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How to (REALLY) Engage Your Glutes When You Squat

When it comes to glute engagement in the squat, people really talk a lot of crap.

You hear advice like –

“Use a super wide stance” or “Go as low as you possibly can” – neither of which will do jack for hitting your glutes when you’re under a heavy barbell.

At the same time, there are those who say you don’t need to worry about your technique. Just squat heavy and your glutes will be forced to grow. That’s B.S too – we all know someone with a freakishly strong squat, but no junk in the trunk.

So what’s a guy to do?

You definitely don’t want to descend to the depths of Instagram fitness model workouts, where you’re doing plie squats, high-rep jump lunges and glute kickbacks (even if that IS what Jen Selter tells you to do.) But at the same time, you want to grow yourself some head turning glutes.

And so, because no girl likes a guy with an ass resembling a pancake, here’s what you need to do:

Glute Growth Factor #1 – Volume

To build muscle, you need to focus on increasing your volume over time.

There’s no getting round the fact that progressive overload comes first and foremost here. That doesn’t mean you can keep on doing a ton of light weights for high reps, and just add more over time though – you still need to be under sufficient load (i.e. mainly in the 6-12 rep range, with some lower-rep and some higher-rep stuff as and when) to build butt muscles.

You Don’t Need Fancy Shit

The idea that you need different glute-specific variations of the squat is a misnomer.

All you really do by constantly changing your stance, or switching back and forth between box squats, paused squats, high bar, low bar, feet turned out, feet straight ahead, slow eccentrics, fast eccentrics, and so on, is ensure that you never do one variation often enough to see any gains.

Instead, all you need to do is back squat right, and your glutes will grow.

Tip 1 – Squeeze at the Top

Let’s start with the beginning of the movement.

Before you even start your descent, you want your glutes squeezed hard. Get the bar on your back, pull that bastard down hard by engaging your lats and rhomboids and attempting to pull it apart. Then, before you take your breath, squeeze your glutes as if you’ve just been caught short with no bathroom the night after having the world’s hottest curry.

Do that, and your glutes are ready to go.

Tip 2 – Screw the Floor

Start your descent by imagining you’re “screwing your feet into the floor.”

People often talk about pushing your knees out or sitting back, but if you think about screwing your feet out and twisting them into the floor, these other cues happen automatically and you’ll feel your glutes engage as you go down.

Tip 3 – Go Slow, But Not Too Slow

 Divebomb your squat, and you’ll get little to no glute activation. Plus, you run the risk of losing all control and not making it out of the hole.

Instead, take 1-2 seconds to hit depth, all the while still thinking about screwing your feet.

Tip 4 – Break Parallel

Your glutes won’t come into full effect until you’ve broken parallel (i.e. the point at which your hip crease is lower than your knee joint.)

Too low though, and you’ll lose tightness, which kind of links in with the divebomb technique mentioned above.

Olympic lifters can get away with this, as they’re well-versed in using the kinetic energy from a super fast descent, plus the demands of their sport means it’s more applicable. For everyone else though, a slower descent and just breaking parallel is the way to go, especially if you want to grow your glutes.

Tip 5 – Squeeze (Again)

As you start to rise from the bottom, rather than just trying to stand up, focus on pushing your hips forward, and trying to achieve the same position you were in at the start, with your glutes squeezed tight, knees and feet pushed outward.

Tip 7 - Use the Right Accessories

Just because some glute-specific exercises are a waste of time doesn’t mean they all are.

While the back squat is just about the best glute-builder around if done right, you’ll get a load of benefit from using other movements as accessories too.

Paused squats are particularly effective, especially if you concentrate on pushing your knees out hard, and really sitting back into your hips while you’re in the hole. Don’t use it as an excuse to relax though – keep that pressure on and aim to achieve “nosebleed status” as you squeeze everything hard.

Slow eccentric squats to a box are brutal too. Do them correctly and you’ll feel your glutes engage more and more throughout the descent. As soon as you hit the box, drive up hard and fast.

Safety bar squats, pin squats and even dumbbell step-ups get honorable mentions here too.

Always do your back squats first, then add in a few sets of one accessory exercise each lower body session.

Tip 8 – Get Activated

 A few carefully-selected activation moves can turn your squat from a quad overload to a glute-fest in just a few minutes.

As part of your warm-up routine, throw in a couple of sets of 20-30 glute bridge raises, a set or two of X-band walks, some seated band abductions, and a few frog pumps or banded hip thrusts for high reps, with a pause at the peak contraction on each.

Now you should feel those buns burning.

Get Glutes and Get Strong

 If you’re thinking that bigger glutes are just for the ladies, or for guys who like to wear tight leather pants on a Friday night, think again.

The glutes have a huge potential for strength and power, and a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle.

Not just that, but you don’t need to neglect your beliefs by dropping back squats in favour of any new-age, heat of the moment exercises. Just implementing these tips into your regular back squat workouts can make you a butt-building badass, and add pounds to your total – no Tracy Anderson-style glute kickbacks required.

About The Author

Mike Samuels runs online coaching business Healthy Living Heavy Lifting.

He loves flexible dieting and specializes in getting clients lean while eating cake and ice cream!

Mike has competed in men's fitness and bodybuilding competitions, and is also a record holder in the Great British Powerfliting Federation.

You can contact him at -

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