Do Squats Make Your Butt Bigger? [The Science Explained]


Is it just me, or does it feel like the new flat stomach is a big butt?

Everyone used to starve themselves (I guess some still do) to achieve a 6 pack or a flat stomach.

Now we have people out here obsessing over getting a big booty. And while I am all for it, let’s also remember that we need a strong butt for several daily activities, not just to look good in a pair of jeans.

The internet is flooded with booty band workouts, and “under butt” blasting exercises, most of which just look stupid and are a waste of time.

So let’s chat about how to actually build a booty, and finally answer the question – do squats make your butt bigger?

What muscles do squats work?

We can assume that squatting is going to work the glute muscles, this is a fact. But there are a lot of other muscles that are recruited during this movement.

Squats are a compound movement, and one of the primary functional movements. Why? Because we do it all the time.

Sitting in a chair, bending to pick up your kid,  grabbing the newspaper, something on the bottom shelf at the store.

We are always squatting down in our day to day life. It is a primary movement for us.

A compound movement is defined as “a multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time.” This means both the knee, hip and ankle joint are all moving during a squat (or at least a correct one).

With it being a compound movement, there are several ways we can perform a squat. We can do air squats, back squats, front squats, suit case squats, single leg squats etc.

And with each variation comes the change in which muscles are recruited. For the sake of explanation and keeping it simple, let’s just chat through the air squat for now.

The primary muscles recruited during a bodyweight (air) squat are the quadriceps (front of the leg), the gluteus maximus (large glute muscle) and the adductors (inner thigh).

The secondary muscles that are recruited/worked in a squat are the lower back muscles, core, calves and hamstrings.

So, many muscles are being used for this one movement, which is why it is so beneficial for your body.

You get the most bang for your buck, and that is really what we are after with exercise, right?

diagram of what muscles squats work

How many squats should you do to grow your butt?

There is no “perfect number” that you should do to achieve solid glutes. That just isn’t how it works.

Everyones body is different, it responds differently to a stimuli, and it depends on what the rest of your training looks like.

Training and lifting is not a one size fits all. You are going to need different weights than me, maybe a different variation, etc.

Not to mention, you will be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. It all depends on the person.

If you are looking to achieve a certain goal, there is a general rule of thumb for training.

Strength training (meaning training to be as strong as you can) is usually done in the 2-5 rep range. Meaning your weights are heavy, and your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) likely leaves about 2 reps in the tank.

If you are training for hypertrophy (size) then working rep range is usually 6-12. So weights will be a bit lighter, but you still want to follow the RPE rule of 2 reps left in the tank.

how many squats should you do

In order to see the results you want, you have to push yourself to that limit. So don’t assume you just need to do 3 sets of 10 squats daily.

You need to decide on your goal, create the program and then follow through pushing yourself.

Change doesn’t happen when things are easy, it happens when we push ourselves past being comfortable.

Air Squats vs Weighted Squats

I think there is a time and place for both air squats and weighted squats.

If we are talking in terms of growing your booty, then you need weighted squats.

But if we are talking in terms of just general exercise when we don’t have equipment handy, then air squats are it.

Growing your glutes is more than just doing squats and kickbacks and using booty bands.

Growing your glutes comes from…moving heavy weights and eating enough calories.

You cannot build muscle tissue (grow your booty) without having enough calories in your system to do so.

This means you need to be eating more than you are burning in a day. A hard pill to swallow, I know, but it really is the only way.

Check out this blog if you want to calculate your macros for muscle growth, so you can build the butt you want.

Now – when it comes to lifting heavy and programming for glute growth, you need to prioritize progressive overload.

This means adding a gradual increase in stress placed upon the muscle and nervous system to elicit change.

Progressive overload can be created by increased reps, increased weight, slower tempo, less rest etc.

There are a lot of different variables you can adjust to create more intensity in the movement, which is what you want if you are looking to grow your glutes.

So, moral of the story, lift heavy weights and don’t be afraid to. Air squats can be great when used at high volumes in a home workout or quick circuit, but glute growth will come from weights.

The glutes perform best under pressure and intensity, so turn up the heat.

Do squats make your hips thicker?

Women tend to assume that lifting weights make you “bulky”.

