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While modern fitness trends in India have been influenced by training methods introduced by the West, classical exercise and training methods have long been the source of inspiration for fitness professionals living on the other side of the globe. Yoga is a prime example of this cross-over, as it became a trendy practice in India only after it was popularised in the West.

India's history with physical movements dates back centuries with yoga and meditation, and even wrestling (kushti) and other exercising techniques having been made popular here. The mud pits where India's iconic wrestlers like Gama or Dara Singh cut their teeth, or kabaddi players who popularised the sport came from, were relegated to the pages of history until the emergence of modern wrestlers winning medals at international events and the glamourised versions of kabaddi became television mainstays.

The workouts immortalized by the famed wrestlers of the past have been making a resurgence through the spread of the internet, and geniune intrigue of fitness professionals worldwide. Behind the mountainous physique of those wrestlers were thousands of uthak baithaks, more commonly known as the Hindu squats. Yes, its history goes beyond the walls of classrooms where students would be made to perform those as a means of punishment.

Hindu squats have been incorporated in several workouts and exercise regimes around the world and are known to be effective and efficient, arguably more than conventional squats. The exaggerated movements employed in the Hindu squats make it more complex besides working on multiple joints and muscles of the body.

  1. Difference between Hindu squats and conventional squats
  2. Benefits of Hindu squats (uthak-baithak)
  3. How to perform a Hindu squat correctly
  4. Precautions for Hindu squats
  5. Alternative exercises for Hindu squats
  6. Takeaways of Hindu squats

There’s not much of a difference between these two, although the Hindu squats appear to be more intense than the standard version. Conventional squats do not involve a complex technique and can be performed by anyone with healthy knees, but Hindu squats include a more exaggerated movement, usually practised by pehelwans or wrestlers. The difference is in the following movements:

  • Feet are closer for Hindu squats and slightly wider in the conventional one.
  • There is no movement of arms in the basic squat exercise. But Hindu squats allow you to train your shoulders by moving the arms.
  • Other than Hindu squats, all other variations of squats are performed with slower movements.

The Hindu squat is fascinating in the way that it takes an already effective movement (the squat) and makes it even more effective. Following are some effects you can experience with the right form and repetitions of the Hindu squats:

  • The Hindu squat can be performed without any equipment, unlike weighted squats with a barbell behind you; wrestlers prefer doing it barefoot. And yet, it gives an equal gain of strength and muscle mass. Being a compound exercise, it targets the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, core as well as the shoulders. 
  • Weight loss remains a priority for a majority of gym-goers. More intense exercises mean the body consumes more energy, resulting in losing more carbohydrates and fats.
  • This is a great lower body workout which increases the blood circulation in the entire body. Much like other variations of the squats, working the larger muscles in the legs lead to an increase in testosterone levels as it promotes improved blood flow to the muscles. Better blood circulation also helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure and heart attack.
  • The Hindu squat requires more coordination and balance to succeed. Once you are able to achieve the correct form and posture, you can perform several reps without resting. Exercises as dynamic as the Hindu squat also add incredible stability and balance in the body.
  • Trainers usually advise you to keep your knees parallel to your feet while going down during a squat as it helps avoid knee injuries. However, the Hindu squat allows your knees to go beyond the toe line, as it strengthens the knees and allows a better grip for the toes. The movement allows to build more strength in the ligaments and muscles around the knee joint.

This exercise is a more advanced version of the conventional squats. Mastering the basic technique before moving onto more complex movements like the Hindu squats is a wise idea. For accurate form and posture, seeking expert advice from a traditional wrestler or pehelwan can be great.

Muscle targeted

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Abs
  • Shoulders

Experience level

  • Professional

Equipment required

  • None

Sets & reps

  • 3 sets of 20 reps each

How to do it

  • Stand with your feet not too far from each other. In a swift move, begin to bend towards the ground like in a squat.
  • The knees can go further wide than the width of the feet. As you begin to move down, your arms must swing with a heave downwards.
  • Your toes begin to rise at the bottom of the move as your fingers touch the ground and assume the squat position.
  • Rise up on your toes with your arms moving straight ahead of you and return to the starting position, back on planted feet. This is one rep.

Tip: The exaggerated swing of the arms must be matched alongside the squat for the perfect balance, otherwise it is easy to tip over forwards while performing this movement.

  • This exercise can be stressful to the knees due to its high impact. To avoid such injuries try to perform the exercise slowly at first.
  • Just like deep squats, this movement can put additional pressure on the back. It is advisable to not go all the way down. First, try to strengthen your back then try a full motion of the Hindu squat.
  • This movement requires a lot of coordination between the feet and the hands. Understanding the mechanics of how the feet rise up upon reaching the ground is critical here.
  • While rising up contract your abs for better results.
  • If you have a history of rotator cuff problems, or you feel discomfort in your shoulder while performing this exercise, avoid the hand movement. Try not to swing your arms with full motion.

Every exercise has a variety of alternatives or variations that can be performed for equal or similar effects on the body, also to break the monotony of performing the same exercise every time you work out. Here are a few alternatives to the Hindu squat:

The Hindu squats not only make for an intense exercise, a combination of it along with the Hindu push-ups can make for an incredibly tough workout in itself. However, the complex movement requires a lot of practice, as well as the lack of exposure for physical trainers around can make it a difficult movement to perform. Practising the different squat variations, along with other exercises can, however, make you more confident about performing the Hindu squats as well.

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References

  1. Lorenzetti S How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2018; 10: 14. PMID: 30026952
  2. Genovese, J. E. C. et al Two studies of Superbrain Yoga’s potential effect on academic performance based on the Number Facility Test. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2(4), 452–460.
  3. Chandrasekeran A. et al Effect of repetitive yogic squats with specific hand position (Thoppukaranam) on selective attention and psychological states Int J Yoga. 2014 Jan-Jun; 7(1): 76–79. PMID: 25035612
  4. Shekhar C and Kumar J. Wrestling: Essay research paper on wrestling history in India International Journal of Physiology, Nutrition and Physical Education. 2019 Jan; 4(1): 1967-1970.
  5. Shekhar C and Kumar J. Wrestling: Essay research paper on wrestling history in India International Journal of Physiology, Nutrition and Physical Education. 2019 Jan; 4(1): 1967-1970.
  6. Longpré HS et al Identifying yoga-based knee strengthening exercises using the knee adduction moment. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2015 Oct;30(8):820-6. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2015.06.007. Epub 2015 Jun 16.
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