To Squat or Not? That is the question!


This post is going to talk about why squats may not be the best exercise to get a nice booty. I know what you’re thinking. “Shawna, you’re crazy because squats are one of the best exercises to get a nice derriere.” I’m not going to disagree on that. There are, however, a few reasons why they may not be right for you.

One of the reasons why might be that you don’t have great technique. You may have poor technique because a) you’ve never done squats before or b) you sit at a desk all day long. If you’re not at work, you’re sitting in your car on the way home, sitting at the dinner table or sitting on the sofa in the evening. Between all of that sitting, your hip flexors tighten, pull your hips forward and change the position of your pelvis. Even though you may know how to do a squat, you may not be able to get into the correct posture or position to do it properly. If you aren’t in the proper position, you may not be activating your glutes to do what they are supposed to do.

Another reason that squats may not be helpful for you is because sometimes (big word alert), your neuromuscular connection may not be firing properly. That’s the nerve-superhighway that connects your brain to your muscles. It tells them when to fire and how hard to fire. Your glutes are one of the most common muscles to have that connection shut down. Somehow it gets disrupted or disjointed. Because it’s not sending a strong signal to your bum muscles to squeeze, you’re not able to squat properly. Or you’re not able to get the benefit from the squat in terms of strengthening those bum muscles. You might be able to squat, but chances are good that you’ll be using other muscles to compensate for what your glutes aren’t doing.

This problem is true for me. I was squatting like crazy. I was not seeing any changes to the shape or tone of my bottom because it wasn’t firing properly. I could do squats all day and not feel it in my bum. I know this is super common because I saw it all the time in my 10 years of working in the gym. Want to know if your bum isn’t working properly? Despite doing exercises to activate your bum, it will still be flat, soft and saggy. And that’s sad. You want your effort to give you results. (I know I did!) Here’s a few tips to help make sure that your glutes are firing properly to get a nicely shaped bum.

The first tip is to help you focus on what that neuromuscular (brain-muscle) connection is doing. Start with your hand on your bum and give it a light squeeze, or give it a light poke/tap. (Hey not like that- keep your mind out of the gutter!) You’re telling it to wake up. At the same time you are tapping it, try to squeeze your bum muscles and extend your leg backwards. You’re bringing your heel towards the wall behind you in a small range of motion. Don’t try to kick up to the ceiling. Your heel only needs to go back about a foot to make these muscles work. Make sure that you keep your hips level, no hip popping! It’s a nice slow controlled motion.

Another exercise are lying clamshells or a version of it at your desk. The desk version starts with sitting on a chair with your hands on the outside of your knees. You’re going to do what’s called an isometric contraction. That’s where you don’t actually move in one direction or the other while doing the exercise. To do that, you need to do two motions at the same time. You’ll push your knees in with your hands. At the same time you’ll push your knees out into your hands. To do this correctly, push out as hard as you push in so that neither your hands or your knees move.

The clamshell version starts by lying on one side with your hips stacked on top of each other. Your heels stay together like they are velcroed (is that a word??) together. The arm that’s on top can have two options. You can put it on your bum to make sure that you don’t rock forward and back. Or you can put it on the ground in front of you to stabilize your body. To do the exercise, lift your top knee towards the ceiling as far as you can go without tipping back. To make it harder, you can wrap tubing around your knees. While you’re doing the exercise you can incorporate the tapping technique from the first exercise to poke your bum awake. 

The final exercise we’ll explore is a controlled chair squat. If you currently do weighted squats, this is a great warm up to do before you jump into using weight. Sit on a chair or bench. Start with your knees at 90 degrees and then tuck your heels back a bit. (If you keep them at 90, you’ll need a ton of arm momentum to stand up. This defeats the purpose of the exercise!) From there you’re going to stand up nice and slow. At the top, you’ll push your bum back and sit down as slowly as you can. No dropping into the chair! If this is really challenging for you to do, use your hands to help support some of your weight. Control is your friend on this one. Slow and steady wins the race.

I hope these tips were helpful to you to get your bum firing.

Want to improve your fitness but not sure where to start? Book a free consultation to learn how health coaching might be the right fit for you. Email Shawna to set up your free consultation.