Complete Guide To Real Life Squats Part 3: How To Use More Butt

by May 15, 2021Exercises, Squatting

Squat TECH! Today I’m talking technique – how to optimize your squat to build sustainable strength (make sure to check out the earlier posts in this series – squatting basics and how to untuck your pelvis).⠀

I like squats that use lots of backside – butt and hamstrings. Better for your ✅ pelvic floor, ✅ better for your low back, ✅ better for your knees.

It’s not that it’s wrong to use more quads (the fronts of our thighs) – but it’s typically our default option and I like adding variety to help give you more options. Especially since using the back side more has so many benefits for modern bodies!

The good news: there’s a simple trick to get into your back line. Today, you’ll learn my favourite way to increase the amount of butt in your squat.

tight forearms

Where Do Your Knees Go When You Squat?

When you bend your knees and they move ahead of your ankles, you default to using more quads.

When your knees stay over your ankles, you default to using more butt & hamstrings.

So if you want to use more butt & hamstrings, you just need to practice keeping your knees above your ankles as you transition in and out of your squat.

Remember – it’s not wrong for your knees to go forward. No doubt they will have to at some point in your squat. BUT the earlier they go, the less butt you get involved.

That means your shins & knees need to stay vertical above your ankles for more time during your squat.

Feel How Knee Position Changes Your Squat

Here’s a simple way to feel the difference between knees forward and shins vertical.

➡️ Bend your knees a bit and let them come forward over your toes. Notice where you feel the load.

➡️ Now pull your knees backward so that they’re vertically aligned over your heels (keep them bent!).

Did the load change? Where do you feel it now? I’m guessing dollars to doughnuts that it’s more in your butt and hamstrings than it was when your knees shot forward right away.

Try this a few times to really get a sense of how it feels in your body. Just simple mini-squats – alternate between knees going forward and vertical shins.

Pro tip: Think about untucking your pelvis as you bend your knees – this will help you keep your shins vertical for longer.

How To Dial In Your Vertical Shin Mini Squat Technique

For home practice – work on your vertical shins with mini squats!

Don’t go down so far that you need to put your shins forward (it’ll always happen eventually – we just want to delay it a bit during your transitions).

For best results work with a mirror or a video so you can be sure that your shins are actually vertical! Another way to tell? Watch your feet as you do your mini squat. You should be able to see the top of your foot the whole time – if your knees cover your feet, you know they’ve gone forward!⠀

The most common mistake I see when I teach this live is that people *think* their shins are vertical when really they’re coming forward.

That’s fine –  it’s a learning curve!

But to go up that curve faster, do yourself a favour and work hard to observe your knees here! You can put a chair in front of your knees to give you some feedback if you would like a bit of extra help.

You can also take a video of yourself from the side and post it in my Move Better Live Better group on Facebook if you want my comments!


Here’s Another Great Way To Practice Vertical Shin Squats

Once you feel like you ‘get’ the vertical shin thing, you can start making things more challenging!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

To really start working our back line, we’re going to start from seated and try getting up without our knees going forward.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

The goal here is to keep our shins vertical the entire time, from where we start to when we’re standing.

Does this mean your knees should NEVER go forward in a squat?

No, no, no – knees are gonna go forward at some point. But – most people’s knees go forward immediately & that’s going to put you right into the fronts of your legs and not be very helpful.

We’re doing this to help wake up the hamstrings and posterior tissues, increase the amount of time that your knees don’t NEED to go forward, and lengthen and strengthen your back line for overall better squats. And a happier pelvic floor!

Here’s what to do⠀⠀

✅ Start with a test – sit on a chair, lean forward to untuck your pelvis, and stand up – observe whether your knees came forward. Use a mirror, video camera or friend – observing is the hardest part!

✅ If they did, try again and see if you’re able to maintain knees vertically over ankles.

✅ Try this a few times to see if you just need a bit more practice.

If your knees keep going forward, make it easier by sitting on something higher!

✅ Sit on your half dome or a rolled up towel (this will also help you with the untucking motion), or even use a higher chair.

✅ As you initiate your squat, think about dragging your heels back behind you as you untuck your pelvis and reach forward with your hands for counter balance.

✅ Knees still shooting forward? Sit on something higher! Or go back to the previous exercise and work on vertical shin mini-squats a bit longer.


The Chair Squat Is Easy To Practice!

The nice thing about the chair squat is that you can practice it often (as long as you sit in chairs regularly, anyway!). Here’s a video I made with more cuing to help you experience it a bit more. 


Keep Practicing Your Squat & Untucking!

Mini squats like in this post are great for developing your squatting capacity! But since they don’t really load our ankles, there’s more to explore! Keep practicing and stay tuned for the next installment in this series.


Hi! I’m Petra! I’ve transformed my body and my life with better movement, and now it’s my passion to share this amazing work with anyone who wants permanent natural solutions to body pain and who wants to keep doing all the things they love every day of their life!

Get Rid Of Foot Pain - Naturally - And Build Life Long Foot Health, Strength & Flexibility

Get Rid Of Foot Pain - Naturally - And Build Life Long Foot Health, Strength & Flexibility

Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body – and she’s always happy to chat about it. When she’s not teaching, you’ll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars.


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