Squats are one of the most effective, versatile exercises in fitness. What was once a simple bodyweight squat has evolved into the back squat, front squat, Bulgarian split squat, goblet squat, sissy squat, sumo squat, cossack squat, pistol squat — should I go on?
Why are there so many types of squats? There are seemingly countless squat modifications in fitness because they work — plain and simple. Sure, personal trainers may like to stretch their creativity once in a while, conjuring up new moves you've never seen or heard before. But even so, any educated fitness professional will acknowledge that classic moves — like pushups, pullups, burpees, and squats — are incredibly efficient, which is why they're used frequently in workouts.
Below, I walk you through one of my favorite squat exercises: the Hindu squat. Like other types of squats, Hindu squats challenge your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and core — all in one movement. Plus, you don't need any fancy gym equipment or a great deal of space to perform them.
You can do Hindu squats right from your living room, as part of an at-home exercise program. So move the coffee table aside, and let's get to work.
What Is a Hindu Squat?
The Hindu squat was first used by Indian wrestlers and yogis. Ghulam Muhammad, also known as "The Great Gama," was born in 1878. After starting wrestling at age 10, he went on to become the World Heavyweight Champion in 1910, and led an undefeated career until retirement. According to legend, Gama did 5,000 Hindu squats and 3,000 Hindu pushups per day. His career lasted nearly half a century, and he didn’t retire until 1952.
A Hindu squat is very similar to a bodyweight squat. The primary difference is that in a lowered Hindu squat, you will rest on the balls of your feet (near your toes), rather than keeping your weight in your heels.
Unlike weighted exercises — like the back or front squat — you will not use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell to perform a Hindu squat. Hindu squats are bodyweight exercises, which make it perfect to include in your at-home workout routine.
What Muscles Do You Use in a Hindu Squat?
Like other squat variations, a Hindu squat is a compound exercise — meaning, it works multiple muscle groups at once. Here are just a few muscles you'll work throughout the movement:
- Abdominal muscles: If you do an exercise correctly, nearly every exercise is a "core exercise." You will need to brace your abs throughout the squat so you don't topple over.
- Glutes and hamstrings: While squats (in all forms) are viewed as quad-dominant exercises, they also challenge your posterior chain. Firing your glutes and hamstrings prevents your knees from caving in as you raise from a lowered squat to a standing position (which would otherwise lead to knee pain).
- Quads: All squats, including Hindu squats, help build strong quads.
- Calves: Because you rest your weight on the ball of your foot, not your heels, you may feel a slight burn in your calves in a Hindu squat. This means your calf muscles are going to work.
How To Do a Hindu Squat
A Hindu squat follows a similar series of steps as a bodyweight or back squat, which I describe below.
Begin With a Proper Warm-Up
Before beginning any strength training (whether you're using weights or focusing on bodyweight movements), be sure to begin with a dynamic warm-up. Do high-knees, butt kicks, walking toy soldiers (straight leg kicks), and other movements.
In addition, if you have trouble engaging your core or glutes, you can perform core or glute activation before jumping into squats. Exercises such as clam shells, bridges, or a hollow body hold will engage your glutes and core, helping to prevent knee pain and other injuries.
Instructions for Hindu Squats
Now that you're warmed up, you're ready to perform Hindu squats.
- Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms at your sides. Roll your shoulders back and down, and squeeze your abs (as though someone is about to punch you in the stomach).
- Place your arms straight out in front of you, so they're parallel to the ground. Begin lowering into a squat, being careful not to cave your knees in.
- As you reach a parallel squat position (i.e., your quadriceps are parallel to the ground — or as far as you can reach in your full range of motion), lift your heels off the ground.
- Drop your arms by your sides, and allow your full bodyweight to balance on the balls of your feet. Some people prefer to do a pulsing squat variation, where they "bounce" on the balls of their feet to increase their range of motion.
- While keeping the weight on your heels, return to your starting position. This is where maintaining proper form becomes increasingly important — squeeze your glutes and abs, maintaining your balance as you return to standing.
- When you reach full height, drop your heels, so you're standing with your weight evenly distributed.
As you saw in step five, a Hindu squat is just as much a test of balance and coordination as it is of strength (and why core and glute activation is recommended beforehand). If you feel wobbly on your toes, don't hesitate to drop your heels back to the ground before raising. It's far better to modify the movement than to risk an injury.
How To Incorporate Hindu Squats Into Your Workout
Hindu squats are incredibly versatile, and can be worked into a number of workouts — just like regular squats.
Here are a few workouts where you may incorporate Hindu squats:
- Lower body strength workouts: The Hindu squat is used in gymnastics, wrestling, and other conditioning programs because it challenges your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. I recommend incorporating 3x20 (three sets of 20 repetitions) into your strength workouts (but adapt according to your goal and fitness level).
- High intensity interval training (HIIT): It is not uncommon for athletes to include an extremely high number of reps (e.g., 30-50 reps in one set) of Hindu squats in their workouts. Such a high number of repetitions will task your aerobic system, making it an ideal move for cardio or HIIT workouts.
- Active recovery days: This is one leg exercise I enjoy doing on active recovery days. Because this unique squat tests your full range of motion in your hips, it's great for improving your mobility. However, be careful not to turn your recovery work into a workout — keep the reps light, and rest when needed.
Hindu Squats Are an Effective Exercise for Mobility, Strength, and Aerobic Training
In a single movement, the Hindu squat represents everything 4 Legs Fitness stands for. It helps build strength and muscle mass, just like any other weight training program. You can perform a high number of repetitions, making it an excellent fit for aerobic training and cardio workouts. Plus, the Hindu squat improves your mobility, which should be a cornerstone in your recovery work.
As always, I recommend incorporating Hindu squats into a carefully designed workout program. The Build Bullet-Proof Health program incorporates strength, cardio, nutrition, and recovery into one wellness routine. Plus, just like Hindu squats, most workouts within the program can be done at home, in the comfort of your living room.
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