Knowing how to perform squats safely and effectively is key to seeing results. Specifically, if you want to grow your gluteus muscles (or “glutes”), there are a few important factors to keep in mind.
First, Jim White, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer in Virginia Beach, VA, notes that there is no official magic number of squats that will automatically show results. But most trainers agree on a similar ideal starting point: squatting two to three times a week for roughly three to five sets of eight to 12 squat reps. (Find out exactly how long you need to hold a plank to flatten your belly.)
How to incorporate squats into your exercise routine
The specific weight used, however, may vary based on skill level and mobility—but not necessarily gender. “The amount lifted will depend on factors such as the person’s own body weight, fitness level, age, and body structure and leverages,” says Robert S. Herbst, 19-time World Champion Powerlifter in Larchmont, NY. Herbst advises breaking up your squatting frequency as well and including rest days between your squat workouts.
If you’re looking for exactly how to execute this leg-strengthening exercise, check out the tips for how to do a squat. Herbst emphasizes that you shouldn’t lean forward too much, which could stress your lower back. And don’t allow your knees to bow inwards, either.
Vary your squats for more gains
Even if you stick to a strict squatting routine, you are only hurting yourself if you perform them improperly, says personal trainer Paul Kostas, a certified personal trainer and the director of personal training at the Brooklyn Athletic Club in New York, NY. “Muscles respond very well to being loaded at a full stretch, or end range of motion,” Kostas says. “Squatting all the way down, even with less weight, will promote growth and strength, as well joint health.” (Need a workout to get you started? Follow this 10-minute lower-body plan.)
Ariel Osharenko, a physical therapist, USA Olympic weightlifting coach, and personal trainer and founder of On Point Physical Therapy in New York, NY, says to check your ego at the door when it comes to a starting squat weight. “As you gain strength over time, you can begin gradually increasing the weight you squat,” he says. “You don’t want to make the mistake of squatting too heavy, which could lead to injury if done improperly.” Combining too-heavy squats with improper form could also lead to muscle imbalances, Herbst warns.
To get the most out of your squats, you should also include different variations. According to James Shapiro, a certified personal trainer in New York, NY, not changing up the type of squat you perform is a missed opportunity for growing the glutes. “Variations are key, and sometimes using a goblet squat, sumo dumbbell squat, or Bulgarian split squat can be as or more efficient than a normal bodyweight or barbell squat,” Shapiro says.
Once you have the proper technique down, incorporating additional lower body moves such as lunges will help bring the biggest glute gains. And in addition to a stronger and larger butt, Osharenko says squats are especially great compound moves that can help you gain power, increase core stability, and improve joint health and flexibility. In other words, all the more reason to squat it out. If you’re looking for the exercises that turn up the burn, check out these workouts that torch the most calories.