Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Screw your standing desk. How about squatting? (bitehype.com)
125 points by freshfey on Jan 30, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

After wading through the article's obnoxious style, we see it provides no tangible arguments against standing, nor for squatting. In fact, the only argument against standing is that it's uncomfortable, and then the rest of the article is spent explaining how to make squatting less uncomfortable. Squatting for more than 5 minutes would probably make my knees explode.

I do power lifting, and had significant problems with my squats until I spent a few weeks practicing asian squats and generally improving my hip mobility. I still can't stay in a squat position nearly as long as my four year old son, but it's been steadily improving.

When I started squatting, my knees were so weak I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without pain. I finally started exercising because my doctor gave me a look of disdain, handed me a sheet of basic exercises and told me to get out (edit: when I went to her to ask about my knee pain...)

I'm not going to argue for (or against) working in squatting position, but squats done properly are not going to hurt your knees.

> until I spent a few weeks practicing asian squats

Is that a specific type of squat, or just a normal squatting position without any weight?

It's a form of natural unweighted squat that's commonly practiced in Asia as a rest position.

A crucial difference from how many westerners squat is that the weight is carried back on the heels. Westerners tend to squat with weight forward on the toes, which is highly fatiguing.

There's a vintage video on the topic:


(This was linked in the article, but it's since gone walkabout).

Knees wide, butt touching ankles, pretty much.

When people unused to squatting squat down, they often end up barely reaching parallel.

It's a squat where the heels are flat on the ground and you're sitting back more.

In contrast to the western "catcher's squat" (from baseball) where the heels are off the ground and the weight is on the balls of your feet.

They're referring to the resting squat position talked about in the article.

Mostly because you don't squat properly and/or aren't used to squatting...

In China, until recently, all toilets were basically squatting toilets, yet octogenarians had no issue squatting to use them... how old are you that you can't do for 5 minutes what an 80 year old can do several times a day?

Did you mean to ask "how old are you that you can't do [something you've never done before in your life and thus don't have the muscles for it] for five minutes what an 80 year old [who has done it every day of their life and thus has the required muscles] can do several times a day"?

Also, I'd like to point out the differences in length of time between taking a shit and a normal 8 hour work day.

I'm not saying this is impossible, but I understand the trepidation.

Same goes for sitting toilets though.

And we still don't have any arguments supporting either position. I do squat for a few minutes every day to facilitate my squat lifting workout but don't see an inherent benefit. I suppose one can argue that it has been a natural movement for so long that our bodies may be genetically designed for it.

Look at young children, and see how effortlessly they can sit for ages in squat positions while playing. After I started fixing my squat for lifting, I've noticed I now often naturally squat down instead of awkwardly contorting myself when playing with my son for example.

My mobility is still poor compared to what it was when I was a child, but at 38 I'm now finally more flexible again than I was at 25, maybe more so than at 20, and it's great to not feel constrained by weird movement patterns.

they have very short limbs making this very easy

Their limbs are proportionally the same, and their muscles equivalently smaller and weaker. It's no harder for an adult with proper mobility.

it completely depends on the proportions

long-limbed people have more difficulty with this, while shorter-limbed people don't have difficulty with this after a little stretching

Same in Japan. It's also pretty common to see people squatting near buildings for smoke breaks, etc.

It's easy to stand comfortably for hours: just use the Captain Morgan pose. (get a small box to rest one feet on; alternate feet every few minutes) This is recommended for example by Kelly Starrett. Works for me awesomely.

Its also mostly a tongue in cheek joke, if you didn't get that.

you are probably doing the western squat. If you watch the video in the blog, asian squat is considerable more comfortable and do not cause knee pains.

If you have a bad back or are interested in posture, there is a wonderful book (ignore the generic title) called "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back", written by a woman who observed that people in non-Westernized cultures have very little back problems and that they exhibit natural choices in posture that we lost in the West due to various trends and furniture designs. Its a really fascinating read and explores a lot of these types of differences in posture and the positive effects on health.

Edit: I did just take another spin through it and she doesn't mention squatting at all, kind of surprising that wasn't covered considering how universal it is

Do they have less back problems or just less reporting of back problems?

Culture is a complex thing, so is health. The intersection of them I wouldn't trust in the hands of laymen or self-proclaimed experts.

Apparently its almost unheard of in some cultures to have any sort of back problems, even after decades of physical labor etc. The premise of the book is that the reason for this is that these people are using their spines and posture in a more natural fashion, which leverages the structure of the spine better, but we don't do it in the West as the result of a kind of cultural revolt against victorian era posture norms that took place in the 1920's

> Apparently

It's not readily apparent to those of us asking for proof...

