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September 12 2022

Squats and Building a Real Booty

Squats and Building a Real Booty


Squats & Building a Real Booty 

Squats build a good booty right?

Well as always the answer is……….it depends.

To really target the hip extensors and the glutes we require “optimal” biomechanics ? Not understanding these concepts is why some girls end up with massive thighs versus a half decent butt.SockMonkeyHat_1

So when Squatting, what works best for glute development ?

  1. Squat style – Front, Back High bar or Back Squat Low bar
  2. Squat Depth – Partial, Parallel or Full
  3. Stance width – Close, Narrow or Wide
Squat style

The general consensus with the squat is the larger the moment arm the larger the forces at the joint.

More force => More loading => More development

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Image 1: Moment arms 

Based on this concept I’ve always been told that Front Squats have a much larger moment arm at the knees and as such would developed the quadriceps to a greater extent. The Back squat on the other hand has a larger moment arm at the hips and therefore would develop the hip extensors to a greater extent.

Well this is kind of true, in reality you can still do Back squats whilst maintaining a relatively large moment arm at the knee. All you need is the right footwear and ankle mobility.

Example:Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 10.49.32 am

Image 2: The Front Squat has a comparative moment arm at the knee (Figure 1) vs. the High Bar Back (Figure 2 )

What it really comes down to is the positioning of the tibia (or shin bone), the further backwards the knee goes i.e. the more vertical it is the greater the torque loading at the hips, the further forward the knee goes the greater the loading at the knee.

Based on moment arms and loading, if one truly wants to put the majority of the load into the hips they would need to adopt a Low Bar (LB) Box Squat or Powerlifting style squat, where you hold the bar lower down your back and restrict forward movement of the knees.Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 10.43.57 am

Image 3: Back Squat low Bar (LB) vs Back Squat High Bar Placement (HP)

This style of squating has been shown to significantly reduce the stresses at the knee and concomitantly significantly increase the forces at the hips and low-back (5).

In a study looking at restricted knee movement in squats vs. unrestricted forward knee movement in squats they demonstrated

  1. Unrestricted squat: Had a knee torque = 150.1 N and Hip torque = 28.2 N
  2. Restricted squat: Had a knee torque = 117.3 N and Hip torque = 302.7 N


Squat Depth

So what about squat depth ?

Well using EMG to look at the activation of 4 main hip muscles during varying levels of squat depth it was demonstrated Deep squats had the greatest glute activation when compared to Parallel or Partial squats (2).

Glute max activation for varying squat depths: (Using 100-125% of body weight)

  • Partial (Squatting less than 90 degress) = 16.9% Glute activation)
  • Parallel (Squatting Parallel to 90 degrees) =  28.0% Glute Activation
  • Full-depth (Squatting below parallel greater than 90 degrees)= 35.4% Glute Activation

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 12.20.04 pm

Image 4: Squat depths Partial, Parallel or Full Depth 

NB* The problem with this study is you can squat significantly more in a Partial Squat, than you can in a Full squat  as such intensity relative to 1 RM was not really considered.

Stance Width:

As far as feet go, should they be wide, close or in the middle?

Escamilla looked at 3 different stance widths in competitive Powerliftiers

  1. Narrow Stance – (87-118% of shoulder width)
  2. Medium Stance – (121-153% of shoulder width)
  3. Wide Stance – (158-196% of shoulder width)

The findings determined that there was no difference in hamstring or quadriceps activation between stance width 
but that a wider stance had the greatest Adductor longus and Gluteus maximus activation.

But why?

Escallima goes on to say that the Wide and Medium stance had

  1. Greater hip flexion (AKA Depth)
  2. A more vertical shank position (AKA greater moment arm at the hips)

This makes a lot of sense when compared with the study of knee & hip torques in restricted vs unrestricted squatting remember

  1. Unrestricted squat: Knee torque = 150.1 N / Hip torque = 28.2 N
  2. Restricted squat: Knee torque = 117.3 N/ Hip torque = 302.7 N

Very little difference at the knee but a huge difference at the hip


In order to create the “optimal” squatting mechanics for the glutes we should consider 3 main aspects:

  1. Use a Low bar style Back Squat keeping your knees back
  2. Go deep and get as much hip flexion as you can, increasing the stretch on the glutes
  3. Go wide in your stance – Helping you to accomplish an optimal combination of points 1& 2

Disclaimer !!!

There is a big disclaimer on ALL this information and that is that these points only focus on the movement aspects (or kinematics) of the squat.There is no consideration for other glute developing factors such as load, speed, strength curves or volume. These few factors by themselves are game changers

Also you or your clients will need to have the anatomical capabilities to go into full hip flexion in a wide stance, which not everyone can do.

That been said with all things been equal, this is a good guide to help you develop some real butt muscles in the squat.

Stay strong, squat long 😉 


  • McCaw, S. T., & Melrose, D. R. (1999). Stance width and bar load effects on leg muscle activity during the parallel squat. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 31(3), 428.
  • Caterisano, A., Moss, R. F., Pellinger, T. K., Woodruff, K., Lewis, V. C., Booth, W., et al. (2002). The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(3), 428-432
  • Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., & Lowry, T. M. (2001). A three-dimensional 
biochemical analysis of the squat during varying stance widths. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(6), 984-998.
  • A Braidot, M Brusa, F Lestussi and G Parera (2007) Biomechanics of front and back squat exercises
  • FRY, ANDREW C.; Smith, J. Chadwick; SCHILLING, BRIAN K. (2005) Effect of Knee Position on Hip and Knee Torques During the Barbell Squat.