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Do Squats and Deadlifts Make Your Waist Wider? An In-Depth Look

As we have seen bodybuilding progress throughout the years, we’ve also noticed the progression of not only the total mass of competitors, but their waistlines as well. Bodybuilders now carry close to 300 lbs of shredded mass, but have seem to generally lost the aesthetic and pleasing proportions that were associated with bodybuilding. Is it the growth hormone abuse? Insulin abuse? Some even say doing heavy squats and deadlifts can contribute to a wider waist. In this article, I’ll take a look at what exactly could or couldn’t cause these exercises to have an impact on your waistline.

First and foremost, let’s bring attention that there’s a difference between your hips and your stomach. Competitors like to claim all the time that they have a 28-inch waist, but it’s pointless if your stomach is hanging out to be almost 40 inches. Arnold did not have a tiny waist, but because he was able to control his abdomen very well and had a very good taper, his waist appeared to be smaller than it actually was. Bodybuilding is, after all, complimented by giving the illusion that you are bigger, more aesthetic, and better built all around than you actually are.

Your Hips

…as in the actual skeletal, genetic structure you’re given. BONE. It’s hard to say that unless you’re fracturing or causing serious trauma, that this could have a very visible impact on the widening of the bones that make up your hips. When bones undergo trauma, it is true that micro fractures are created. These micro fractures cause the bone to harden and densify, as seen through monks that used to kick trees to densify their tibia/shin bones. For the most part, however, this is not creating a (much) larger bone, but just more so a more dense bone, so unless you broke your hips in half and separated them in an advanced brace similarly to how leg-lengthening surgery is done, I don’t see how your actual genetic, skeletal structure can visibly be changed drastically from a bodybuilding sense due to exercises that aren’t causing extreme, debilitating trauma.

Before competing in bodybuilding and before even reaching his biggest size, Arnold Schwarzenegger competed in powerlifting competitions. At age 19, he deadlifted 616 lbs. In another competition, he deadlifted 710 lbs. For every bodybuilder that squats and deadlifts heavily and often that has a large waist, you can find one that squats and deadlifts that doesn’t.


The Muscles Surrounding Your Waist

external-obliquesThe muscles most notably responsible for giving you the illusion of a wide waist are the external obliques, and…rectus abdominus! Working a muscle to progressive overload will cause the muscle to grow – no denying that. Having genetically large obliques, and doing exercises that stimulate the obliques greatly can, even if in a very small way, cause the illusion of a larger waist. BUT, if your obliques are on fire after a heavy set of squats, then you’re probably squatting very, very wrong. Similarly, aside from tightening and bracing your core for stabilization purposes, your obliques shouldn’t be the prime mover during deadlifts. Aside from any oblique stimulation that occurs during these exercises, let’s realize that probably one of the most commonly performed exercises in the gym are abdominal/core-specific exercises. Nothing screams abdominal/oblique stimulation like DIRECT ABDOMINAL/OBLIQUE EXERCISES. Many of the same people I see claiming that deadlifts and squats increase the size of your waist are also doing a ridiculously high volume, high frequency ab routine. I’m not saying having thick abs means you will have a thick waist, but if you’re going to make a claim that enlarging the size of your core muscles, why are we isolating them so much in common training routines? Have we still not caught on to the whole “abs are made in the kitchen” philosophy?

Your Stomach

The TECHNICAL term of a waist is “the part of the human body below the ribs and above the hips.” So, if you do not have large abdominal muscles (which would increase the circumference of your waist), maybe it’s the actual stomach that’s creating these turtle-physiques. When we see extremely large bodybuilders, with extremely large waists, squatting and deadlifting extremely heavy weight, we make the correlation between those exercises and their large waists. But remember, correlation does not always mean that is the causation. Another correlation that many fail to realize is that to squat big weight, most of the time you need to be BIG. What do you need to do to get big? Eat big. What happens when you eat big, every day, stretching your stomach in order to be able to consume so much food? Well, you get a BIG STOMACH. A big stomach means you have a big waist. I would favor that correlation much quicker than I would favor the heavy compound movements.


The Reasons Bodybuilders Have Big Waists

Abuse of synthetic growth hormone will also cause the organs to grow – further pushing out the stomach. Insulin abuse may also play a role in the distended stomachs, but I’d say most importantly it’s the amount of food consumed along with poor abdominal control. Bodybuilders carb-load too heavily so that their stomach is so full – trying to super-saturate the muscle stores with glycogen from the carbohydrates to create a shrink-wrapped, “full” effect of the muscles. They may achieve this, but by also doing so, some of them appear out of breath just trying to hit an abdominal-and-thigh pose.


So to wrap it up, you could say squats and deadlifts, in an extremely small, insignificant, unnoticeable, and possibly barely measurable way, thicken your waist, but no more than direct core work and a cluster of other variables. In fact, even if they did thicken your waist to a measurable amount that could be scientifically attributed to those two exercises, the sheer mass that you obtain all around will increase the proportions of your V-taper, and your waist will look smaller anyway. So, quick making excuses and do your squats and deadlifts!

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