I recommended a book that I found interesting and helped me with my back problems. I'm a web developer not a doctor. Thats the best I can do for you.

It's so obnoxious how people like you expect members contributing to the discussion to have perfect proof on hand or go digging. If that were the true standard, these discussions would be much thinner.

It's fine to ask, just don't be an asshole when a person doesn't have it; look it up yourself.

I have no problem with people expressing their opinions without backing them up with facts. I do it all the time.

I was objecting to the use of the word 'apparently' as it is, in fact, not apparent to many people.

+1 on that book. It's by Esther Gokhale:


Dumbest idea ever. The hyper-fit guy sitting in the gym isn't looking too bad, though having the knees rotated that far out for any length of time isn't going to work out well. (Yes, knees-out squatting and knees-in squatting are very different things.) The woman in the second picture has the same problem, plus hyper-extending her arms and bending her wrists too far back. The third woman . . . oh, I don't even know where to start with that one. None of them are doing their vision any favors being that far from the screen, either. There's a reason they only picture twenty-somethings.

I love squatting. I have ever since I was a child, and people have often commented on my tendency to squat when others would stand or sit. I also use a standing desk. Nonetheless, there's just no way whatsoever that squatting while using a computer seems like a good idea.

How about while reading? Or thinking? It's not like "using a computer" is a monolithic activity. Electric desk frames allow you to change position throughout the day. The latest one I got (3 segment legs from geek desk) can go so low I can sit lotus in front of it.

Yes, changing positions is really the key. That's why I have an Ergotron sit/stand mount for my monitor, and I use it in both modes. I also tend to pace a lot when I don't need to be looking at the monitor. (One of the nice things about working at home is that nobody complains about that.) I'm sure squatting is fine and even good exercise once in a while, but this article is presenting it as a primary position for extended periods and that's just crazy.

Are you arguing that squatting with your knees close together is better for you than squatting with your knees spread apart?

I can see how using a standard keyboard while squatting could be problematic.

However, I suspect it may possible to design a new input device (or mechanism) that's optimized for use while squatting. It might take time to learn, but then so does a keyboard.

For me, the key is not keeping in one position for the whole day. That's why I chose to go with an arrangement that allows me to either sit or stand. I find myself using the standing option for about 4 hours a day. I'll use it less (sometimes not at all) if I happen to be more active during working hours. You can see details of my build here:


I think adding squatting to my set of postures should just be a matter of getting a rigid chair and squatting on that.

Finally, if you do sit, I recommend getting a seat pad designed for wheelchairs. People who can't walk must do a LOT of sitting, so wheelchair seats must be comfortable.

Arguing standing vs sitting (vs squatting) is missing the point. It's not an either or proposition. Holding any one position for a long time is bad. A good desk should be quick and easy to move from sitting height to standing height, and you switch between them regularly.

I was thinking this. Ironically, this fits with the original vision for cubicles, as I heard it. You could arrange multiple "desks" if you will, so that you could switch between them easily. I don't believe I have seen this done, though.

Nor do I have any references. Apologies.

Or just get a drafting stool.

Don't most of our fellow primates spend most of their time squatting? Maybe they're on to something?




You will note of course that their legs are significantly different to ours. They're much shorter, they're less optimally-shaped for full upright standing (when do you ever see monkeys, apes, gorillas, etc standing tall like a human?), and their feet are differently-shaped. I think the comparison is flawed.

There is a book somewhere that talks about this in detail, its not just animals, but in third world countries, people don't sit with their legs and back at ~90 degree angles. Chairs are actually the most unnatural position for our bodies as a sedentary position (especially in the case of toilets while defecating). There are a lot of back and other problems that come with prolonged use of chairs that simply don't occur in areas of the world where people squat or don't have chairs.

Many cultures like the Chinese and Korean still squat a lot instead of sitting, it's funny for us to see but they seem to be enjoying it.

If I stay in a squat position within a couple of minutes my legs become really tensed up and it feels as if my I'm cutting my blood flow; squatting for even 5 minutes is not feasible for me, let alone 8 hours, and I don't believe it to be a matter of training. I think we are a long way from our fellow primates.

You may not believe it is a matter of training, but your experience is fairly normal for someone who lacks the required flexibility from years of not squatting much.. As long as your form is good, squatting more will quickly rectify that.

In a squatting position, your feet should be flat on the ground (both heels and toes) and your upper legs should be touching your lower legs. Are you sure that your form is correct?

