that sounds like a lot of time for a busy person, but, it's not that bad if you multi-task (I usually read news in the morning while stretching, and evening stretching is more meditative), and can you really dismiss your health so easily?

Now, everyone is different and you might indeed have wierd biomechanics, but respectfully I think you might have allowed it to develop to this point rather than it being your natural state. My suggestion for you would be this, start with the above time/variation stretching suggestions, and throughout the day try to keep your abs flexed for 10 minute intervals a few times a day, maybe setting reminders about posture every so often.

This is what I tell any friends or family who go on a get fit or fix my posture kick. Stretching is the most important part of either!

We need to bring back squat toilets into western society. Get rid of the sitting toilets. Then we'll end up with strong legs and be more likely to hip hinge properly. Also less hemorrhoids.

I've been on those toilets before at street-side filthy restrooms in hot & humid summer days, uncleaned vomit and splattered excrements of drunk people from the night before. It's the worst when you're feeling sick yourself from too much drink, and you have to squat for 30 minutes. You sweat like a pig and swim in a urine-covered floor; it's a full work-out session every time you go into a bathroom like that.

Learning to hip hinge saved my life! OK, the back pain itself wouldn't have killed me, but I think associated depression might have. I first learned it from Foundation Training: https://www.youtube.com/user/DoAFounder

Like the article says, learning to properly squat and deadlift really helps too

I haven’t seen anyone posit a theory as to why Western people bend this way, so I’ll go:

Extreme sex and body shame.

We receive, from a young age, shame about exposing - even with clothing on - “sexual” parts of the body - breasts, butt, and crotch.

Women are strongly motivated to tuck in the backside because it is both shamed and unsafe in our society to stick out our butts. This is why women squat to tie their shoes in public. Rape, assault, catcalling, is so prevalent and a constant awareness for women in public. This pose would also be considered “unprofessional” in a workplace.

Men are discouraged as well, lest they incur the worst male insult in our society : “gay”. Men are shamed and called gay from childhood if they take this hip-hinge pose. So they stop.

Bending at the waist exposes the vulnerable backside in a way that is unsafe in historically Puritanical Western society.

It seems like you are reaching pretty far for a social explanation. It seems more reasonable to start with lifestyle and work style. Maybe lots of sitting and standing are to blame? Maybe something about industrialization or household conveniences (washing machine, etc.)?

I suppose there are some social factors, but I would assume they are secondary unless I see evidence otherwise.

I don't think I'm reaching. Read the comments below, about the fact that children learn this spine-bend posture early on, way before any sedentary lifestyle. I'm pretty sure 3-year-olds aren't using washing machines either.

I'm speaking from firsthand personal experience, and overwhelming experience seeing others go through the same cultural conditioning I described in my post.

How is 3 years old "way before any sedentary lifestyle"? I consider my family moderately active, but my 3 year old is certainly familiar with the couch. In more agrarian societies, there are probably a lot fewer opportunities to sit somewhere comfortably.

And did you consider agrarian but sexually-conservative regions (maybe India or the Middle East?), or developed but sexually-liberal regions (maybe Mediterranean?), to see if those line up with your theory?

For related explanations: Esther Gokhale worth looking up, and also Kelly Starrett - lots of videos

Esther Gokhale's book "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back" saved my back. I basically learned that I was sitting like an idiot for hours at a time, and walking in a manner that did not distribute my weight efficiently on my back.

I went from hand-wringing over my ability to keep backpacking and playing sports at 40 to wondering when or if I'll ever have to pack it in.

What I've seen of KStar's stuff is good for functional strength, but for posture in general he advocates the more traditional, conservative PT approach of "just straighten the back", which has become controversial in more recent years as studies have shown that it's actually not that effective at reducing pain. I think Gokhale's book is a little more honest in not coming from any sort of academic background, even though I've met people who have exaggerated sway back postures and believe they are following the advice in her book.

What I've taken away from years of reading this kind of stuff, of dealing with back pain, and of exercise and sports is this: the body is meant to move in many different ways, and the ones you don't use, you eventually lose. Each joint has a certain range of motion, with muscles to support the full range. Correct posture is neutral and relaxed, and there is no one, fixed "proper" form - humans are built to move. You should be able to hold a J curve, an S curve, and a C curve in the spine with relative comfort, at least for a short while, and should put all of your joints through their full ROM daily, and gently.

