As much as many of us love to squat for those booty gains, dropping arse to grass simply isn’t for everyone.
Maybe you just can’t nail that all-important technique – so important for preventing injury and reaping the full benefits of the exercise.
Or maybe you have poor postural alignment and mobility in the lower body. This can limit your range of motion, impacting your ability to squat.
A weak core is also an obstacle, putting your back at risk.
Although these issues can be worked on, sometimes the hurdles are a little tougher to tackle. Maybe you have longer legs, or a longer torso that throws your centre of gravity.
Perhaps you’ve got an existing injury that prevents you from squatting.
Even if it just feels wrong, don’t despair. And definitely don’t just give up on your glutes.
Underactive glutes are a common effect of our modern lifestyles which see us sitting down for the majority of the day. But we need them to support our bodies in most of our movements when we actually get out of seated position.
And we’re not just talking your gluteus maximus – you need to work your gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus too. If they are weak, other muscles will eventually overcompensate, resulting in pain and injury.
Squats aside, there are plenty of other exercises you can do to reap the same rewards.
There are a vast range of squat variations that might work better for you, or could be a good accessory to your squat.
For example, the Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that takes the pressure off the lower back, while improving your balance. It also enables you to work hard with a lower weight which is good news for your spine.
Or the sumo squat uses a wide stance to emphasis the muscles of the inner thigh. It can be a more comfortable squat position for some and allows for use of heavier resistance loads. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
This move, known in pilates as the pelvic curl, is a great starting point for a strong derriere.
Its main purpose is to activate and strengthen the glutes, but you’ll also open up the hips, strengthen the hammies, maintain neutral spine and brace your core.
By reaching the arms long, you’ll also engage the upper back. Once you incorporate some spot on breathwork, you’ll have a super versatile exercise in your repertoire.
Not to mention that there are a million ways to progress this movement – single leg bridges, banded, bridges, feet elevated bridges, hip thrusts and more.
So many benefits and not a squat in sight!
The crab walk exercise helps build up strength in the Gluteus Medius muscles, the muscles on the side of your hip, while in a functional, weight-bearing position.
Place a resistance band (choose the tension that is right for you) around the knees, ankles or feet. Keeping the knees externally rotated to engage the gluteus maximus, step outwards to work the gluteus medius.
Maintain tension on the band throughout for an awesome butt workout.
It may not be the most exciting exercise, but the step-up is a great addition to your lower body repertoire and can be done pretty much anywhere.
This hip-dominant exercise should recruit the glutes and hamstrings. That makes it different to a lunge, which is a knee-dominant exercise that targets the quads more.
Master the movement with body weight, just tapping the toe to the floor and driving back up through the heel. Then, once you have nailed the balance and control, add weight.
Great for strengthening the hips, glutes (maximus and medius), and pelvis, the clamshell can also help bullet-proof you from injury and ease lower back tension.
A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy highlighted the move as among the best for hip strengthening – both in terms of injury recovery and prevention.
Lie on your side with knees bent with a resistance band around your knees or a dumbell positioned on the upper thigh. Then open the legs, keeping the feet together, squeezing into your butt.
Isolate the movement so the body doesn’t rotate and the lower back doesn’t kick in. A hand on the hip can help with this.
Even if you are sticking with the squats…
Incorporating some of these exercises into your routine can help with your technique.
This is called glute activation. The body makes the connection from your brain to your muscles, getting them fired up and ready to do some work. It should be done before to your workout, or as active recovery between sets.
Do you love or hate squats?