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Title says it all. I am quad dominant. Yeah, it's bad. Trying to re-imagine myself doing some of the main exercises such as the squat, I wonder if it's possible, even for glute dominant people, to work the glutes more than the quads during squatting. I know it isn't for me yet because of my dysfunctional musculature but maybe when you glutes become stronger, things change?

About the "How" part I guess it's obvious, "do more glute exercises till they get strong enough", but I've been doing glute exercises for about 2 years now. At one point, my ass got quite big, no thanks. Also when I was gaining weight, guess where some of the fat started going..(usually mostly on my chest, shoulders, and quads). My glutes also have some strength when I do the isolated glutes exercises, so it's not like they aren't being worked at. So any tips would be useful. I still sit a lot though I combine it with standing as well.

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    What makes you think that you are "quad dominant" or that you have "dysfunctional musculature"? Did someone tell you this? – David Scarlett Aug 11 at 5:41
  • @DavidScarlett Hard to pinpoint one thing but got APT symptoms. Very good mind-muscle connection with my quads, even after almost 1 year of not doing a single quad exercise, still activate way better than glutes. My quads are always relatively bigger compared to other muscles. Before I got conscious of my glutes, I got the flat ass and mega huge/strong quads in comparison. Natural walking, no glutes. Up to this day, I have to make myself consciously squeeze the glutes to activate during walking, not to mention running. I know that scientifically, they always activate at least – ZenVentzi Aug 11 at 8:44
  • every time I get consistent with my running, it only takes about a week or two for my knees to start taking the hits, so I have to stop running for again at least a week or two, do only glute isolated exercises and then start running again and be fine for a while – ZenVentzi Aug 11 at 8:46
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To understand how to correct the problem, it often helps to think carefully about what, exactly, might be happening. But in summary, it may help to:

  • take a shoulder-width stance,
  • externally rotate your feet—slightly, but not excessively,
  • allow the knees to go over the toes,
  • squat to the ankles (i.e. sit down, not ‘back’),
  • maintain neutral anterior pelvic tilt,
  • maintain a knee angle that is the same as the hip angle, and
  • extend the hip and knees simultaneously, and at the same rate.

(Now, if you want to understand why, please bear with me.)

Single-joint or ‘isolation’ exercises are generally controlled by a small number of muscles, whose involvement is dependent only upon bone orientation and joint angle. The consequent expression of movement, therefore, closely describes how, and to what degree, the relevant agonists, antagonists, and synergists are being activated.

Multi-joint or ‘compound’ exercises, by contrast, are controlled by a large number of muscle groups, whose involvement is dependent upon interactions between the joints involved, and upon the degree of freedom afforded by the exercise. The lesser the degree of freedom, the more variant the possibilities of muscle activation. This is why ‘free-weight’ exercises are generally superior for developing functional strength: the greater degree of freedom afforded by these exercises forces the lifter to activate the muscles in a certain way.

To illustrate this point, consider three common variations of the chest press: machine, barbell, and dumbbell. Each of these exercises involves the same primary joint actions—humeral flexion and horizontal adduction, and elbow extension. Yet the potential variation in muscle activation between them is enormous. The machine chest press, being a closed chain exercise, can be performed with almost any permutation of muscle activation. The lifter could theoretically have no activation of the pectoralis major or deltoids whatsoever, and perform the movement exclusively with the triceps brachii! This is possible because the final position of the load is a function of any one of the joint angles involved. Similarly, the barbell bench press could be performed without any activation of the pectoralis major, and the dumbbell press could be performed without any activation of the triceps brachii.

So too is enormous variation possible with the squat. The squat involves leg ‘triple extension’—that is, extension of the hip, knees, and ankles—and therefore engages some combination of the hip, knee, and ankle extensors. Involvement of the ankle extensors (the triceps surae) is dependent upon the position of the centre of mass relative to the calcaneal tuberosity. Again, theoretically, the triceps surae could be completely uninvolved if the centre of mass passed perfectly through the point of contact between the heel and the floor—that is, if our weight were as far backward as it could be without our falling over.

However, since the kinetic chain is open at the top—that is, since the barbell and body are free to migrate forwards and backwards—the load must be supported by both the knee extensors (quadriceps femoris) and one- and one-/two-joint hip extensors (the gluteals and hamstrings, respectively) in some capacity that results in a net upward vector. It is the relationship between the three joint angles that determines the degree of muscle activation required of each group; or alternatively, it is our muscle action that determines the posture that we tend to adopt in performing the squat. And contrary to the statements of some commentators, since the moments at the joints must be balanced, we cannot over-emphasise one muscle group without also altering our position and/or emphasis of the others.

Of course, it should be mentioned that our physical geometry influences our technique—both that which is optimal and that which is possible. But of the criteria that we can modify, those that alter muscle activation are the depth and uprightness of our squat. The depth of our squat is, in turn, limited by the width of our stance and the flexibility of our ankles. Since the hamstrings are bi-articular, their activation depends on the difference between the hip and knee angles. The more positive the difference, the less the hamstrings are activated, and the more, therefore, that the gluteals must be activated in order to balance the moment created by the quadriceps. Maintenance of an anterior pelvic tilt through the activation of the erector spinae increases the effective angle of the hip.

