I distinctly remember doing approximately three things before my high school senior prom: daily ab workouts from a fitness app, lying outside weekly before gymnastics practices despite the Spring weather (please use proper SPF!), and a 30-day squat challenge courtesy of the internet. The particular squat challenge I did was a near-full month of basic squats — no weights, no variations, nothing — and the reps gradually increased from 50 to 250 with a few rest days interspersed throughout.
Did I measure my progress? No. Should I have felt the need to "get in shape" for a special occasion? No. But, for some people it's a good source of motivation and that's 100 percent OK! Given that I'm now fully aware of the fact that regular squats aren't the best exercises for specifically targeting your glutes, I wanted to call on personal trainers for more insight about whether or not such challenges are even worth the time.
Can 30-Day Squat Challenges Actually Make Your Butt Bigger?
Yes, and no. The bottom line is that you need consistency, but you also need variety of movement and a true focus on work outside of the gym, both Kate Ligler, MINDBODY Wellness Manager, NASM-certified personal trainer, and NASM-certified corrective exercise specialist, and Courtney Roselle, Iron Grace founder, NASM-certified personal trainer, and certified functional strength coach, told POPSUGAR. Kate pointed out that 30 days of squats could build strength in addition to proficiency.
A well-executed squat, Kate continued, would target the glutes as well as the quads and hamstrings (squats are more quad-focussed than you might think). "To more specifically target glutes, individuals should focus on driving the hips backward, hinging at the hips, prior to any significant bend in the knees," she specified. "[But] I don't believe that squats alone will most effectively build your backside."
Courtney said a month-long structure of doing squats will boost someone's "fitness morale," so if they want to jump-start their journey or they've previously taken some time off, doing a squat challenge could be beneficial in her opinion. But, "the squat challenges always help the overall body," she noted. "It never is just about your butt. It also builds your core, quad, and hip strength. It is one of the most functional movements in fitness." If your goal is to grow your booty, Kate said that "incorporating lateral, single-leg, and glute-specific movements [as opposed to an air-squat-only challenge] is an upgrade, assuming all are executed well."
Kate also wants you to get your expectations in check. You're not going to have the booty of your dreams "by doing five minutes of exercise for 30 mostly-consecutive days. Ever. Period. The end," she said. Courtney added that it is realistic to start seeing results in 30 days, but only if you take a critical look at what you're eating (we'll discuss this later). In terms of gaining muscle in general, NASM-certified personal trainer Guychard Codio, cofounder of New York City Personal Training, told POPSUGAR in a previous interview that it's going to be easier for someone who already has some muscle to begin with. For this person, it'll normally takes about two weeks for them to see results, and for someone who hasn't worked out before, it may take up to two months. It also varies depending on how much muscle you're actually trying to put on.
Effective Ways to Build Your Glutes
Both trainers said variety is important when building your glutes, meaning exercises that target your gluteus maximus as well as your side butt muscles (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus). "You never want your body to adapt to one movement. Not only will you see results faster with constantly varied functional movements, it also keeps it fresh and prevents your body from overuse and injury," Courtney told POPSUGAR. Squats always help with building muscle, she said, but she also suggests incorporating deadlifts, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, Cossack squats, pistol squats, and lunges.
Kate said that some of her favourite exercises to build your booty are barbell glute bridges (i.e. barbell hip thrusts) and banded glute bridges. "Unlike the squat, quads can't help on this movement and the glute max is solo as the primary mover," she said. "In addition, banded lateral steps or a weighted lateral lunge will really round out your butt by targeting your glute med." Here are some more butt exercises we approve of.
Other factors come into play for glute growth as well. Courtney pointed to genetics as a big one — how fast you build muscle and how your body adapts to exercise is dependent on your genes. Your eating habits are also important, and so is taking care of your body overall (stress can negatively impact your results). "Women who want a bigger butt need to realise you need to eat more to replenish your muscles, which in return can increase muscle mass and hypertrophy," Courtney said (note: hypertrophy means growth). Eating enough protein, carbs, and fat is essential for building muscle and so is sleep. Implementing recovery and getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night helps ensure your muscles restore themselves and perform well.
Yes, You Can Still Do Squat Challenges
In the end, you can absolutely take on a squat challenge! But, if your goal is to build your butt, try looking for ones that have a better variety of movements — like this 30-day squat challenge from POPSUGAR. Courtney said that increasing reps or weight over time will help you ensure intensity throughout the challenge, so don't be afraid of adding in those dumbbells, barbells, etc. Make sure that you're doing other glute-focussed exercises discussed earlier as well, and don't forget about your eating habits and cracking down on your sleep schedule. Growing a booty won't happen overnight, but the right exercises and best practices outside of the gym can get you there.