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Do squats really make your butt bigger? What squats really do to your booty & your body

Do squats really make your butt bigger? What squats really do to your booty & your body

Read Time • 8 Min
  • Category Fitness
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Some of the comments on our workout videos tend to show how many people misunderstand how squats and strength training in general impacts your body. For example, every time we put up a new butt and thigh workout, there are a handful of people who joke about how they won't do it because; "my butt's already big! I don't want it bigger!". 

The misinformation is unfortunate because lifting has tremendous benefits when it comes to health, weight loss, and shaping the body.

Like many people, I used to avoid strength training because I didn’t want to “get bulky”. Once I ditched that mentality and began lifting, I fell in love with the way it made me feel so much stronger and more capable. My weight dropped, my shape changed, my health improved, my strength increased, balance improved, posture improved - the list of benefits goes on and on. In terms of the changes in my lower body, the picture above gives a rough idea of my squats before and after. This is just one anecdotal account - be sure to remember; fitness looks different on everyone, and each of our bodies responds to exercise in a different way.

Below, we’ve put together a list of the most common questions we get regarding squats; if we’ve missed any, leave them in the comment sections below.

Common questions about squats and strength training

Do squats make your legs bigger or smaller? 
It largely depends on your starting point. If you have weight to lose or if you’re carrying extra body fat, squats (and other lower body strength exercises) can help reduce weight and/or body fat, making your butt and thighs comparatively smaller, tighter, more toned and more compact. This is because squats are a great way to build muscle, which is a great way to reduce body fat; over time the lower body will lean out, but the change in body composition (more muscle, less fat), means that your overall metabolism will be faster and it also leads to a change in shape, as well; the thighs will become more toned and the glutes will be lifted, more firm, and the glutes will appear more shapely. Muscle also takes up less room than fat, meaning that although you may be building muscle and shape in the area, it technically gets smaller.

On the other hand, if you’re very lean or have little body fat, you can build a round, shapely butt by building thigh and glute muscles with strength training targeting the lower body. So to the people wondering if you really can “build a booty” if you weren’t born with a shapely bum, the answer is yes, absolutely. The extent will depend on the routines you’re doing, your consistency, intensity, diet, and of course, genetics. 

What muscles do squats work?
Squats predominately work your butt (glutes) and thighs (hamstrings and quadriceps) but abs, obliques, lower back, calves, and the ankle complex all play supportive roles. Depending on what type of weight you’re using, how you’re holding it, and what squat variation you’re doing, it can end up being a total body exercise.

How often should I do squats?
Muscles that have been heavily taxed need a chance to heal themselves in between workouts. If you are sore from doing squats, wait until your butt and thighs are no longer sore before you do weighted squats or intensive leg exercises again. Check out our 4 Week Butt & Thigh Program for a complete lower body training plan

How many reps of squats should I do?
We believe in quality over quantity and the body responds to the same principle. Rather than doing hundreds and hundreds of repetitions of squats, try doing weighted squats. A few sets of ten repetitions of squats with a weight that makes reps 8-10 difficult to complete (without sacrificing form) is more effective than hundreds or even thousands of squats. This is especially true when the saved time means you have the extra time and energy to do deadlifts, lunges, bridges - a few of the best butt and thigh exercises - as well. 

Do squats make you shorter?
Your spine compresses slightly throughout the day, but the difference you see from weighted squats will be incredibly minimal & will return to normal once your spine decompresses itself while you’re sleeping (like it does every night). 

Do squats work abs?
Absolutely! The entire core - abdominals, lower back and obliques are all engaged while you do squats. Keeping your core contracted nice and tight during your squats is a great way to get the most benefit out of the squats for your core, and it also helps protect your back. 

Do squats make you lose weight?
Strength training offers a great deal of benefits to people looking to lose weight; a squat is one of the most traditional, functional, and effective exercises in any strength routine. You can definitely lose weight sticking to a workout program that uses smart strength training, functional movement and various intensities of cardio (squats can technically fall into any of these categories), 

Do squats burn fat?
Yes - especially if they are weighted. Squats use multiple large muscle groups and are a great way to not only shape those muscles, they are also very efficient calorie burners. 

Do squat challenges work?
Our honest take on the squat challenge is that something is always better than nothing…but squat challenges are not at all well developed and they have you doing a ridiculous number of repetitions of the exact same exercise when you could mix up the variety and hit more muscles, in varied ways, and see better results. Read more & check out our take on the Squat Challenge that uses 10 different kind of squats

Do squats burn fat in your thighs / Do squats burn belly fat?
You cannot spot reduce fat from anywhere on the body; it’s impossible. With that said, squats are such a good exercise for burning body fat and building lean muscle that if you’re doing them regularly, you’re highly likely to start dropping body fat all over, including the belly and thighs.

Do squats work calves?
Squats don’t isolate calves but they are a supporting muscle during the exercise.

Are squats cardio?
Technically squats can be strength or cardio. Even squats done for strength (with weights, for example) can become cardio when you lift using supersets, or when you keep the break in between your lifting sets short.

Are squats bad for your knees? 
With proper form, squats are not bad for your knees. In fact, doing squats can help build supportive muscles around that joint. My personal experience is that throughout my teens & early twenties, I used to have a ton of chronic knee & back pain and since I’ve picked up strength training in the last 8 years, I almost never have any pain in either area. 

Are squats bad for your back?
^ See answer above. A smart, properly implemented strength routine can help diminish back pain (always, always talk to your doctor about your specific health care scenario before self diagnosing or exercising). 

Do you have to go deep on squats for them to work?
Doing a shallow squat with clean form is more effective and safer than doing a low squat that you cannot control. Don’t let the meme shamers get to you; safety and form is always more important than complying to an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all “rule”. Focus on form, and as your strength, coordination and balance allows, take that squat lower and lower. 

Will squats help cellulite?
Yes squats can help get rid of cellulite. Squats, when part of a smart fitness program and healthy eating, can help get rid of cellulite (not that cellulite is something to lose sleep over, considering most of us have it and it does not indicate how healthy you are).

How long to see results from squats?
Big changes take time and consistency, but you may start to see small differences from squats in as little as 2-3 weeks.