How to build a better butt the smart way

Last Sunday, I took a workshop from Kevin Moore of Reembody where we spent two hours breaking down the mechanics of a full range body weight squat. Since then, I’ve been preoccupied with squatting or rather how often I fail to squat.

The thing is we all know we should favor the squatting over bending over. It keeps the work out of our backs and in our butts and legs. However, despite this knowledge and vogue’s proclamation that we have entered the era of the butt, most of us fail to use this motion outside of the gym.

Case in point, even with my obsession with body mechanics, glute strength and hip stability, this week I lost count of the number of times I caught myself bending from my spine when I could have been squatting.

Exhibit squatting to get something. Note the use of multiple joints with upright posture in the spine. Please excuse the unsexy socks.

Exhibit squatting to get something. Note the use of multiple joints with upright posture in the spine. Please excuse the unsexy socks.

This would be my preferred method of bending. Notice how all of the force transfers into my spine.

This would be my preferred method of bending. Notice how all of the force transfers into my spine.

With this awareness came a revelation. If we want to fast track our way to building a more functional, better looking butt, we should make a conscious effort to squat more in addition to our workouts.

Think about it. If we’re lucky, we might be able to devote an hour a day to the gym, but we have hundreds of opportunities to naturally squat in daily life. Working this way would give us extra 15 or so hours a day to practice using our bodies the way they were designed to move.

So that’s my challenge to you. Want a smart, fast way to sculpt your butt without putting in more gym time or more importantly a chance to practice good body mechanics to stave off back pain? Start noticing how you move. If you catch yourself bending over make a conscious effort to squat instead!

Of course, the caveat to this is that not all of us have easy access to pain free, full range squats and change takes time. If you’re in this camp and squatting bothers your joints, I would recommend starting slow, staying in a pain free range of motion and gradually increasing the depth of your squat.

Additionally, corrective exercises are a fantastic tool to better prepare your body for squatting. I’ve included a few squat helpers at the end of this post to get you started.

If you have a lot of fascial restrictions, you may also want to consider learning foam rolling techniques or finding a skilled bodyworker. I’ve found that combining foam rolling or manual therapy with corrective exercise can fast track progress to improving function and getting out of pain.

Also, you can find Kevin Moore’s article on how to do a functional, full range squat here. It is a condensed version of what I learned in his workshop.

On a final note, remember to be patient with your body. Yes, it was built to squat, but if you haven’t practiced squatting regularly for a few decades, your structure isn’t going to be as accommodating to the motion.

Be consistent in your practice and take your time progressing. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get results.

Squat Helpers:

This move will help you increase functional hip flexion, which is necessary for good squat mechanics.

To perform this move, find a long spine, making sure that your pelvis is neutral (i.e. you have a small low back curve present). Your hands should be lined up directly under your shoulders and your knees should be under your hips.

As you sit your hips back, be sure to maintain your neutral pelvis. If you hit a point where your tail tucks under or your back rounds, then you have gone beyond your functional range. If this happens, reset to the beginning and try again. Repeat 8 times.

Additionally, you can focus on keeping your core gently engaged and your head in line with your spine. 

Tight calves can also be a problem child in squatting. This is one way to open up your calves and hamstrings in preparation for squats.

Similar to the first exercise, you will want a neutral pelvis to get the max benefit from this move. To do this, try placing a yoga block, rolled up yoga mat or folded up blanket/towel under your pelvis.

Wrap a band or towel around your foot and try extending and bending your knee 3 to 4 times. After about 4 reps, pause with your leg in the extended position for a few breaths, focusing keeping your ribs heavy in the mat, but not tucking your pelvis.

Tight quads can make for unhappy knees when squatting. An old fashioned quad stretch like the one I have pictured above is a quick way to lengthen the quads. Just be sure that you look more like the picture on the right. You want to keep your pelvis slightly tucked and your knees in line with one another.

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