With Kim Kardashian trying to break the Internet and rear reflection shots overwhelming the hashtag “#girlswhosquat,” squats have become a fad in the fitness world. But as people journey on their quests for a behind strong enough to support at least a glass of champagne and garage gym lifters simply seek that new personal record, it’s important to check that the glutes are being employed for those squats. Here are a few signs that they might, in fact, be out of use:
- THE BUTT WINK
While it is important to seek full range of motion in a squat, it’s also possible to go TOO far. The “butt wink” is not quite a cute squinty facial expression, as much as it is the position at the bottom of a squat when the pelvis rotates and the hips roll under the body, rounding the lower back into flexion and making it impossible for you to reload the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) to help you stand up. The goal is to reach below-parallel with the hips rolled out so that your pelvis is posteriorly tilted in a position that allows for the glutes to be engaged and the hips then extended.
- STRIPPER STYLE
While we are not claiming there’s anything wrong with pole dancing, we are saying that your torso should remain vertical on the way out of the hole of the squat. If your trunk is leaning excessively forward and the hips are rising first, you’ll find yourself solely loading up the quads, losing tension, and putting stress on your back, and not using the largest muscle in your body to lock out that PR back squat.
- THE GOOD MORNING:
The good morning itself is a great exercise for posterior chain activation and development, but when performed mid-squat, it is not as helpful. If the stripper style squat has occurred, the good morning is the following move used to reach hip extension. Coming from a parallel torso position, the hamstrings are overdriven and the lower back is overloaded and overextended, forcing you to push your hips forward to force the chest back upright. While you might have stood up from a squat like this, you may have done it at the expense of a not-so-good afternoon for your lower back.
- BUCKLING KNEES:
Advanced lifters might get away with a “valgus twitch,” but most squatters should avoid the knees caving in. Often times, this buckling is caused by weak glutes paired with over-engaged hip flexors. If you find your knees nearing one another midway out of the squat, save your knees from a painful meeting by engaging the glutes and extending the hips immediately out of the bottom of the squat so as to properly stabilize your femurs so the knees track over the toes.
If you find yourself suffering these symptoms of glute disuse, several exercises such as single leg glute bridges, wall squats, and clams can be used to make sure your glutes are ready to help you squat, but the first step in waking them up is by simply being more vigilant about what’s occurring during your squat. Rid yourself of these “symptoms,” and you’ll be on your way to breaking that personal record…and perhaps the Internet.