It’s a question that gets asked all the time, “Should You Squeeze Your Glutes at the Top of Squats?”
You’ll typically be told time-and-time again to “squeeze your glutes” when you squat.
Initially, it’s difficult to determine when you should be doing this, as it doesn’t always feel completely natural.
However, most people agree that you should be squeezing your glutes at the top of a squat.
But, are there any actual benefits to this?
Is it safe for you to do?
Let’s find out
Should You Squeeze Your Glutes at the Top of Squats?
You can squeeze your glutes at the top of squats, but it probably won’t work your glutes to the extent that you would hope for. There are theories that squeezing your glutes may improve post-activation potentiation, which could help you use your glutes more to get you out of the bottom of the squat. With that being said, there is a tendency to thrust the hips forward when squeezing the glutes. This can cause posterior pelvic tilt and hyperextension, which may lead to injury of the lumbar spine.
1. The Glute-Squeezing Debate
Firstly, I think I need to say that I’m not swayed either way on the “squeezing your glutes at the top” debate.
By this, I mean there are two very distinct sides to the coin, although many people (like myself) fall somewhere in the middle.
There has been a huge shift towards glute training over the past decade.
And without wishing to sound sexist, much of this has been incorporated into female training.
Basically, it’s all about the booty.
You’ll typically find that female bodybuilders, fitness models, and even Instagram influencers always squeeze their glutes when they squat.
In fact, most of them squeeze their glutes with pretty much every single exercise, and even in their daily lives.
The aim is to produce that perfect peach of a rounded butt.
I personally see nothing wrong with this.
So, if you want to squeeze your glutes at the top of a squat, or any other exercise for that matter, be my guest.
However, if you were to walk into a powerlifting gym, and then you started to squeeze your glutes when squatting, you’ll probably want to make a very quick exit.
For some reason, glute-squeezing seems to enrage powerlifters to such an extent that it’s actually quite scary.
A powerlifter’s squat will simply involve squatting down and then using every ounce of energy, strength, and muscle to get yourself back up.
If you dare to even think about squeezing your glutes at the top, be ready to face a powerlifter’s wrath and to run for your life.
I’m not entirely sure what it is about glute-squeezing that enrages the big guys so much.
But, I for one, will not be partaking in glute-squeezing if I’m ever training in a powerlifting gym.
Call me a coward.
2. Be Wary of Glute Squeezing
So, as I say, I’m pretty laid back when it comes to glute-squeezing.
I’ll admit that it’s not something I personally do, but I see no harm in you doing it if you so wish.
With that being said, I do have one massive problem with squeezing your glutes at the top of the squat.
The glutes are what are known as hip extensors.
This means that when you activate the glutes you push the hips forward.
However, there is a tendency for many lifters to literally thrust the hips forward at the top of the squat.
What this does is to hyperextend the lumbar spine.
In fact, you’ll typically end up in posterior pelvic tilt at the top of the movement.
So, your hips will be pushed forward, your lower back will be curved, your upper body will be leaning back, and your butt will be tucked in under your pelvis.
This may not cause a problem from rep-to-rep, but it is something that can lead to a serious lower back issue over time.
The aim while squatting is to keep your spine as neutral as possible and for the barbell to move along exactly the same line.
So, the barbell should literally travel down and then back up in a perfectly straight line.
Your spine should maintain its natural alignment throughout the entire movement.
However, when you thrust your hips forward you no longer adhere to either of these principles.
In effect, your main concentration is no longer on squeezing the glutes, but simply throwing your hips forward.
You’ll also see this exact same top position when many people deadlift.
Once again, the hips are thrown forward right at the end of the movement, the butt tucks in under the pelvis, and the lower back becomes hyperextended.
This is not squeezing your glutes, but simply a way to eventually wear down your discs and cause yourself serious lower back problems in years to come.
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3. Glute Squeezing MAY Improve PAP
There are various theories that squeezing your glutes at the top may improve post-activation potentiation (PAP).
Basically, you use a certain exercise (squat) to improve performance in the short-term of a certain muscle (the glutes).
In layman’s terms, the more you squeeze your butt during certain exercises, the better you can expect your butt to perform in a wide range of activities.
In a way this does actually make a lot of sense.
Plus, I think this is why many of the fitness models and Instagram influencers I spoke of earlier are literally permanently squeezing their glutes.
In effect, their glutes are always in an activated state, so when their glutes are called into action during an exercise or activity, they’ll perform to the best of their abilities.
When it comes to squatting, this would mean that your glutes have the required strength and power to get you out of the bottom of the squat.
Realistically, post-activation potentiation in terms of squatting should improve your jumping performance.
So, the more you squat with heavy weights, while squeezing your glutes, the better and potentially higher you can expect to jump.
Whether squeezing your glutes actually improves your squatting performance is yet to be proven.
As I say, there are theories, but no real scientific evidence.
Post-Activation Potentiation – Theory & Practical Application
4. Activate Your Glutes Before You Squat
I’ve mentioned that I’m not personally a glute-squeezer.
I think many people squeeze their glutes at the top of the squat because they believe it activates their glutes.
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However, in truth, the hard part of the exercise is actually over at the top of the squat (more on this in a moment).
For me, if I really want to feel my glutes during squats, I will activate them beforehand.
So, this may entail me performing some bodyweight hip thrusts or glute bridges.
Basically, I’m firing up my glutes with very simple exercises that won’t impact my squatting performance.
I can guarantee that if you perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of bodyweight hip thrusts beforehand, you’re going to feel your glutes during every rep of squats.
Plus, you’ll feel your glutes working to far greater effect than if you were to simply squeeze at the top of the movement.
5. Glute Squeezing is Better With Certain Exercises
I actually think there are certain exercises where glute-squeezing is far more appropriate.
Realistically, squeezing your glutes at the top of squats is nothing more than an afterthought.
By this I mean that all the hard work is already done.
The hardest part of a squat is pushing yourself out of the bottom of the hole.
And you definitely don’t want to be tensing and squeezing your glutes then.
So, for me, I believe that you should focus on squeezing your glutes on exercises that are hardest on lockout.
Once again, the exercises that come to mind are hip thrusts and glute bridges.
When you’re in full lockout at the top of the movement you should squeeze your glutes and hold for a moment, before returning down to the bottom of the movement.
For both hip thrusts and glutes bridges your glutes are working hardest at the lockout at the top, so this is the ideal time squeeze.
When it comes to exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, your glutes are working hardest at the bottom of the movement.
However, this is not the ideal time to squeeze your glutes.
I guess this is why most people squeeze at the top, although by doing so you’ve missed the “main event”.
How to Feel Your Glutes More When You Hip Thrust
Whether you should squeeze your glutes at the top of squats comes down to personal preference.
In fact, people whose training is very glute-focused will swear by doing this.
Whereas, most powerlifters seem to absolutely hate it when anyone squeezes their glutes when they squat.
The “squeeze” may enhance post-activation potentiation, although this is nothing more than theory.
However, if you do choose to squeeze at the top be careful not to throw your hips forward, thus putting you into lumbar hyperextension.
This is guaranteed to lead to future lower back injuries.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.