by GREG HICKEY
In order to be ethical in any respect, humans must act, and action requires movement of one’s body. For any movement, three primary questions arise: 1) how much force must the agent apply?; 2) over what distance must the agent apply that force?; and 3) how fast must the agent apply that force? The answers to these three questions define ethical precepts for human movement. They provide the minimum standards for how a human being should be capable of moving.
1. How much force must an agent apply?
To plead weakness out of ignorance, that you never developed the requisite strength because you never expected to find yourself in such a situation seems at first an acceptable, if unfortunate, response. Yet a perfectly healthy adult’s claim that he never expected to find himself in such a dangerous situation seems little excuse for his cowardice, just as a capable adult claiming she never expected to be without a calculator seems little excuse for her not knowing multiplication tables. While uncontrollable circumstances like age or physical or mental disability might serve as acceptable excuses, ignorance does not.
That said, it does seem unreasonable to presume that a trim 120-pound woman should lift a 400 pound sumo wrestler. Likewise, one should not expect an octogenarian or a pre-adolescent child to complete this task. But a healthy adult between the ages of 20 and 35 is certainly capable of lifting his or her own body weight. These considerations lead us to the following ethical precept for human movement:
A human being should be able to lift an object equal in weight to his or her own body off the ground.
A human being should be able to deadlift his or her own body weight.
2. Over what distance must the agent apply a force?3
Much has been said in the CrossFit community about the myriad benefits of squatting. In particular, I am indebted to Dr. Kelly Starrett, DPT, for the concept and basic rationalization of the ten-minute squat test. Here, I build on his explanation to offer a more complete justification of this skill.
According to anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes,
“A quarter of mankind habitually squats in a fashion very similar to the squatting position of the chimpanzee, and the rest of us might squat this way too if we were not trained to use other postures beyond infancy.”4
Children everywhere are capable of squatting in this position, with parallel feet, heels on the ground and hips below the knees, and there are physiological benefits to practicing this posture.
Humans living in rural, under-developed regions where chairs and Westernized toilets are less prevalent report fewer instances of low back pain (LBP) than do affluent populations and residents of urban areas.5 Thus, generally speaking, LBP is less common in areas where people regularly squat, and more common in urban, developed areas where people regularly sit.
Furthermore, according to studies by Israeli scientist Dr. Berko Sikirov, squatting allows for more complete and unstrained elimination during defecation compared with sitting by promoting greater opening of the junction between the rectum and anal canal. In addition to reducing constipation, Sikirov also demonstrated that squatting helped relieve hemorrhoids, a malady rarely seen in the third world.6, 7
A human being should be able enjoy a meal or use the toilet while squatting instead of sitting.
A human being should be able to maintain a comfortable resting squat position for at least ten minutes.