I blame it on school PE classes where they make you touch your toes repeatedly. They act like there is something wrong with you if you are not flexible that way.

Reading this article just makes me ask... Do people deadlift?


I'm not a very strong person. But Deadlifts are part of my routine. Again, not for athletic purposes of anything, but "Practicing to pick things up" is basically a Deadlift.

And every day, we bend over to pickup small objects, and occasionally, we bend over to pick up heavier objects (ie: Grocery shopping: Picking up bags off the floor or whatever). So the deadlift is the most straightforward way to do this maneuver.

I mean, its no Olympic level "Snatch" or whatever. But the basic deadlift has to be one of the more "practical" weightlifting moves to routinely practice. Its also an overall good, full body exercise.

Doing the deadlift improperly can result in bad muscle strain and maybe even injury... but that's what makes practicing to do it properly even more important.

This is nothing new if you have bad back, like me. Pain can be a good teacher when it comes to proper form. As a bonus, I have a runner's knee, so my wall-facing squats are damn near perfect. I'm perfecting my technique, and nowadays I'm doing my squats by ear. I know my squats are perfect when I don't hear any creaking in my left knee.

As for why we, westerners bend this bad way by default ? It may have something to do with chairs. Sitting on a chair makes you used to bending over at your hips, because a chair makes any other bending impossible.

The jefferson curl is the secret weapon for loosening up hamstrings - be careful with the weight at first though.

Isn't this just a very long-winded way of saying "lift with your legs, not with your back"?

Some of us really needed the convincing, ok.

In all seriousness though, I had heard that my whole life but never really knew how to implement it until someone explained it in this way. It's lifting with your hamstrings and glutes and upper back in reality, not just "legs"

I always thought "lifting with your legs" was just hamstrings and glutes, and it took like 3 months of daily yoga before I realized this all works quite a bit better if you use your upper back instead of lower back. Then I found out I have hip muscles, and life has been alright since then.

I don't know how many men age 20-50 that I've seen joke about "lift with your legs!" and then proceed to laugh as the subject just fumbles around worse than they would have, because they're not sure what lifting with your legs means either.

The really bad part about all this, is that without good posture and defaulting to "cashew-style," you're preventing your lungs from using their full capacity. Which I think makes people slightly oxygen-deprived, more sleepy and daydreamy, causing them to sleepily lean forward into their screen instead of taking a minute or two and finding some good posture.

I don't know how you can fix this either. Most Americans do destroy their lower back and then spend their rest of their life with a lopsided body, because they have no idea what good posture is, and it takes a long long time to actually fix the part of your mind that causes bad posture. You have to be willing to accept that your entire way of operating your body has been slightly off, for a really long time.

No, because lifting with your back is totally fine. Actually lifting things off the ground is a whole body movement. "Lifting with your legs" is an ok cue if the person has never lifted anything before but the real cue is that you need to have tightness from hands to toe to pick something up effectively, which includes your back.

No, because you can keep your back somewhat vertical and squat too.

I thought this was going to be an article about being conciliatory...which I'm really good at.

But you might also be really bad at it.

I'm definitely open to that possibility

I'd recommend one of the featured experts, Stuart McGill's books to people having back pain. Straightforward practical advice but with an HN-level of science-based nerdiness behind it. Not the fuzzy woo that you find in many health related topics.

Any idea when a curved back isn’t bad? I mean we have the ability to curve the back for some reason.. right?

Feels weird to completely make the back stiff forever

The real danger with your spine is rotation under load. So, picking up something heavy, then rotating your torso instead of turning your entire body.

TBH, you probably won't hurt your spine by curling your back. Mostly it's just a poor way to transmit force between the floor and whatever load you're carrying. You could hurt the muscles involved in making your back erect, though.

+1 for weightlifting. This is basically how you kettlebell swing, snatch, clean & jerk, and deadlift.

It’s called a deadlift.

Except to anyone who's ever been on an H&S introductory course.

