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
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.
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.
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.