Are Squats Good For Glutes?

Squats are the ultimate leg builder. But they’re also a lot more than just a leg exercise.

The truth is that squats work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and are an excellent lifting move to build overall muscle mass. A question you’re no doubt wondering is are squats good for glutes too? 

The short answer is that yes, squats are a great exercise for activating your glute muscles when performed correctly. 

To save you the trouble of doing all the research, this article will cover all you need to know about squats for glutes. We’ll even cover a few extra things you can do to make the squat even more effective on your gluteal muscles.

Let’s get to it! 

Which Muscles Are Activated During A Squat? 

Squats are a compound movement. This means they incorporate various muscle groups at the same time.

When squatting you’ll be primarily activating muscles in the lower body, but there are also a few upper body muscles that get involved.

The main muscles activated during a squat are:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Core and abdominal muscles
  • Spinal erectors in your lower back

How much your gluteus maximus get involved during the squat move depends on your form, stances and depth of squat.

If you’re interested, you can read here on how much the squat works your abs.

How Can I Make My Glute Muscles Active During A Squat? 

Did you know that you actually have three different glute muscles. These are:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus minimus

You also have lateral rotators located below the gluteus maximus.

Although glute muscles are targeted during a squat, their degree of activation depends on a few factors.

Hinging forward at your hips will put more pressure on your lower back, whereas remaining as straight as possible through your spine, keeping your hips back and squatting low will recruit your big glute muscles into more action.

If you want to give your backside muscles a proper working over, then make sure to keep these 3 things in mind when doing a squat. 

1. Squat Stance 

Everyone has a unique body type, physique and posture, so you should consider these individual traits when lifting weights.

When it comes to the position of your body while doing a squat, ideally, your feet should be at least shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointing slightly outwards. The wider your stance, the more hip abductors become involved, which are aided by your glutes.

To get your glutes activated to their fullest, make sure your hips are externally rotate – this means your knees and quads will be pointing slightly outwards.

By keeping your hips and knees to the outward position, you’ll be engaging your glutes more. The gluteus medius are particularly involved in this external rotational movement.

You’ll also be hitting your inner thigh, which is great for building well proportioned and structured thighs. 

2. Squat Depth 

While you are doing your squat routine, you should check (or get someone else to check) your squat depth. Depth is important.

When squatting, your thighs should be parallel to the ground or slightly lower. A 2016 study shown this was the best depth for glute activation.

An easier way to think about it is having your hips in line with your knees at the bottom of the move. Anything higher than this becomes less effective – don’t be a half rep king or queen!

Realistically, as you progress through your sets and reps, you might find yourself not squatting to proper depth. This can happen through fatigue. If this is happening, decrease the weight you have on the bar.

If you’re looking at seriously working your glutes, squat for good depth as this will recruit more glute muscle fibres.

It’s been shown that performing very deep squats (to the ground) is not the most effective for glutes. However, shallow squats – those were knees are at an angle of just 20 degrees, are actually good for recruiting glute fibres too. This is because it’s mainly hip extension muscles that are involved.

3. Movement Pattern 

There are a few movement patterns you’ll want to look out for to maximise your squat and make them good for your glutes.

The first is to keep your hips backward. Imagine sitting back into a dining chair. You want a good strong core in a nice vertical line as you move up and down.

Hinging forward at your hip takes the focus off your quads and glutes, and put it onto your hamstring and lower back. You run the risk of turning a squat into a good morning, which is never a good look!

You can use training accessories to help you maintain a good movement pattern. I like to squat with a raised heel shoe. This helps me keep my hips backwards and I can feel my quads and glutes working more.

It goes without saying, but concentrate on the muscles you want to work too. Before you start the squat movement down, prime your quads by squeezing them. The same goes for your glutes. A muscle that contracts effectively is what that’s going to work properly grow!

Tips to Keep Your Gluteus Maximus (Glutes) Engaged in a Squat 

group of women performing squats
This should be the half way position of a good squat

Now that you know the ideal foot position and angles, there are a few insider tips to help fully maximise your gluteal work during a squat. 

  • Push into your heels to get more additional pressure on your glutes 
  • Focus on your movement – this will allow you to control your motion, as well as use your glute muscles effectively 
  • Keep your upper body in an upright position to engage your core muscles and stabilise your body
  • Make sure you keep both your hips as well as knees slightly rotated outwards
  • Good form wins over any weight you use during a squat. So ensure your form is perfect before you are involved in strength training squat variation. It’s best if you don’t compromise good form for more weight. 

Variation of Squats for Glutes 

There are numerous ways to enhance glute activation by performing squat variations. By adding these in, you’ll be adding more training volume to the muscles your want to target and stimulate to grow. 

These additional squat variation work your glutes effectively.

Sumo Squat 

The wide stance of sumo squat puts your hips into a greater external rotation position. This actively recruits more glute fibres which play a part in rotating your hips.

A sumo squat involves a starting stance with your feet much wider than shoulder-width. You’ll toes will also be pointed outward. 

Once you’ve got the stance sorted, the idea is to hold a weight, such as a dumbbell or kettlebell, in the centre line of your body with both hands. It’s easier to perform a sumo squat with an individual weight rather than a barbell.

If using a kettlebell it might be worth having your two feet elevated, so you can drop the weight to a lower position as you squat down. Otherwise, your range of motion is going to be short.

Goblet Squat 

There are a few different ways to perform a goblet squat. Firstly, it can be done as a bodyweight exercise or as a weighted movement with a dumbbell or kettlebell. 

You can choose to have just one weight held in both hands, or with an individual weight in each hand. Keep the weight close to your chest and keep your elbows tucked in. As the weight is in a forward position, pressure will be taken off your lower back. 

With the load in a different position than at the top of your back, you’ll be hitting your glute muscles from a different angle.

Resistance Band Squat 

If you’re just starting out with a training program and are not comfortable with weights but still want to elevate your basic squat to build more muscle, then a resistance band could help you. 

Place the loop resistance band right above your knees and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down whilst pushing into the ground through your heels and maintaining outward pressure on the band with a little external rotation.

Resistance bands are often seen being used by ‘influencers’ on the likes of Instagram. They’re by no means a replacement for weight and proper squat movement, but they can be effective for adding a little more tension.

Wrap up on squats for good glutes

Squatting is one of the best exercises for your legs, hamstrings as well as your glutes.

So yes, squats are good for glutes.

To make your squat work more on glute activation, you should check for proper form with your feet at least shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outwards, and squat till your parallel. 

To hit your glutes even more, you can add in squat variations to really hit the different angles to stimulate glute development effectively. 

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