Squats are a must-have staple in any leg-day routine. But since they mostly rely on your quads, you may need to tweak how you do them in order to target your glutes more. So how low can (or should) you go?
For maximum booty gains, your squat depth matters, and you may not be squatting low enough. Deep squats are optimal for growing and strengthening your glute muscles. But before you start dropping it low, make sure your form and mobility are on par.
Start Squatting for Lower-Body Strength
Whether you want to strengthen your glutes, quads or hamstrings, squats have you covered. But the benefits don't stop there. Squats are a fundamental movement pattern that can help you stay injury-free as you perform day-to-day tasks, according to the American Council on Exercise. Just make sure you nail your basic squat before squatting super low.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, hands at your sides.
- Keeping your core tight and back neutral, shift your weight into your heels and push your hips back behind you.
- Keep your chest up as you bend at the knees and lower your hips toward the ground.
- Lower until you reach about 90 degrees or slightly below while maintaining a flat back. Keep your knees pressing slightly out to avoid caving in.
- Pause for a moment, then press into your heels, push your hips forward and return to standing.
Then Drop It Low for Glute Gains
After a few squat sessions, you'll realize the deeper you squat, the harder it is to get back up. Although they're more challenging, deep squats (squatting below 90 degrees) will actually lead to more muscle and strength gain, says Noam Tamir, CSCS, owner and founder of TS Fitness.
"The lower you go, the more strength you can gain," says Tamir. "It does require more stability, mobility and skill, so there is an increased chance for injury." To stay injury-free, follow Tamir's tips below.
- Stand with your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing out slightly.
- Bracing your core, push your hips back behind you and shift your weight into your heels.
- Keeping a flat back, bend at the knees and lower your hips toward the ground.
- With your chest up, lower until your glutes hover a few inches above the ground.
- Push your knees out and keep your back flat.
- Press into your heels and, keeping a neutral spine, return to standing.
Only squat as low as you can go while maintaining good form, Tamir says. If you begin to feel any pain, you should limit your range of motion and stop your squats a little higher.
If you don't quite have the range of motion required for a deep squat, even getting to 90 degrees (or just slightly below) will still boost muscle gain, Tamir says. This depth isn't quite as affective as the deep squat, but it requires less stability, mobility and skill to perform, meaning there's a lower risk of injury.
If you can't squat to 90 degrees, though, you're probably not gaining much strength or size in your glutes (or the other muscles in your lower body), Tamir says. In that case, you'll want to focus on building your mobility and improving your form (see below for some mobility moves).
Now Improve Your Deep Squat
To stay injury-free, your form is top priority as you play with different squat depths. Keep your spine neutral at all times and avoid rounding your back, Tamir says. If you're unable to keep a neutral spine, lower the weight you're lifting or work on your ankle and hip mobility to get into proper position.
Avoid bouncing at the bottom of your squat, no matter how low you go. This little cheat may help you stand up more easily, but it also puts stress on your joints, especially the knees. Bouncing also takes the work away from your muscles, limiting your strength gain. Instead, keep the entire motion controlled.
Knees caving in is another common mistake Tamir sees with deep squats. This can happen if your glutes are weak or if your feet pronate (roll inward). Imagine you're corkscrewing your feet into the floor, he says. This will help lift the arches and activate your glutes.
Deep Prayer Squat
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Push your hips back and lower into a squat, bending at your knees.
- Tuck your pelvis and squat as low to the ground as possible, keeping your feet rooted into the ground.
- Bring your hands to prayer position in front of your chest and press your elbows into your inner thighs to open up the hips.
- Hold here for 20 to 30 seconds before returning to standing.
Child's Pose With Thoracic Spine Rotation
- Kneel on the ground on your hands and knees.
- Sit your hips back toward your heels and, with your feet tucked, rest your butt on your heels.
- Stretch your arms out in front of your body along the floor.
- Bring your right hand behind your head, bending at the elbow.
- Holding the rest of your body still, raise your elbow up toward the ceiling, rotating slightly.
- Pause for a moment, then lower your elbow back down to head height.
- Perform this movement several times, then repeat on the other side.