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Photos by Gabrielle Kassel

CrossFit is my jam, hot yoga is my Sunday ceremony, and a 5-mile run from Brooklyn to Manhattan is my pre-brunch ritual. I’m fit. I’m active. But I hate my bum — I always have.

It’s the bum that was called “too bony,” the bum I was teased for in grade and high school (“Where is it…?”), and the bum whose absence became even more apparent when I started strength training more regularly and my biceps, shoulders, and triceps filled out. “Built upside down,” my gym crush laughs.

So, there I was one day hating on my tuchus out loud when my editor suggested I try 20 squats with weights every day. She figured if I’d run to work every day for two weeks, I’d probably jump on the opportunity to get a rounder, juicier booty — and I did.

Thirty days later, my glutes are stronger and the muscular endurance in my arms definitely improved from all that kettlebell holding. I also built up quite a bit of core strength doing 600 weighted squats over a month. The front and back squats I have to do during CrossFit are also easier since I focused on my form and keeping my heels down.

My friend at the gym (with an equally flat behind) exclaimed with supportive glee, “I see that booty jiggle, GK!”

While I might not continue these daily goblet squat breaks (as a Cross Fitter, I’ve already reaped the benefits of basic squats), there’s a lot I’ve learned about form, foundation, and how to take squats to the next level from this challenge. If you’re building your booty from the beginning, here’s what you need to know:

A 30-day squat challenge needs more than just squats

Alena Luciani, MS, CSCS, Pn1, founder of Training2xl made it clear that adding weights is the way to upgrade your regular squats. Strengthening your booty comes with some real benefits. Strong glutes do so much more than make your waist look smaller and your booty look amazing in a pair of leggings or jeans. They also improve speed, agility, power, and prevent risk of injuries related to your back, says Luciani.

“Squats primarily focus on the gluteus maximus. But your glutes consist of two other muscles called the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. You’ll need to exercise all three to see the results you’re going for,” Luciani says.

To fully activate and build every bit of your booty, you’re going to need a workout routine that involves a variety of exercises like:

However, if you’re not a fitness fiend, or you just want to focus on your squats, the plan I tried is an excellent start. It’s easy to commit to (because who wants to do 100 squats every day), builds impressive core, arm, and back strength, and delivers on the booty lift, especially if you’re new to squats.

Here’s what experts say about adding weighted squats

Luciani’s tips on adding weighted squats to your routine:

  • Nail a bodyweight squat first.
  • Add a weight that you can do at least 10 reps at.
  • If you have access to a trainer, have them check your form.
  • Don’t just do squats.
  • Continue adding weight when the squats start to feel too easy.

Thanks to CrossFit, I had air squats and weighted back squats down. Luciani gave me the lowdown on a few other weighted squat variations and I decided to focus specifically on the goblet squat.

How to do a goblet squat

  1. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in both hands at chest level and stand with your feet hip-width to shoulder-width apart.
  2. Stand tall and brace your core, then drop your butt back and down as you keep your chest up, sitting back onto your heels without shifting your weight forward onto the balls of your feet.
  3. Driving through your heels, come back up to standing and give your glutes a squeeze. That’s 1 rep.

Once I settled on the goblet squat, Luciani helped me devise this four-week plan to ensure my booty gains:

WeekSquat plan
12 sets of 10 squats with 1 minute of rest, 35-lb kettlebell
21 set of 20 squats, 35-lb kettlebell
32 sets of 10 squats with 1 minute of rest, 42-lb kettlebell
41 set of 20 squats, 42-lb kettlebell
 

With daily reminders set for 2:00 pm (I work from home and have a gym in my apartment building, so the midday squat session was actually a nice break from my work), I got down to it. Literally.

Cue up “Miss New Booty” and read on to learn how my monthlong challenge went and whether or not I’m sporting the booty of my dreams.

Here’s how my four weeks went

Week one: Discovering my weak spots and strengthening my form

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End of week one. Photos by Gabrielle Kassel
What I did: 2 sets of 10 squats with 1 minute of rest, 35-lb kettlebell

What I did: 2 sets of 10 squats with 1 minute of rest, 35-lb kettlebell

The goblet squats pointed out how weak and inflexible my inner thighs, hip flexors, and ankles were. My tight hips made it challenging to be parallel with the floor, so the first week I had to get used to the comfortable soreness.

It definitely wasn’t just my glutes taking a hit either. I was surprised by the other muscle groups these squats awakened: my quads and core in particular! To be fair, Luciani mentions: “Front loaded squats are a great exercise for quads, core, and upper back.”

