Strong core for good squats


 Discover how to improve your squat from Personal Trainer Sinead McGill.

Recently I have seen a lot of posts on Instagram and YouTube about activation of the glutes before leg day/squats but how many of you (I have fallen trap to this too) waste 10/15mins ‘activating’ your glutes and still see no real result or notice any huge difference in training? Plus some of the exercises I did, feel a bit ridiculous doing!

Do I Just Have Lazy Glutes/Bum Muscles?

Yes I agree if we spend our day sat at an office our glutes can get lazy but really do exercises such as clams and kneeling kick backs really help when trying to improve the results you see from squatting (as so many would have you think), we have to ask – what are we really trying to achieve? Plus, are these the only muscles that get lazy? These exercises aren’t preparing you for squats as they are nothing like the movement of a squat. Surely we want to be activating our muscles that we are about to train and in a similar movement pattern. This is where many of us go wrong – not thinking about the muscles we actually require to perform a movement and miss out key points.

Squats – More than Just Leg Training

Take the squat – everyone tells you it is great for building a great bum and is a good leg workout but have you ever thought about the actual movement whilst performing the squat – do you feel all your leg muscles working and have you ever noticed how much core work it takes? Likelihood is if you haven’t noticed you are either going too light or performing the movement with poor technique. This is something I never realised and actually what should be a basic movement (standing up and sitting down) was a lot harder than I thought! I ended up overloading the quads (front of your leg muscles) and whilst I could go fairly heavy I was not doing my back any favours and certainly wasn’t get the lean leg look I wanted!

Work your core- it is more than just the 6 pack abs!  

The part often forgotten in squats and any weight training is just how key the core musculature really is. Our primary core muscles are there to stabilise and protect the spine so surely we should be paying closer attention to these, particularly before and during any free weight exercises. A weak core is so often the reason for bad backs and poor technique and so often the one to be forgotten or badly trained.

To help stop you making the same mistakes I did I have given you my two favourite simple and easy exercises to do before squats – both of which really help activate the core primarily which is essential before you even start thinking about getting the gluts firing.


My Favourite Quick Activation Exercises 

These together take less than 5 mins and will have you prepped and ready for the big lifts or perhaps you are just getting into weight training – try these and really make sure you are thinking about and use your tummy muscles (remember the core starts right from the ribcage to the bottom of your pelvis).

These exercises are similar/activate the muscles in the same way as performing a squat correctly and so serve as a great warm-up before squatting.

  1. Hip Lifts with core activation (3 x 10 reps)
  • lie on your back knees bent and feet flat on the floor making sure they are in line with your hips
  • squeeze your back into the floor using your tummy muscles so that you can feel the floor with the whole of your back
  • next keep your tummy muscles tight and lift your hips off the floor by squeezing your glutes (bum muscles)
  • lower back down and repeat for 10 reps rest then perform another 2 sets.
  1. Split front raised squat with band/pole ( 3 x 5 reps each leg) 
  • this exercise I posted on my Instagram a week back with the band but you can also do this holding a pole/old broom handle if you don’t have a band
  • place one foot flat on a raised step/box bent to 90 degree and the other about a stride length behind also at 90 degree
  • either holding the pole or placing the band round your middle (press your back into the pole/band and slowly lower your weight down ensuring the knee of your raised foot does not come forward
  • hold you a second ensuring you really feel your abs/tummy muscles working (mainly pelvic floor) and you should feel a stretch down the quads(thigh) muscle of your trailing leg
  • push back up returning to start position before repeating
  • repeat x5 on each leg before having a rest then repeat for 2 more sets.


I hope you have found this article useful and hope it can be of help to you and please share if you think this may be able to help someone else too!

If you have already got your August Wellthos you will have seen my top 6 exercises to a rock solid core (no situps or crunches in sight!) – performing this routine 3-4 times a week will not only help gain those washboard abs but also help everyday movements and gym work become so much easier!

I hope you have a lovely day and as always any questions please do ask 🙂

With love,

Sinead x