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The Right Squats For Better Glutes

ultimate sandbag

It is “Squatober” so we want to really explore and think about how people think about squats. Yes, it is REALLY easy to say, “just squat”, but does that assume all squats are the same? Obviously we have no shortage of squats we can perform, how in the world do we decide which squats are the best for fitness goals, especially when it comes to developing the glutes. What do we need to consider?

For one, A LOT of people just don’t know HOW to squat! That doesn’t make them a bad person, but before we get into butt wink, best tools, and so forth, we just have to make sure people own some of the foundations of squatting. As we have been talking a lot about in our blogs, connecting the core from the bottom up and top down is really key in developing good squats.

While one of the easiest forms of accomplishing this is using bands for cuing, most people still don’t realize how to optimize the bands for squats. How so?

  1. They only put bands around the knees, since the feet are imperative to what happens to the knees, cuing the feet (possibly putting bands on them) and greatly enhance what happens not just at the knees but the hips as well.
  2. When bands are around the knees, they don’t work by magic just because they are on your legs. You want to be active and try to “break” the bands apart to create the external rotation of the hips that allow us to stabilize, use more glutes, and get deeper into our squat.

This isn’t to add complexity and unnecessary cuing to your squats. Instead, it is to use tools like bands as another coach that can help people learn how to use their bodies smarter!

Core Top Down

While I’m not a big fan of powerlifting for most people, we can recognize some of the strategies they use to lift big loads. One of those is they do consciously try to connect their core from “top down” in creating a lot of tension against the barbell by pulling the upper back “tight” together.

If that is a good strategy to connect the core, why don’t I like it for most people? For one, most people don’t have the ability to tell you the state of their spine. Research has shown time and time again as we age that our spines change. That change doesn’t immediately mean greater pain, but if we start loading it without knowledge of how those changes can impact how our spine can tolerate the loading then we could be leading people down a path of pain.

Combine that time and time again there is research pointing to front loading of squats resulting to the SAME effect on the body as the back squat, it makes you don’t want to play that game of Russian roulette with your or other’s health. With that said, how does connecting the core from the top down impact our squats and glutes?

As spinal expert, Dr. Stuart McGill points out, it isn’t until deeper positions of the squat where we get the hips externally rotating (when the hips “widen” often is seen with the knees going outwards and we make “room” for the pelvis) do we get really great action of the glutes. When we connect the core to a higher degree we actually can get deeper into our squats and therefore get better glute training. How deep do we go? Using the infamous “butt wink” as a guide can often help determine that.

What DVRT Master, Cory Cripe and I show through this different DVRT squats is how we use the load of the Ultimate Sandbag to make stronger connections. Our Press Out leads us to being able to use heavier loads in the Front Load. The concepts don’t change though!

DVRT Master, Larisa Lotz, shows how we can provide more feedback if people tend to lose tension on the core. Slowing things down is a BIG key in creating greater success in our squats. 

With that all said, something that is OFTEN missed is that no matter how we are loading the squat, we need to “DRIVE” from the bottom through the feet so our pelvis “locks”. While many on social media never come to the true top of the squat, they miss THIS is the point where the glutes get VERY active and work with other muscles to help stabilize our pelvis. In other words, stop the “pulsing” squats that never come to full hip extension!

Change Stability

Our industry is stuck! No matter how much science you give, people have a hard time realizing load can be misleading. I get it, how can something lighter be more powerful than something heavier? Of course if all the information we have about a movement is the load, you are going to select the heavier loading (assuming good form is in play).

That is until we learn that body position, load position, and other variables can impact how our body perceives stress. As Dr. Stuart McGill points out, even for those that wish to simply LOOK better, functional training concepts like we share in DVRT may be key…“For bodybuilders wanting to develop the gluteal muscles, they’ll need to address the two major neuromuscular compartments in the glutes. The high lateral glute is developed with loaded carries or with most one-legged resistive squat exercises. The low posterior glute is mainly challenged in the bottom half of the squat.”

Jessica already gave some great loaded carry ideas that definitely build the glutes in this manner (check it out HERE) but how about those single leg squat exercises? Sounds great, but the problem is most real people can do anything close to single leg squats, so how can we build them up?

For one, lateral squatting movements can be more friendly to many people because the wider base doesn’t require as much stability as some of the more familiar versions. Even then, we can still apply our squat concepts to help build better mobility in an often under trained position!

That leads us to split squats that are in many programs, but can be difficult to again, help people stabilize in performing well. So many people lack that frontal plane stability of the pelvis because they don’t train the glutes correctly and look like they are walking on a tight rope. So, physical therapist, Jessica Bento (the pretty one here), shows how she uses core stability to help reinforce these concepts.

Learning such strategies is how someone with 5 disc herniations in their spine, completely torn rotator cuffs and a troublesome husband can train hard, heavy, and move with great fluidity and agility. Most of all, they can train their body to feel better as well as look and be as strong as possible. What we do in DVRT is what we live everyday because exercise should make our bodies more resilient and feel our best, not beat us up! When you see the concepts we teach in DVRT like giving more purpose to your squats, empowers you to achieve the same in your training. It is about being a solution to giving people that makes a difference in the quality of their lives!

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