I'm assuming you mean "Health and Safety" and not one of the many other meanings for that set of letters. On the other side of the pond, where this article originated, H&S isn't really a thing. The closest thing we have over here (and I'm only guessing here) would be OSHA and as a "office worker" I can say they really haven't been a significant part of the my day to day. Might be different in a labor oriented profession though.

No H&S rep is going to tell you to lift of a soft back though.

No, this is simply wrong information. Or rather, this is information provided to people who are otherwise terribly out of shape.

Look up Jefferson Curls, or j-curls. These are essentially the exact motion that this article is suggesting is the wrong way to do things.

Now without question, you can do stronger lifts and put less direct stress on your spine by doing squats to pickup things rather than bends. But full fitness and flexibility absolutely include bends like the ones this article is telling you to avoid.

Wherever your weakest muscles and structure are is where you'll first suffer injury when you try to do something beyond your capability. So if you learn to squat to pick things up, that's fine; but if you neglect to maintain your flexibility, especially including spinal, you will get a back injury one way or another. Rather than bending over to pick something up, it will be turning over in bed, or coughing while carrying something.

What bothers me about specialist advice is that it is usually focused on one thing, one specialty. But whether you're talking about human anatomy and systems or economics or mental health (or many other very complex systems), you cannot just focus on a narrow set of changes or fixes.

I'm confused by your comment, From my reading you seem to say the article suggest squatting but from my reading the article is not advocating for squatting at all. It's advocating for hip hinge where your back remains straight and your hips rotate using your hamstring to pull. Unlike the j-curl you mention the back remains straight. Similar to deadlift technique.

You're right - I went from hip hinge to squat because that's the natural progression of how you would adapt your movement in order to pick up something heavy. The posterior chain is the strongest set of muscles in the body, so the heaviest lifts will involve a squat (which is both a hip hinge and a leg bend, butt drop).

I'm not referring to the standing negative squat as in weight lifting, I'm more referring to the dead life move done by people with longer legs and shorter torsos/arms. You probably know that there are many variations of dead life. What I was referring to, which I took the article to basically be advocating, was a type of bend (lift) that isolated the spine as much as possible. And I was arguing that use of the spine in a bending, flexing way is not inherently bad - it's just that typical modern (sedentary) life allows the core to weaken and reduces flexibility.

Instead of telling people to isolate to avoid injury, we should be telling people to move more (starting lightly) to increase flexibility - then add weight to increase strength everywhere.

Why make it about culture/race? Using anecdotal evidence the author is suggesting there is cultural reasons why this is happening. It’s not too far fetched to go one step further and make it also about race. I’m surprised people are ok with semi-racists articles like this perhaps because they come from NPR? All you have to do is remove one layer to realize the pseudoscience used in this article is saying some cultures and therefore races behave physically different than us (although in a good way, but nevertheless) without any rigid evidence. Yet no one here seems to mind that and not see how this leads to prejudice and exacerbating that we are different and everyone else is “others”.

There are people in the US who also bend from the waistline.

There ARE physical differences in races though. It's not so major that you should treat people as more or less than you, but there's nothing wrong with pointing out that there's different types of people around the world. For example when studying disease you can see statistically certain diseases are more common for certain races or sexes.

The article even mentions we still have "bending at the hip" in our culture as well especially in sports, yoga, and gardening. But we could benefit more than that.

And posture is cultural in that it varies somewhat depending on where you are. A military bootcamp would have a culture that promotes a certain posture. Even between a English tea room and a Japanese tea room there's different rules about posture. Then you can also even consider the fashions in an area. For example people who wear heels a lot (even a small heel) vs someone who is constantly wearing flip flops will have a very different squat. People who wear heels a lot will have a harder time doing a squat while keeping their heels down due to a shortening of the muscle on the back of their leg.

Does anyone really think there are no culture differences at all? Is this the position of anyone on any part of the political/ideological spectrum?

I mean, I can say that there is such a thing as a different diet between different countries/cultures, and I don't think I'm being racist or wrong. I'm just stating facts that literally everyone agrees with.

>It’s not too far fetched to go one step further and make it also about race.

It absolutely is too far fetched. The article explicitly makes it out as a learned behavior.

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