This article will be interesting for trainers and people that squat, especially if you experience lower-back pain or want to lift more weight with your weighted squat.
A training cue you’ll often hear is “Squeeze your glutes” but did anyone explain to you why you should squeeze them? If no one did, you probably won’t be doing it. When you understand the why, it’s more likely you’ll do it.
FYI: the glutes/gluteals are three muscles and we’re going to focus on the main hip extensor, the gluteus maximus.
Without getting into too many details, the gluteus maximus is connected to your pelvis around the base of the spine, the other part is connected to the upper femur. That connection is not just some dime-sized area, it’s much larger than that.
The pelvis consists of your Sacrum, Illium, Ischium and Pubic bone these last three form your hip bones. Your hips connect you upper-body to your lower-body, the femur and other parts of your legs.
Your pelvis hinges back and forth on top of your femur, together they’re hip joints. Your spine is connected to your sacrum (part of your pelvis). We’re going to be focussing on three things, namely your spine, pelvis, and femurs.
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Let’s approach this from the incorrect point of view first. When asking a beginner to squat deep, they’ll most likely create a range by hinging the pelvis forward and creating forward flexion (leaning excessively forward), they think/feel that bringing the shoulders/head lower to the ground is creating a range, it’s not, not correctly anyway. This commonly goes paired with the hips not breaking past the knee line.
This is usually due to one of the following:
- Misunderstanding the movement
- Lack of flexibility
- Lack of strength
This excessive forward flexion is not a position which was intended for the squat movement. To get out of this position, beginners will use their lower-back to come upright, the back muscles are much weaker and not conditioned for this type of movement from those angles, hence they’ll be complaining to you. The incorrect way to come out of that position is by using your back muscles and let the glutes follow rather than lead, while the proper way is to SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES (Gluteus Maximus) and pull the pelvis upright, letting the spine follow along. Your back muscles and abdominals should just be creating a tight compression around the spine to stay firm and rigid on the pelvis.
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Below is a video I created especially for this article, free access to all registered and logged in Cavemantraining members, not a free member yet? Sign up through one of the buttons below.
Squeeze to contract your bum muscles, squeeze to pull your pelvis upright, squeeze to let your buttocks do the work and not your lower back. This is WHY!
Can be a huge problem for the lower back if you don’t use your glutes to position and move the pelvis because your lower-back muscles will be needing to do the work instead.
What does squeezing of the buttocks apply to?
- Hip hinging
- Bent over rows
… and anything else where the pelvis needs to remain upright, pulled back into upright position, or even lowered via a controlled movement.
Asia and squatting, After spending several years in Asia I noticed that they’ve got the best squatting mobility, even the older people, I’m talking 80, 90 or older. They don’t have this “I’m getting older, I can’t do it anymore” attitude, because they know it’s crap, crap mostly spread by so-called specialists and doctors, “ooh you better take it easy”.
I’ve always wondered if I start prescribing medicine without a license and qualifications I’m a quacksalver, but why is it that these so-called doctors can express their opinions about movement and true physical health when they know jack-all about it? Unless you have a doctor that’s an athlete, trainer or highly active exerciser, then they would be better of to stick to what they know, which is selling band-aids and treating symptoms but not the cause (off course I’m generalizing here, but I’m sure that if you’re on the other side, you’ll forgive me).
On that note, unfortunately, the Western laziness has infiltrated the Asian culture and the majority of younger middle or high-income generation is now hardly able to squat properly.
Working on your squat mobility is so time-consuming! … but it’s not really. Allow me to give you an idea of how I work on my squat mobility and maintain it apart from exercising. Yesterday I went to the cinema and watched a movie in a squatting position while in my seat, I know I might have looked funny, but I don’t care, what’s important to me is my freedom to move, my flexibility, not what others think. While watching TV (rarely) I come into different types of stretching positions, half squat, deep squat, cossack squat, bp stretch, butt on the floor and legs straight, on the knees and so on, I spend my time in different positions while watching TV. Try it, use your time wisely.
Here is a great way to work on your squat depth safely with assistance
If you’re not able to squat deep, you’re missing one of the fundamental movements in life and guaranteed to lose more mobility over the years if you don’t start working on that squat depth right now!
Why hire an expert? Yes, this part is to sell my services and promote those of other expert trainers, because there is still so much misunderstanding about personal trainers, all they’re good for is counting and I can do that myself. Yeah right! If you get a snot nose straight out of school with no experience or qualifications, yeah, you’re probably right, but if you pay more than peanuts, then you might get someone who can help you on your path to freedom of movement, pain-free movement. It’s not something that happens overnight and requires proper progression, the progression that is different for each person. So invest in yourself, rather than waste $100 on a Saturday night out, get yourself a professional and train twice a week, soak up the information, learn, plan, and grow.
I leave you with a few basic cues that I use to cue my athletes for the squat:
- Feet just outside hip width
- Keep your heels on the ground at all times
- Brace the core muscles
- Squeeze the buttocks
- Breathe in all the way down
- Knees forward
- Break at the hips
- Slowly relax the buttocks just enough to lower while maintaining proper pelvic alignment
- Keep torso upright
- Look ahead
- Keep knees in line with hips and feet
- Squeeze the glutes to protect the lower back
- Breathe out all the way up
- Press the heels into the ground to activate the hamstrings
- Full hip extension
Bringing the arms up into the air can help assist remaining upright.
Butt wink is not a huge problem to worry about with bodyweight squats, but with heavy weighted squats it is, to avoid this, squeeze more or stop just before the pelvis starts tilting excessively.
I hope you enjoyed my rant about squeezing the buttocks, don’t forget to check out Cavemantraining Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram for more cool and unconventional stuff related to fitness and health.