Knowing what parts of your body you want to target is important when it comes to stepping into the gym and working out. If you go in there without direction, you will be wasting your time. Squats fit well into a lower body workout because they activate multiple muscles below the belt line. If you are looking for bigger hips, the squat is a good choice, provided certain conditions are met.
Muscles of the Hip
The hips contain several large and small muscle groups. The gluteus maximus, medius and minimus sit on the back of the hips and a small muscle called the tensor fascia latae sites on the side. The glutes get activated when you perform hip extension. This takes place when you move your thigh backward. The tensor fascia latae gets worked when you move your thigh outward in what's called abduction, and when you move your thigh upward. This upward motion is called hip flexion. Being that the squat involves hip extension and flexion, it works the glutes and tensor fascia latae, which in turn makes them bigger.
Proper technique needs to be addressed for squats to effectively increase hip size. If you do not move through a full range of motion or use proper body mechanics, you will not achieve favorable results. Begin the exercise with your feet spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Either place your hands on your hips or rest them at your sides. Keeping your abs tight and back straight, slowly lower yourself down by bending your knees. Once your thighs parallel the floor, rise back up and repeat. As you lower yourself down, push your butt backward and pretend that you are sitting into a chair.
The basic squat is effective for working the hips when you first start out, but to increase your size you are best served using added resistance. Either rest a weighted barbell across your upper shoulders behind your head, or hold dumbbells down at your sides with your arms fully extended.
Other Muscles Worked
Compound exercises work more than one muscle at a time. They do this because they involve more than one joint movement. The main benefit of compound exercises is that they recruit a high amount of muscle fiber, leading to favorable gains in size. Squats fall into this category and they work more than just the glutes. In addition to hip extension and flexion, you also perform knee flexion and extension. Knee flexion takes place when you bend your knee and move your heel closer to your butt. Knee extension takes place when you straighten your leg. These motions cause you to work your quadriceps and hamstrings which sit on the front and back of the thighs, respectively.
A single-leg split squat is a variation that enhances the emphasis on the hips. You need a weight bench to do this exercise. After placing the top of your right foot on the bench with the bench behind you, lower yourself down by bending your left knee. Rise back up steadily, repeat for a set of reps and switch sides. You also have the option of propping your foot up on a stability ball. Holding dumbbells in your hands will increase the emphasis on your glutes even more.