That if you lift too heavy you are going to start looking like one of the boys. But honestly, is that a bad thing?

Anyways, that isn’t typically the case.

A lot of it comes down to genetics and how easily you can put on muscle tissue, but more likely than not you will have a hard time putting on that much muscle to look bulky.

What happens when we lift weights is we actually can become more slim.

This is because muscle is more dense than fat, meaning it weighs the same, but has a smaller surface area.

So if you are looking to be toned, then you need to work towards adding muscle to your frame.

“Thick” hips is likely going to come from a surplus in calories.

So eating more food than you burn is going to increase your bodyweight, but we cant determine where it is going to go.

For women, usually, it heads for the hips and thighs. But these results don’t have to be permanent.

You can spend time eating food and lifting heavy, and then spend time in a deficit to help peel back that extra fat accumulated during the building phase.

To say that your hips will get “thick” feels like we are concerned about the waist.

So yes, if you are looking to grow your glutes and increase food, some of it is going to store around the mid section and hips.

But if you are just asking if squats in general, without extra food, make your hips thicker..then no, they likely will not.

Do Squats make your thighs bigger?

We made the determination above that squats are going to mainly recruit the quadriceps and hamstrings during the exercise, as well as the glutes.

I see this as a perk because you can do one movement, yet build several different lower body muscles.

So, a side effect of squatting is going to be muscle growth (if you are lifting weights heavy enough) and that is going to also include the thighs.

Now, this doesn’t mean your thighs are going to get bigger because of fat, they are going to get bigger because of the increase in muscle (this is good).

And we know that if we spend time eating more calories than we burn to get strong, we can then turn around and spend time in a deficit and lose some of the fat gained during that time.

So while squats do target all of the leg muscles, your thighs will get bigger if you are lifting with heavy weights and progressive overload.

If you are just doing bodyweight squats, or squats with weights that aren’t heavy enough to put that much of a stimulus on them, then it is unlikely that your thighs are going to get bigger.

Other exercises to work your butt

There are several other different exercise you can do to help work your butt and build strong glutes.

Like I said above, this does not have to include anything with a booty band, and instead has to do with using heavy weights.

Other exercises that you can do to work your glutes include:

• Hip thrusts (the queen for glute growth)

• Glute bridges


• Deadlifts

• Step ups

• Lunges

Reverse hyperextensions

All compound movements that are going to work more than one muscle group, and are big muscles in a sense that they can handle a decent amount of weight.

Make sure you include a few of these exercises in your training if you are looking to grow your glutes.

There is more than just squats, and you need to work a variety of muscle groups for best results.

Do squats work abs?

We know that squats are a compound movement.

All compound movements are going to work multiple muscle groups.

The core is a muscle that is engaged during any kind of exercise. That is why we call it the core – the middle, the stabilizer.

Doing squats isn’t necessarily going to give you 6 -pack abs or make your core super strong, but it will be worked during the exercise.

It is also important to note that if you want to use heavier weights for squats, deadlifts or even to do pull ups, you need a strong core.

This means you need to be doing solid/foundational core work in order to aid in your squat training.

Do squats make you lose weight? Do squats burn fat?

Any kind of exercise can help aid in weight loss.

Against what the media and society says, there is not one specific exercise that is going to just torch fat.

Fat loss comes from a caloric deficit.

And a caloric deficit comes from burning more calories than you consume in any given day.

You actually don’t necessarily have to exercise at all to lose fat, although it is recommended to make it easier and to help with overall health.

Fat loss comes from moderate exercise.

Like if you were to go for a walk – your heart is pumping pretty quick but you can still hold a conversation with your friend, that is the fat burning zone.

Moderate strength training can also be in that fat burning zone. Keeping your heart rate 60-50% of your max heart rate.

Working in the moderate zone (zone 2) is going to help make losing fat easier and improve your fitness level.

This is because it is stimulating your mitochondria to make more ATP which then forces the cells to make more mitochondria.

More mitochondria (and bigger mitochondria) means your cells can convert energy into ATP faster.

That means more energy available for working muscles – so you can train faster and for longer periods of time. Thus, improving your fitness level!

Fat burning and mitochondria are linked because mitochondria oxidizes fat (gets rid of it) – so the more you have and the more efficient they are, the easier it is for your body to burn fat.