And after sending Luciani a video for a form check after my first day, she pointed out that my heels often came off the ground when I pushed up. She recommended that I really focus on pushing off the floor with my heels when I drive upwards to remedy the situation. After toying around with positioning, I actually found it easier to keep good form when I did the squats barefoot, which Luciani assures is totally safe.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a trainer who can check your form, take a video of your squats and play them back. You can also analyze your form in real time when you’re moving in front of a mirror at the gym.

Week two: Taking it one squat at a time

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Beginning of week two (L), end of week two (R). Photos by Gabrielle Kassel
What I did: 1 set of 20 squats, 35-lb kettlebell

What I did: 1 set of 20 squats, 35-lb kettlebell

Transitioning from 2 sets of 10 to 1 set of 20 was physically tricky, especially those last four squats in the second set. It was also tough mentally because all those reps began to feel a little repetitive.

To keep myself focused during the exercise, I started counting reps out loud, which helped each squat feel like box I needed to check off my to-do list (and I do love to-do lists). I also made sure to text my friend group each day to help hold myself accountable.

Squats primarily focus on the gluteus maximus. But your glutes consist of two other muscles called the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. You’ll need to exercise all three to see the results you’re going for.
— Alena Luciani, MS, CSCS

Week three: Upping the weight and feeling stronger

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Beginning of week three (L), end of week three (R). Photos by Gabrielle Kassel
What I did: 2 sets of 10 squats with 1 minute of rest, 42-lb kettlebell

What I did: 2 sets of 10 squats with 1 minute of rest, 42-lb kettlebell

By the third week, I was ready to tackle the heavier weight. “You’ll know you’re ready to go up in weight when the last two reps of each set are no longer super challenging,” Luciani says. While I definitely felt the extra 7 pounds of my 42-pound kettlebell, I wasn’t noticeably sore from the added weight.

The best part was that by the end of the third week, I no longer had to worry as much about my form. My heels stopped coming off the floor and I instinctively pushed my knees out during each rep.

Week four: Feeling more confident

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Before and after of the 30-day challenge. Photos by Gabrielle Kassel
What I did: 1 set of 20 squats, 42-lb kettlebell

What I did: 1 set of 20 squats, 42-lb kettlebell

I didn’t quite realize it until the end of the fourth week but my squats felt considerably easier than they had during week one, even though I’d gone up in weight. And I didn’t only feel stronger, I looked it.

My friend at the gym (with an equally flat behind) exclaimed with supportive glee, “I see that booty jiggle, GK!” to which another friend echoed, “Seriously, your booty looks more lifted or something.”

After class when I got home, I shimmied on my favorite pair of jeans for the first time since the beginning of the experiment, and I had to agree with them… my booty was definitely bigger. It still fit in my pants — I was no Kardashian booty overnight success story — but my rear was definitely tighter. Reflectively, I wish I’d thought to take a pre- and postchallenge measurement, but I assure you the jean test results are indisputable.

Booty burn Your body burns more calories to maintain lean muscle tissue than it does to maintain fat tissue. That means weights can help bring on a stronger butt, faster metabolism, and more calories burned all day long.

The end of the experiment

In celebration of my friends’ comments and my slightly lifted rear end, I danced my way over to lululemon to purchase a pair of black workout booty shorts. I may still have some work to do before I feel 100 percent comfortable strutting around in them at my gym but I like wearing them around the apartment and admiring my improved rounder bum whenever I check myself out in the full-length mirror in the bathroom.

If you try any 30-day squat challenge, I recommend you switch it up after a month. Luciani told me that after roughly four weeks of using the same exercises, your glutes will adapt to the routine and stop growing. At that point, you’ll need to switch up the exercises to provide a new muscle-building stimulus.

That said, Luciani said I should try to continue to incorporate goblet squats (or another front-loaded squat like front squats) at least once a week into my routine to maintain the core strength I’d built up (from an accumulative 600 weighted squats!) over the month. Who knows, maybe I’ll keep my 2:00pm booty appointment with the gym downstairs in the name of backside confidence.


Gabrielle Kassel is a rugby-playing, mud-running, protein-smoothie-blending, meal-prepping, CrossFitting, New York-based wellness writer. She’s become a morning person, tried the Whole30 challenge, and eaten, drank, brushed with, scrubbed with, and bathed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books, bench-pressing, or practicing hygge. Follow her on Instagram.