Psycle’s strength expert Ryan weighs in

Having strong glutes has a multitude of benefits that go far beyond aesthetics. The glutes are the largest and strongest muscle groups in your body (comprised of the minimus, medius and maximus) and together work to abduct, rotate, and extend the hips.

Your glutes also play a crucial role in your body’s alignment and help to stabilise your pelvis during running and walking in addition to improving posture; essential for optimal athletic performance and decreasing your risk for injuries in the lower back, groin, knees and hamstrings. All in all, they’re a group of muscles you that perhaps don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to performance – having a nice looking butt is just the cherry (or peach!) on top.

How do squats fit into the equation?

There are many forms of squatting – goblet, pistol, bodyweight, sumo and more, if you’re asking! But with the rise of the quest for the perfect butt, we’ve seen one of the most common version of squats, the barbell back squat, popularised dramatically, too.

If you’re on social media, you’ll be able to relate when we say we’re seeing more and more #bootyworkouts in our feeds these days. This, combined with celebrities endorsing the ‘big booty’ trend, has led the squat to become synonymous with achieving a big butt.

We’re not going to argue that the squat isn’t a phenomenal compound exercise – in fact it boasts a number of benefits such as strengthening your glutes, joints, ligaments, core, hamstrings, quads, lower back, traps, lumbar spine and neck, to name a few. There’s a reason why squatting is a skill we learn as early as infantry, to perform life activities such as sitting down and going to the loo. That being said, squatting can be more complex than it seems, and as a result, can be hard to execute with perfection.

If you struggle with any of the below obstacles when it comes to squatting, you’ll be pleased to know that there are other ways to get those glutes fired up.

Tight hip flexors

If you, like many of us, spend a significant amount of time in the day sat down (at a desk, in the car or on public transport), then you’re likely to suffer with tight hip flexors and hamstrings.

Adding squats to the equation can in some cases create imbalances, as it doesn't allow for a full range of motion. You might find yourself leaning forwards or struggling to keep your chest proud, which in turn encourages the quads to take the majority of the load. Not only does this make it difficult to target your glutes in the squat, but it also ultimately adds to the perpetual cycle of tight hips and over-dominant quads. Put down that barbell…

Limited access to equipment

Squatting (in this context) requires a squat rack, a barbell and plates. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a home gym set-up that caters for this (we’re jealous!), the next option is generally a gym. Once you’re at the gym, this ever-popular squat rack then needs to be available when you need it – and as any gym member knows, this is rarely the case, which can throw you off your entire workout.

If there’s any exercise worth hanging around the weights room for, it’s definitely the squat – but this doesn’t change the fact that the variable of access to equipment could be another potential road block between you and the booty of your dreams.

Trouble with technique

As with any exercise, correct form and technique is essential for maximum results and minimising the risk of injury. But if you don’t have a coach or trainer, making sure your form, tempo, weight and rep range are all correct is easier said than done. In fact, there are a bunch of other variables like your goals, body type and mobility that can also affect how best to use the squat efficiently in a workout.

Incorrect form with the squat can lead to back injuries, strain on supporting ligaments and tendons in the knee area and further imbalances or injuries down the road. The complexity of the move shouldn’t be what puts you off the squat, but you’ll be pleased to know that there are many other ways to activate, build and strengthen the glutes that could be worth exploring.

3 simple squat-free ways to target your glutes

Kettlebell swing

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell with a pronated grip (knuckles forward) on top of the handle. Retract your shoulders and engage your core.
  • Hinge at the hip, allowing the kettlebell to swing between your legs, keeping a slight bend in knees and your weight in your heels. Keep your back flat with a neutral spine.
  • Drive your hips forward to propel the kettlebell up – it should not travel higher than eye level but may take a few reps before reaching this height safely.
  • Hips break parallel at the top, core stays engaged – avoid hyperextension at top of movement.
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing back down with control before immediately repeating the movement pattern to perform the next rep.
  • For the final rep, allow the kettlebell to swing between your legs again, drop your bum towards your heels and place the kettlebell safely on the floor.

Try: 4 sets of 15 reps with 90 seconds’ rest between sets.

Progression: Perform a single-arm variation by switching from one hand to the other at the top of the movement for each rep.

Split squat

  • Start in a split leg position, with one leg forward and one leg back – front foot flat on the floor and on the balls of the back foot.
  • Flex your knees and hips to lower your body down with control until your back knee is an inch from the floor. Maintain good posture throughout the movement, with shoulders retracted and core tight. Keep the front knee in line with the foot as you perform the exercise.
  • At the bottom of the movement, drive through the front heel to extend the knee and hip to return to the starting position.

Try: 4 sets of 15 reps with 90 seconds’ rest between sets (each side).

Progression: Add a double pulse at the bottom of each movement or hold a dumbbell in each hand to add more resistance.

Glute bridge

  • Begin by wrapping a resistance band around your legs about an inch above the knees.
  • Lie on your back with shoulders retracted into floor and core tight.
  • Plant your heels flat on the floor, hip-width apart with approximately a six-inch gap from heels to bum. Place your hands palms down flat on floor by your sides.
  • Drive up through your heels, reaching your hips towards the sky while squeezing your glutes as tight as you can.
  • At the top position of the movement, squeeze your glutes for a two-second hold.
  • Slowly lower back to the starting position, keeping your glutes engaged all the way down. Be careful not to let your hips rotate.
  • Relax completely at the bottom, then squeeze the glutes again to re-engage before repeating the exercise.

Try: 3 sets of 30 reps with 90 seconds’ rest between sets.

Progression: At the top of the movement, laterally open the bands as wide as you can, bring them back to centre.


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