The key to maximising activation of the gluteals, therefore, is to adopt a stance that allows us to squat to full depth. The feet should generally be spaced at shoulder width, and slightly externally rotated. The knees should be held outward (which further engages the gluteals) such the the knees track in the direction of the feet. And the erector spinae should be activated powerfully to counteract the force generated by the hip extensors. The squat should be performed such that the knee and hip angles are equal. This is achieved by squatting towards the ankles—not ‘sitting back’—and allowing the knees to track forward freely. If the knees are not permitted to move freely past the line of the toes, both the depth of the squat and the angle of knee bend will thereby be limited. Finally, the hip and knee should be extended at the same rate, thus discouraging a two-phase lift in which the tail is lifted before the back is extended.

I hope that is helpful. Please feel free to ask for clarification for any of these points.

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  • It'll take me time to experiment and see how things are working out for me but I'll mark this answer because it seems reasonable. If anyone thinks I should update that, tag me and let me know. I think some pics(or any visual representation) of people (not)using their glutes during squat would be a good addition to the text, though not necessary. Thanks :) – ZenVentzi Aug 12 at 9:34
  • @ZenVentzi: It is very difficult to cite any particular image without a biomechanical analysis, since our ‘ideal’ position depends upon our geometry, sport, and specific goals. Having the strongest squat, for example, is distinct from having the best engagement of the gluteals, which is distinct from having the best position to catch a bar overhead. So much is dependent. However, in very general terms, Olympic weightlifters tend to have excellent squat technique, albeit variant, and technique that is consistent with this discussion. – POD Aug 12 at 16:09
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    @ZenVentzi: A quick Internet search led me here to an excellent image and article. Many athletes on the same site exhibit excellent posture and position, like this. However, it should be noted that a static image alone is inadequate to make a fair assessment of the squat, since movement mechanics are equally important as position. – POD Aug 12 at 16:19
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    @ZenVentzi: As for sub-optimal positioning, a good image actually came from a study of squat depth. In this case, the subject's front squat was superior to the full squat, achieving the same depth with greater ankle flexion, and consequently without the posterior pelvic tilt visible in the full squat. (It should be noted that EMG %MVIC values are not necessarily indicative of desirable technique.) – POD Aug 12 at 16:30
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Most importantly you have to make sure you are (back)squatting below paralell and with a fairly wide stance: "Squats Don’t Work Your Glutes (Because You’re Squatting Wrong)".

Make sure you do not use too heavy weights. If you use too heavy weights; your body will shift the weight forward onto the stronger quads to accomplish the task you give it.

You should "prime" your glutes before squatting. You do this by eg. performing say two sets of glute bridges before squatting. Perform two sets of the plank as well to activate the abs. When you do the glute bridges you focus on the glutes and make sure that they are activated. When a muscle has been activated repeatedly beforehand it is a lot easier for the central nervous system to activate it again.

Also do many warm up sets of backsquat before your work sets. With less weight it is easier to focus on correct form and activating the glutes.

In addition to backsquat you should also deadlift.

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If you squat with proper form - sitting back as you squat down and pushing through your heels rather than leaning forward onto your toes - and if you go ATG, backsquat will always work the glutes more than quads. If you can't go ATG due to ankle mobility, use weightlifting shoes or a plate under your heels.

Front squat loads the quads up more when done correctly, that's just the nature of it. If you want to focus on glutes, substitute deadlifts for the front squat. Both regular and Romanian deadlifts. Do some box jumps as well if you can.

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  • Glutes are not worked in deep squats more than they are in partial squats. See comparison of GM activation in 140° (deep) vs 90° (half) and 20° (very shallow) squats: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4967668 – David Scarlett Aug 11 at 5:48
  • Also see this study, finding that adductors contribute more and glutes less as depth increases: researchgate.net/publication/… – David Scarlett Aug 11 at 5:51
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    The first study you linked measures isometric load, which is not necessarily the same. Glute activation is highest during the eccentric phase of squat. Makes sense for the second study, backsquats aren't the best glute training exercise, they are a compound movement that activates everything. Something like hip thrusts would be better if you want to isolate the glutes. The ATG recommendation was from a study I've read long ago about parallel squats having greatest quad activation and IIRC greatest shear forces on the knee, can't find it now. – Curiosity Aug 11 at 10:40
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    @DavidScarlett: They are interesting conclusions, but it is worth remembering that these sorts of studies do not reveal what is possible, only what is generally true—and in this case, only what is generally true of small samples of men and women. And studies of this type typically have results that conflict with others, as is the case here. Thus, they give us something to consider, but they can not tell us what is, per se. – POD Aug 11 at 23:39
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quad dominant means that your quads are bigger than the remaining muscles.

the body doesn't magically pick one muscle at random to use in an exercise, it always uses the strongest and most rested muscle first.

for normal humans the gluteus is the biggest muscle in the body, so it will be the muscle to be used the most, it will also be the muscle to get tired and burn the least.

if you feel a muscle burning, it's not because you are that muscle dominant but because it was the weakest in the chain.

the Glute is made of 2 giant muscles and 1 smaller one, the quads are made of 4 small muscles which together create a big lump of muscle. Obviously the quad will always be weaker.

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To answer your question.. yes, You can do every squat with your butt to the ground, rather than a regular squat, which engages the glutes more. the glutes activate more at the bottom and take some pressure away from quads. Stay away from front squats as those primarily target quads. You might be quad dominant due to a weak posterior, so if you have strong glutes as you say, are all your other posterior chain muscles strong too?

  • hamstrings
  • glutes medius
  • glutes minimus
  • calves
  • tibias
  • various hip flexor/extensor muscles
  • core

Also do you have correct form and lower the bar with your heels?

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