So while it isn’t necessary to squat in order to lose weight, it can certainly help by working in that zone 2 intensity.

Are squats bad for your knees? 

Squats are a movement we do every single day.

We squat and sit in a chair, we squat down to pick something up off the floor, we squat down to pet the dog or pick up a child.

Squatting is a regular movement pattern in our everyday life, so it cannot be bad for you…if you are doing it correctly.

Squats can start to become problematic, like I said, if you are doing it regularly with poor form and ignoring a nagging injury.

“Incorrectly” meaning you are loading weight on your back and not activating the muscles during the squat.

Or loading the squat and the knees are caving in. This means there is a weak muscle elsewhere (in the glutes) that needs work to help with your squatting pattern.

They can also start to cause issues if you are squatting a ton of weight over and over again.

Our joints can wear down, but that would be a lot of years of loading up a bar with hundreds of pounds, so not what the average person would do for their health.

Squats are a great movement for building strength, and doing them is actually helpful to keep the range of motion of the joints.

Just make sure your form is good…

• Feet just outside shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed out.

• Weight in the heels.

• Chest up tall.

• Screw feet into the ground and engage the glutes, core and quads.

• Squat down to parallel, driving the knees in the direction of the toes, and drive up.

• You always want to make sure you are engaged and the movement is active, not just literally bending the knees and standing, there is more to it than that.

Squatting can be done it so many different ways and forms, there isn’t really a “perfect” form that works for everyone when squatting.

So make sure you make adjustments to fit your needs.

Are squats bad for your back?

Form is going to be key when it comes to back pain and squats.

If you are having back pain, you are not engaging the core properly, or holding the weight up correctly.

If you are back squatting with a barbell on your back, you want to make sure the lats are engaged and you are pressing into the bar. You also want to keep your ribs pinned down so you are not arching at the bottom of the squat.

If you are front squatting with the barbell in the front (or dumbbells) you want to engage the lats as well and press up into the weight rather than letting it weigh you down. You also want to keep the elbows up high and the ribs pulled down.

If you are squatting with dumbbells at your sides, make sure you are engaging through the armpits and keeping the chest held high – otherwise the shoulders will round and you will break the core engagement.

Squats are not inherently bad for your back. They will actually help to strengthen your back and core since it loads your whole frame (doing front or back squats).

The only time squatting might not be recommended is if you have a previous injury like a bulging or slipped disc. If that is the case I would consult your doctor/chiropractor first.

Again, squatting can be a really great exercise for strength and mobility – you just have to make sure you have solid form.

Will squats help cellulite?

Let’s start with the definition of what exactly cellulite is.

Cellulite is dimpled or bumpy skin, typically found on the thighs and buttocks.

“It involves fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long/tough cords pull down. This creates an uneven surface, or dimpling,” says Mayo Clinic.

Cellulite is also genetic as well.

It all depends on skin elasticity, muscle mass, hormones and more.

Even skinny/healthy/fit people can have cellulite.

This means that cellulite is hard to get rid of.

If it is genetic, it isn’t just going to go away if you lose enough weight.

Squatting heavy enough to build muscle tissue can certainly help with cellulite.

But you have to remember that first you must lift the weights, and then you can lose the fat.

Cellulite is fat, so until you are in a caloric deficit to drop fat overall, you aren’t going to just lose the cellulite.

You also cannot spot treat. So just because you want to lose weight on the legs, doesn’t mean doing only legs will burn the leg fat.

If you are burning fat, you are burning it all over, not just on one specific part of the body.

And that is also genetic (yay), so don’t try to spot treat.

Conclusion: Do squats make your butt bigger?

So yes – squats can make your butt bigger.

You can make it bigger, stronger, rounder etc through exercise and proper programming.

If you are looking for glute growth, make sure you are in a program that is prioritizing progressive overload.

Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates and extra tips and tricks!

Share on this blog on pinterest!


Popular Searches:

Macronutrients Explained: Easy To Follow Guide for Counting Macros [Calculator Included]

Full length Core Workout Video – At Home Workout

7 Hip Flexor Stretches to Alleviate Low Back Pain

Haley Rowe February 9, 2021