Its pretty much how 'sitting' worked before the advent & ubiquity of chairs

Interesting. I've been a desk squatter for years--I've never wanted a dedicated stand desk, but I've been able to configure my set-up to allow good posture while squatting. It certainly provides a nice break from sitting.

I'm curious on how your desk would be arranged for squatting. This is the first I've even heard of desk squatting so I am struggling with how it would be set up.

Well, the setup is pretty normal. I'm in a "normal" cubicle, using a standard keyboard, and a couple of 21" monitors that have been raised a few inches. When I squat, my arms are raised higher than there are when I am seated, but they are still at an angle that is reasonable to maintain for 15-20 minutes at a time. The monitor height is actually better when I'm squatting.

I will note that in 15 years in the industry, I've not had any major ergonomic issues (some of that I attribute to rock climbing), so I'm certainly not suggesting this particular setup for everyone.

Ok that makes a lot of sense. I'm going to assume you're squatting in a chair as well. That or you have a ridiculously long torso. 15-20 minutes seems kind of a short amount of time compared to standing though.

I think you should stress that latter part more actually. Being healthy isn't just what a person can do in one area but in all areas.

I have also done this for many years at work. Co-workers generally referred to this position as 'the vulture' which upon reflection, sounds a lot better than 'squatting'.

In my desk chair, squatting works exactly like sitting. I'm actually less hunched over.

>what’s with the racism, yo?

That's not racism, it's a valid observation.

Thats not a serious, it's a joke.

I'd love to be able to do this but I can't keep my centre of gravity over my feet if I put my feet flat on the floor (no matter how widely I spread my knees), so I just end up toppling over backwards. If I do it with my back against a wall, my knees start to hurt after about 30 seconds. I just don't think my body is designed to squat like that. Or do the lotus position, for that matter.

Try to do the challenge (mentioned in the article) and go down as far as you comfortably can. You're probably lacking range in the hips or the ankles and this will fix itself with time. Basically because you weren't in this position for a long time, your body doesn't "allow" you this position, because it thinks you might hurt yourself while doing it. But once you get used to the position, you'll ease into it with time.

You have long legs, that's why.

Let's think about why we gave up this position for going to the toilet, even though it allowed for better hygiene and simpler toilet designs. Is it because we "lost" this position at some point, or perhaps it wasn't that comfortable after all (for the bowels, for example)?

I think it was an accident of history in Europe. Something to do with the architecture of castles and ships perhaps.

It is a shame that much of Asia is losing the squat toilet over time. I've found it to be very helpful on occasion. It dramatically reduces apparent constipation.

Quite a few people seem to squat on the western style toilets though.. at least that's what the signs forbidding it and the occasional footprints on the seat suggest.

Actually, from what I heard, squatting is better for the bowels.

For emptying them, or for keeping them relaxed?

Both. Squatting makes your bowels more relaxed which helps emptying them: http://wellnessmama.com/wp-content/uploads/InfluenceofBodyPo...

Interesting, we should propose a combined "squatting for work, eating and various other bodily needs" cubicle on Kickstarter ... Never leave your squatting position again.

Who is "we"? Plenty of people still squat.

Except some of us are morphologically incapable of squatting the restful way: http://themovementfix.com/the-best-kept-secret-why-people-ha...

I had thought most of the squatting talk on this was about more weightlifting type squatting and not just being able to rest in a squatting position.

Unless a deep squat = squatting restfully. Which is hard to argue that it's not due to lack of flexibility.

Great explanation, but what an awful awful site design. The last thing I want an image to when I move my mouse over it is twitch and suddenly display less information.

Except that provides absolutely no evidence to support the hypothesis. People have variations in wrists and forearms too, it does not follow that some people are "morphologically incapable" of using a mouse for example.

Arguably not a polite way to sit in an Indian office considering this:


Is that a fact? Arabs often have the same kind of toilet but I've never heard someone say that squatting in general is rude.

Eastern Europeans have been always doing it already http://slavsquat.com/

as a Pole it's so obvious for me I didn't realize it was a thing, and reading the article the 1st thing I thought is why they don't do it so.

that is the weirdest site I have seen in a while...

I personally do naturally sit like this, but I don't think it's good for circulation in the legs. I do worry about DVTs.

Squatting itself is common in China. After a year in China, I got use to squat toilets although I still preferred toilets. But I found it odd when they would squat in the middle of the sidewalk or street and be so close to the ground. The Chinese swear by it though that it's healthy for your knees and back if you squat.

Interesting idea, but like all positions, staying in it too long can be a painful affair. A work station that supports moving to a good squatting height (along with standing and sitting) would seem like the ideal compromise.

