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Glute/Ham Activation on Squats

Good day everybody, I am not sure if this is a complicated question or not so if I don't provide all necessary information please just say so.

I have been reading a lot lately on this site about the importance of glute and hamstring activation and how it is important to work the backside of your body.

I did a squat workout yesterday and today my quads and inner thigh/groin are absolutely killing me with DOMS but I don't feel anything in my hamstrings or quads.

Yesterday my workout went as follows.

8 Sets of squats alternating between front squats and back squats.

Is there something I am missing here? does anybody else get sore in the glutes and hams from doing squats. I mean.. I could understand getting sore in the glutes, but I don't see how an exercise like squats is supposed to work your hamstrings.


Hamstrings work as hip extensors as well as knee flexors; you extend your hip when you're doing squats and therefore the muscle does get worked.

No surprise that you didn't feel much in the posterior chain on squats, however, as many people find them to be a knee-dominant movement, meaning quads will be prime movers and glutes and hams secondary (some would contest this point). Common thinking holds that squats are knee-dominant and deadlifts are hip-dominant, so you'll feel more glute-ham doing deads than squats.

Front squats tend to be even MORE quad-focused in my experience. Bottom line, if you want to hit the glute-ham area with a compound move (and you should), make sure to include some deadlift variations.

Again, this is the common thinking on the matter; I imagine many readers here will have different experiences.

Hope this helps.


It depends on your body shape and form on squats where the emphasis is going to. I squat what would mostly be described as a powerlifting squat, low bar outside shoulder width stance, etc and I get fairly equal involement from my quads and hamstrings/glutes. Someone else might do the exact same thing and get barely any quad growth, works for me and feels more powerful. Find out what form you need to put the stress where you want it.


I find then I feel the hamstring and glutes at the bottom of the squat so maybe you're not going down far enough.


Yes, the glutes are really what get you out of the hole.


a wider stance as well as pushing your feet apart when driving out of the hole will activate the hips and hamstrings more


You are a quad-squatter. You might think about modifying your technique, but it depends on your goals and needs, of course.

Like someone said already, the hamstrings are heavily involved in hip extension, not just knee flexion.


Had the same problem. To echo what was already said, consciously push your knees out and sit between your legs.


Thanks a lot for taking the time to reply everybody. All this talk about activating the hams has given me another question. When I deadlift, I am never sore in the hamstrings or glutes either. Is there something that everybody is conciously thinking when doing deadlifts or squats that makes the activation greater than what it would be if you just lifted it without thinking about it to much?


If you aren't using your hamstrings or glutes when you're deadlifting, you are setting yourself up for back troubles SOON.

Squat Rx #3 (Part I: Engaging the Glutes & Hamstrings)

Part II


IMO there are are three main things that cause a back squat to be quad dominant. In random order.

1#- You are a short person, and have a small compact squat and you are able to keep your torso extremely vertical during your back squat placing the emphasis more on the quads, similar to a front squat.

2#- You have the ability to go deep but dont really know what you are doing and stop a bit above parallel. Almost all people squatting in this way will feel their quads primarily. I will also place at number 2 form, meaning, all the individual has to do is to learn how to do a deep squat, which is not too difficult, and they are fine. The latter does not happen very often.

3#- Most commonly, you lack the ability to hit your glutes and hamstrings during a deep squat. I am not talking about a powerlifting squat which is biomechanically a goodmorning/squat hybrid, but a normal moderate stance olympic squat, or something very similar (there are degrees).

Now by lacking the ability to hit your glutes and hamstrings, I mean you do not have the hip mobility (glute and hamstring flexibility) to get well below parallel and most times even to parallel because either your hamstrings and/or your glutes are tight to the point that they pull your pelvis under prematurely and when that happens you are going to lose the ability to create tension on the posterior chain.

Take home from this? Its probably not that you dont know how to get the glutes and hamstrings involved, it is that you CANT get them involved until you open them up. And a combination of dynamic and static stretching works the best.


A lot of people have "glute amnesia" and aren't good at activating the glutes and hamstrings. Once you correct these issues though, and learn the right way of doing it, it becomes automatic, as your body "relearns" correct activation patterns.


If you have problems with your glutes when you squat, try doing assistance exercises like heavy walking lunges. They surely kill my glutes like no other, and they "taught" me to recruit my glutes when I squat. SLDLs help with the hamstrings and glutes as well. Of course, there's the GHR.

There's nothing wrong with being a quad squatter, especially when you do it oly style. For a more glute-ham action, do PL squats and make sure your oly squats are ATG.. You can alternate back PL squats with front oly squats. You'll probably use very different weights for both.


Thank you for the links.


Thank you for your reply, I will answer in order.

1 I am not a short person, 6 feet or 184 cm to be exact. I was actually thinking one of my problems might be not keeping my torso vertical enough!

2 I go exactly to parallel

3 I have been working on my stretching a lot. My flexibility isn't the greatest but far better than when I started. I am flexible enough I can touch my toes if that means anything to you. To compensate for an overall lack of flexibility I put 5 pound plates underneath my heals.


But how to correct it is the golden question for me at this point.
Thanks for your reply.


Thanks for your reply Undeadlift.

I definitely do lunges, and I do find that they destroy my glutes, so no problem there. Though recently I have really wanted to concentrate on squats and make an entire workout out of them. The worked that I did in my OP made me feel like I was going to puke by the time I was done. If I make an entire workout of them I need to be sure they are hitting all the muscles so I don't fudge myself up. The reason I want to make entire workouts out of squats is because my squat numbers freakin suck!!!

You mentioned that stiff legged deadlifts help with hams and glutes as well. I am interested in this comment because I have read that SLDL's are a ham exercise but when I do them it is my lower back that is doing the work, and I am definitely not sore in my hams or glutes the next day.

What I need to figure out is what am I missing? How do I get my hams to do the pulling instead of my lower back? So confusing, this reminds me of when I was having a hard time with upper back activation during pull downs and rows.


So today I did a back / chest workout. After I was done doing rows and pulldowns I decided to play around with the deadlift to see if I could actually get it to work for me in the sense that my hams and glutes activate. I played with it for half an hour and by the end I figured out how to get my glutes to activate but I definitely cannot feel anything what so ever in my hamstrings.

When I was doing the deadlifts I remembered something about driving the hips forward and flexing the glutes and it worked. Though I made a modification to that and flexed by glutes at the bottom before even lifting it off the ground and keeping it flexed throughout.