A lot of people hear these concepts but don’t actually listen and apply. They try their hardest to feel something in the glutes when the intention wasn’t to do that in the first place! Squats primarily develop the quads and glutes, strict RDLs primarily target the hamstrings, they aren’t meant to be bastardized and manipulated to ONLY develop the glutes. By excessively contracting your glutes and squeezing them at the top of a squat you’re walking on the edge of going from a neutral spine to a flexed spine. Then upon the descent possibly not being able to recover from this position and causing spinal flexion at the bottom of the squat as well. By over flexing the pelvis, sacrum, and lumbar spine while being vertically loaded under compressive and possibly shear forces you’re asking for a spinal injury. For what? A little bullshit isometric glute squeeze in a position where the glutes are barely even working? The intention is good, don’t over arch, don’t under arch, but when you don’t have the proper motor patterns to know where neutral is, both can be potentially dangerous. I believe the lesser of the two evils for learning and longevity purposes is slight spinal extension over slight spinal flexion when squatting and deadlifting. Squeezing the glutes and getting some posterior pelvic tilt is great for safety of the spine and hypertrophy of the glutes during glute bridges and hip thrusts and is actually encouraged! But forcing excessive pelvic movement in a squat doesn’t sound like a great risk vs reward scenario to me when we could do something far less technically challenging like glute bridges or kickbacks and other isolation exercises receiving more glute activation with reduced injury potential.
If you would like to alter the style of squat being executed in the safest manner to help increase glute activation then choosing a wider stance is the ticket. Caveat to this wider stance is that it fits within the active range of motion of your hips, adductors and hamstrings. Any knee valgus and excessive internal rotation of the femur on one or both legs to compensate for lack of mobility is a contraindicator for that stance width. Choose a wide stance for your body type that you are currently capable of moving through the entire range of motion without any of the aforementioned technical breakdowns.
Using exercise like the 45-degree hyper and hyperextension only for glute development with the specific posture of chin tucked and little to no spinal erector activation is absurd for year-round development of any athlete or person. These exercises are prime examples of isolation exercises that when done properly can help build a bulletproof back that will aide in the persons ability to squat weight under load and maintain a proper pelvic position via isometric back strength and resist spinal flexion when picking up loads from the ground whether it be a deadlift or a grandchild. Skipping out on this advantage and using it just for glute development is only leaving you open for injury in the future. Again, this exercise still develops the glutes even when used in a strict hip hinge, neutral head, slightly extended spinal posture.
I don’t hate the attention the glutes have gained. I’m happy we have learned more about proper application of anatomy from hours in the field of in personal training and lab work. But bypassing total body development is only leaving the person open for potential issues down the road inside and outside the gym. Granted the glutes are one of the main muscle groups that need as much time and attention as an underdeveloped muscle group in general population and new training clients. By all means give them the workload they need. Just don’t forget about all the other important muscle groups that make the human body so unique and beautiful in their presentation and utility and please don’t try to fit a square peg into the round and triangular holes all the time. It’s really not necessary.