Go From Squat Beginner to Expert

Must-know Tips and Techniques

Squats can be the ultimate intimidator. But don’t stress— I’ll walk you through it and get you building glutes, quads and hamstrings like a boss!

Proper Form

There’s nothing more inefficient to me than performing squats without proper form. Without the form, you’re just going through the motions and pulling power from anywhere in order to rise up from the bottom position— most likely your more dominant muscles and definitely your hip flexors. Basically, your body compensates where it needs to in order to keep up with the demands you’re putting on it. Doing this makes you look super cool in the gym but keeps growing your dominant muscles and keeps compromising your hip flexors. You’re left with some burnt calories, a big ego, weak glutes and stressed hip flexors. Personally, I’d rather be the geeky girl in the gym performing squats with a weight light enough to nail the form and go up from there.

Go From Squat Beginner to Expert

My goal is to get you out of the Smith Machine (there is nothing wrong with practicing squats in the Smith Machine— I just want to see you build confidence by mastering them in the squat rack) and working on that booty!

The first order of business is to watch my Sculpted Leg Video Series. In this part of the series, I provide detailed instruction to help you master the correct form and activate your glutes while training legs. It is SO important that you go through my detailed glute activation warm-up in this video to get your glutes ready to work during squats.

There are two reasons your glutes aren’t developing like they should be after regularly incorporating squats into your workout routine: weak glutes and tight hip flexors. If you can’t help leaning forward while you get low in a squat, it is less about balance and more about your weak glutes and tight hip flexors. Your glutes aren’t pulling their weight during the movement, so you activate and tight up your hip flexors in order to squat low. STOP! Don’t even think about grabbing a weight until you learn your body and know at which point in your squat your glutes lose activation.

I test this often with bodyweight squats. You don’t even need a mirror— just get into position and perform a bodyweight squat putting ALL your focus and concentration on your glutes. With perfect form, go as low as you can, keeping your glutes activated. You will feel when you start to lose that glute control and as soon as you do, keep your glutes contracted while you rise up. This will be a major ego check from your “ass to grass” squat form, but your bubble butt will thank me after several months of this new practice!

Box Squats

One of the best ways to begin “retraining” your glutes during squats is to practice box squats:

• Grab a standard weight bench from your gym (you can use a low box or aerobic step bench, too) and place it inside the squat rack. Position it so that you are centered at the bar with your legs on either side of the bench.

• Remember to leave the ego out of this new technique and start with either no weight at all or just the bar.

• If you’re using a bar, unrack it and get into position.

• Move your hips into a full anterior tilt (booty out, tailbone shifting backward, lower back arched slightly) and keep a soft bend in your knees.

• Keeping your chest lifted and your hips shifting backward, move down into the squat, keeping an exaggerated anterior tilt.

• Once you feel your glutes just barely touch the bench, it’s time to reactivate your glutes and rise back up. It’s perfectly fine to pause there (don’t completely sit on the bench) while you work on the mind-muscle connection to your glutes to get them activated before rising up.

• Squeeze your glutes and drive with your heels to rise back up.

• Watch my video closely to see the anterior tilt of my hips before going down into the squat each rep. Try to think of your squat as less of an “up and down” movement with your body and more of the hip (and tailbone) motion moving backward and forward.

I know you can do it! It won’t be long before you work your way back up to the squat weight you knew before— now you will be getting SO much more out of the effort and will begin growing your glutes!

Jessie Hilgenberg

Jessie is an IFBB Figure Pro, Team NLA for Her & Bodybuilding.com Athlete, registered yoga instructor, health & fitness coach, bootcamp director and fitness model. Her goal is to inspire others and illustrate that a healthy lifestyle of training with intensity, staying consistent and eating clean can truly change your life!

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