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Squats: Should I Squeeze My Glutes?

OK....before I launch into this, I have to clarify that this is a PURE OPINION PAPER...I (Nate) have not found any good studies that justify what I'm about to say to you...so view this as an anecdotal rant....

“Pressure on your heels!”


“SQUEEZE YOUR CORE!”


“SQUEEZE YOUR BUTT AS HARD AS YOU CAN!”


“HOLD YOUR BREATHE!”


“PULL YOUR ARMS BACK!”


“PUSH YOUR KNEES OUT!”


“SQUEEZE SQUEEZE SQUEEZE!


Squatting has certainly gotten its share of cues over the years, but of all the cues given in the squad, there are two that I have seen mess up bodies more than any other.


  1. Pick up your toes

  2. Squeeze your butt as hard as you can


For the sake of this article, I will only talk about the second one.


There was a period of time where everybody constantly talked about over training their glutes.



....EVERYONE....


This resulted in athletes and coaches alike doing everything they could to get people to squeeze their glutes as hard as they could.


SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES WHEN YOU WALK. SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES WHEN YOU SIT...SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES WHEN YOU SQUAT!


This trend happened shortly after I blew out my back skydiving and I realized that I could get some short term discomfort by “turning on my glutes “


The short term pain relief was incredibly addicting. I managed to stay pain-free for about 20 minutes after repetitive butt squeezing.


Whenever I did squats, I contorted my body into strange positions because LORD FORBID I BECOME QUAD DOMINANT!! The result? I developed a wing butt.....yep...I said it... a WING....BUTT.... It's like love handles but for your butt, and they're all muscle. Best I can figure, they were my smaller glute muscles (med and min) becoming overactive.

In the end, I developed weaker and weaker hamstrings and quads, and a ridiculously overactive butt/core. My pain got worse. But more importantly, my colleague's clients go through the same process. See, it doesn't matter that much if you're a college kid and your body is working perfectly - but if you're someone who has had to struggle with muscular dysfunction, you know the window for error is very small. In pure frustration, I finally decided to ignore everything I had learned about squat and just move slow with a light bar on my back. For about a month, I only felt hamstrings...no butt, no quad, no core...just hamstrings. Surprisingly, that sensation began to shift and I felt only quads...no butt, core or hamstrings. Another month later and I felt only butt.... And in month four, I felt my entire lower body engage... Here's the thing, I'm not totally sure if the cue to "squeeze the glutes as hard as I could" was to take all the blame...certainly making an effort to engage muscles in weight training has lots of benefits. Butt it was a lesson to me that it's possible to work so hard on forcing the body to do "The right thing" that you can actually get in its way. If you are doing well with your "squeeze your butt as hard as you can" cue, keep it up...but if you're hitting a wall of pain and frustration, try changing your tactic and giving your body room to correct itself. you might be surprised at what you find. In good health, Nate


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