I have recently had my love for the Hindu squat reignited by reading back through one of my old training logs from a time when body weight training was a huge priority for me.
At that point in my life I was travelling a lot and rarely had time to get to the gym, so I used to do high volume Hindu squats and push-ups/pull-up pyramids a few times per week to keep my strength and endurance up.
For many years after this I focused my training more towards kettlebell and barbell specific programs, and began to forget how good it felt to be training with just my body. It has a simplistic appeal to it, and I have come full circle back into balance with some amazing body weight training sessions of late.
One of the things I noticed about my past kettlebell training plans was that everything in them required muscular tension. In only two short years I had forgotten about how important it is to incorporate some relaxation exercises to combat all the excess tension.
In the hardstyle of kettlebell training everything is about tension. We power breathe to generate tension, we crush our fist around the kettlebell to generate tension, and we grip the ground with our feet to once again generate more tension.
There are certain drills that can help shake off much of this tension (commonly known as fast and loose exercises). This is where we allow our muscles to become jelly-like and shake, wobble and bounce our bodies to relax our muscles. Tension is for strength and power, whereas relaxation is for speed, endurance and flexibility. Both tension and relaxation are important, and both should be practiced.
In my latest program I have a deliberate relaxation practice at the start of every strength session. There are many relaxation exercises that I have recently been reunited with, but my current favourite is the Hindu Squat.
So what exactly is a Hindu Squat?
The Hindu Squat is a squat variation with a difference. The aim is to relax through the movement and get into rhythm with your breathing, which also changes from the power breath to a more economical method called anatomical breathing. We will discuss the breath further into the article, but for now let’s look at some history.
The Hindu squat has a long and colourful history in Indian wrestling, where champions have used them to build superior strength and endurance for centuries. One of the more famous champions was known as The Great Gama of India who went 50 years without being defeated. Legend has it that he used to do 5000 Hindu squats, or ‘Baithaks’ every single day.
The Hindu squat is a great variation for those who struggle with regular bodyweight squats due to poor mobility. This is because your heels actually lift during this movement, which means that just about anyone can do them comfortably.
How to do a Hindu Squat correctly
- Start by getting a feeling of what the bottom position feels like. Stand with your feet just inside shoulder width and pointing straight ahead. Then sit down on your heels. Your heels may come off the ground. Your body should be quite upright with your knees tracking over your toes to the front.
- Once you feel comfortable, do 5-10 small bounces, slowly increasing the height of each bounce. On the last bounce, keep pushing your toes into the floor and drive with your legs until you are standing up straight.
- From this standing position, drop down into the same bottom position you just practised. As you lower yourself and reach close to bottom position, raise your heels and finish the bottom position on your toes alone. This is how Hindu squats differ from regular squats.
This is the essence of a Hindu squat, but let’s break it down further and look at the arm swing and breathing. Once you’re comfortable with the basics as listed above, try incorporating these points:
- Swing your arms back behind you whilst in the starting or standing position.
- Initiate the descent by swinging your arms forward as you drop, and use the upswing of your arms to reverse the movement and begin ascending back to the starting position. Once you can do this fluently, your arms will swing from back to front with each rep without interruption.
- For the breathing, as you drop into the bottom position and your lungs are compressed, allow all the air to be pushed out of your lungs. On the ascent, breathe in again to complete the breathing cycle. You should be able to hear someone doing Hindu squats from across the room as the exhale is quite powerful once you learn how to open up your airway and let the movement force the air out.
If you feel like you need to understand this further, check out this video for a good idea of what the Hindu squat should look like.
Programming and Tests
My first set of Hindu squats after at least 2 years of not doing a single Hindu was pretty bad. I had to stop after 50, which is crazy seeing as my record previously was 500 unbroken squats in 15 minutes.
To get back on track with them now, I like to do 100 Hindu squats at the start and finish of every session, but there are many other ways to do this.
The first test to gauge your improvement is to aim for getting 100 unbroken Hindu squats with good form in 3 minutes.
To achieve this, include this in your training program:
10 Hindu squats on the minute for 3 continuous minutes. Over time, add one rep per minute until you can do 34 Hindu squats on the minute.
Once you have achieved this, you can either try again with a mouthful of water or add a 5kg weight vest.
The ultimate goal for Hindu squats (which few reach) is 500 consecutive repetitions in 15 minutes. This can take up to 6 months to prepare for.
When doing high repetition sets, my Hindu Squats and my breathing fall into a deep rhythmic alliance and my mind is allowed to switch off. It is meditative and regenerative. This of course can only occur once the movement has reached an autonomous stage after several thousand squats.
I have also had first hand experience with high volume Hindu squats being beneficial for knee and ankle health. Next time you go to the gym, give this beautiful movement a go and see how they make you feel.