Functional Achilles Stretch
Sitting in full squat with heels down can be healthful and useful. Squatting for daily life is a built-in Achilles stretch, more effective and functional than the standard "lunge and lean stretch" against the wall, or lowering one heel from a step or ledge. Better Achilles Tendon Stretch shows one Achilles tendon stretch that is effective and quick. Sitting in a full squat is another. Rising from the squat adds functional leg muscle strengthening and balance.
I took the photo, above left, in an airport in Asia. The man was easily sitting to work on his laptop during the hour before boarding. Others were similarly sitting with laptops and mobile devices to get work done. Elders squatted that way to rest.
Achilles Stretch in the Bathroom introduced the full squat as a functional normal daily action used in many countries for resting, washing, gardening, working, washing, toileting, chatting on the phone, and other activities, and gave an idea of how to try it. Save Knees When Squatting explains how keeping the heels down rather than lifting heels to rest on the ball of the foot is safer for the knees. Reader Mim supplied a wonderful link in the comments for a great little film of the Asia squat. More Fun Squatting tells a funny squatting story.
People new to squatting may find their Achilles tendons are too tight to bend in this normal manner. Reader Ivy of New Zealand offered to demonstrate one easy way to practice this stretch in a safe way, and sent the photo at right.
Keep both heels down while holding something sturdy in front. Straighten your arms and lean back to shift weight away from the knee joints.
Squatting can be a nice stretch for your lower back too. I have been working, off and on, for some years on the interesting finding that slight forward spine rounding when just sitting on your heels in the squat (no weights) does not load the spine to the extent of sitting on your behind in a chair. Be smart about trying it or not if you already have damaged knees. When rising, make sure to keep knees back over your feet, not sliding forward, which loads the knee joint, or inward at an angle (narrower than your feet), which can twist the joint. Either action can grind against the meniscus and cartilage.
Done properly, it should feel good on the Achilles and calf, lower back, be good exercise, not hurt the knees, and become an option for a functional stretch and even normal sitting ability.
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