I can't seem to balance as I squat with feet flat on the ground. This is hard. My kids (esp. baby) can do it just fine though. And I won't be outdone by a bunch of tiny humans!

So true, small children do seem to squat very naturally and with great form and posture. It's a shame that this gets lost around school age (at least from what I've observed in my kids).

Now as a 40-something adult who performs squats for exercise (both weighted and non) and has to fight with mobility/flexibility issues when performing this exercise, I do envy (and am somewhat awed by) the "tiny humans" in this regard.

You most likely lack hip and/or ankle flexibility. Practice going as deep as you can without falling over, optionally while holding onto something (for stability, try to keep the weight on your feet), and try to go deeper and/or hold for longer every day. It'll get easier.

It could be tendons that need stretching; but it could also be inherent anatomical differences. I have curved shins, which pushes everything from the knee up a few inches backward when I try to squat. It's physically impossible for me to do a heels-down squat without bending my back to lean forward between my knees.

If that's true, you probably need to spread your knees apart more, and bend at the hip joint more to achieve full squat depth. Rounding your back == bad.

I learned this technique when I was backpacking through Vietnam. I noticed that many of the people were squatting rather then sitting. Then while touring the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City our guide explained why the tunnels/holes were so small. It's because the soldiers would sit in this squat position for hours. Once you start doing it often you can do it longer and longer. I usually sit like this while I am in between sets at the gym.

Trying to take an unconditioned person and telling them to hold a deep squat like that for hours = injuries all over. They'll lack ankle flexibility and whatnot.

A person unused to squatting will often have problems holding a squat for 30 seconds, if able to get down into a squat in the first place. I very much doubt that injuries would be a problem simply because the position is nearly impossible to hold for prolonged periods until you've developed the flexibility needed.

Going out on a limb here - I think this is satire.

The facebook page has a bunch of people in on the satire.

Yes, but it also raises some interesting questions. Why is this squat common in Southeast Asia yet uncommon among Europeans? What are the benefits of the Asian squat?

What about using a harness to support yourself upright, but without the stress on your legs. Or, one of Honda's Exoskeleton devices http://www.gizmag.com/honda-leasing-walking-assist-device-ex....

It's not about standing vs squatting, it's sitting down vs squatting (especially on the toilet) that's the big point.

It's true, standing desks are so last year. But why take baby steps with the squat desk?

Keep your eyes open for my kickstarter yoga desk.

my proportions don't let me do this, I have very long legs, I'm 6'4" and have a medium length torso and my extra height is in legs

with such extreme proportions it's not possible to do it comfortably since I need to squat inside my knees so I need to turn the knees outside to squat between them

this is probably not very healthy

Sure it is.

In powerlifting, when performing a barbell squat, you are supposed to spread your knees apart and squat down in between your legs. This is proper technique and reduces the stress on the knee joint, transferring the load to the glutes and hamstrings.

I don't see why it would be unhealthy for you to do it without weight on your back.

I can't squat below parallel without getting pain in my hip joint and/or knees after a while. I am not built for low squatting, and especially not for going ass to grass. A lot of longer-limbed people can't hit full depth in a proper position.

I have long femurs as well and can't squat comfortably for very long periods of time either, it feels like it cuts off the blood flow in my knees, but I would argue that that is most likely due to years of adaptation to a life of sitting on chairs and sofas, rather than due to some hereditary physiological quality. The more I squat and the more I get used to squatting, the more comfortable it becomes. When I started powerlifting, I struggled to hit depth, but now I do go almost ATG on every rep without any discomfort in my joints.

I really don't think there's any bone preventing you from squatting to depth. I believe it's almost always an issue of the condition of your muscular and connective tissue.

here's an explanation:


Baseball catchers spend a lot of time in a squatting position. I was always told that it really messes up their knees.

Because they squat with their weight on their toes and their heels off the ground.

Sciatic nerve tension, anyone? Maybe it's for the best. :-)

This sounds like it would cause my kneecaps to explode.

How about real exercise instead of an excuse for one ?

If people begin squatting at their desks, I'm patenting under-knee deodorant.

I think it's satire-esque. I think sitting like that is for people who dont really "work" - or maybe I am mad because I invested in a 2k stand up desk only to be sent thousands of miles away on a job.

Plus I feel like sitting like that would fill the office with farts and stuff.

Squatting doesn't make you fart unless you have other serious problems.

Hipsters, please make this a trend. The only place I sit properly is at work, and I hate it. I have no interest in a standing desk. I would love to sit on my calves and heels all day at the office, just like I sit at home when working on something.

I don't care what kind of dubious health claims have to be made. Get it done!

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact