Do Squats & Deadlifts make the Waist THICKER?

**If you prefer reading instead of watching, here’s a transcript of the video above:**

People are always coming up with reasons to avoid Squats and Deadlifts.
“Oh, I don’t want to hurt my knees or my back”, “I’m a bodybuilder, not a powerlifter” Blah blah blah!

And among a list of other such “reasons”, a very common one is the idea that Squats & Deadlifts can make your waist THICKER because of how much they work your core.

In today’s post, I’m going to evaluate that claim, break it down and give you the final verdict on whether or not you need to avoid Squats & Deadlifts if you want to have a thin, narrow, “aesthetic” waist.

The very first thing we need to discuss is WHY do people even think this happens? And the answer to that is because Squats & Deadlifts heavily work the muscles of your core and people extrapolate this to think that they would therefore add a lot of mass to the midsection just like they do for the other major muscles of the body that they work.

While this makes sense in theory; there are a few caveats to this…

Firstly, while it is true that Squats & Deadlifts heavily work the Core, we must first clarify exactly WHAT PARTS of the core they work. Very recently I put up a piece on the difference between the Abs & The Core and in there, I explained in detail that the muscles of the core that Squats & Deadlifts do work primarily are the deep muscles surrounding the spine particularly the Transverse Abdominis and the Spinal Erectors. They DO NOT notably work the superficial muscles on the front of the midsection i.e the Rectus Abdominis and the Obliques.

The reason why this distinction is important because those deep muscles mentioned i.e the Transverse Abdominis and the Spinal Erectors are worked primarily as stabilizers and they DO NOT have nearly as much of a growth potential as the superficial muscles of the body; for us to see a visible “expansion” of them.

So while they can and will get much stronger when worked during Squats & Deadlifts; they do not have much potential for growth and whatever little they do will not contribute to the thick/blocky appearance of the waist from the front.

If there are any muscles of the midsection that CAN contribute to this larger appearance; it’s going to be Rectus Abdominis i.e the Six pack muscle and the Obliques. HOWEVER, even then, I would argue that they don’t do so in any, real, notable way either.

And the reason for that is two fold:

Firstly, muscles are dense and compact. Muscles in general, even when they grow, don’t just magically balloon up. It takes a LOT of muscle and a lot of growth for a muscle to start popping out and forming a bulge. And the Abdominal & Oblique muscles simply don’t show that kind of growth potential in anybody.

Second…Even if you have tremendously well-developed Rectus Abdominis to the point where the muscles are popping out; the nature of the attachments of this muscle is such that they pop OUTWARDS giving the whole “3D six pack” appearance and NOT sideways.

3-D 8 Pack Abs | Do Squats & Deadlifts make the Waist THICKER?

This outward popping is only evident from the side as you can see in the image above and is actually DESIRED from an aesthetics point of view. It certainly DOES NOT expand sideways taking up more and more horizontal space on your midsection!

Expansion of Abs | Do Squats & Deadlifts make the Waist THICKER? |  Will Squats and Deadlifts thicken your waist?

So summing it all up, while it is possible for your Abs & Oblique muscles to grow to an extent and contribute to your midsection size; they certainly ARE NOT the reason behind that thick/blocky look to your waist; that you’re worried about.

So with that said, if training the muscles of your midsection isn’t responsible for that thick, blocky look then WHAT IS?

Well, a waist like that comes down to two major factors:

1) Body Fat levels
More often than not, the large look and size of your midsection comes from simply having too much body fat over there.

Belly Fat | Do Squats & Deadlifts make the Waist THICKER?

And you don’t have to be “fat” for that to happen. Given the fact that the midsection is one of those “stubborn” fat areas for nearly all men and many women; its very common to see people being nearly lean everywhere else but yet have a big belly.

Thin but big belly | Do Squats & Deadlifts make the Waist THICKER?

To put it simple, unless you’ve leaned down to at least 12-15% for males or 18-20% for females; you have no business even thinking that exercises are making your waist look big. They’re not. It’s the body fat. And simply losing that excess body fat will take care of your problem.

2) Genetics
If your body fat levels are already in check and your waist still looks too thick then its very well just an issue of your genetic body structure.  We are all built a certain way and that’s different from others. Some people have naturally wider or narrower waists than others due to how they’re built and there is literally NOTHING you can do about it.

Take a look at this picture of two legends of Bodybuilding – Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger side by side.

Sergio Oliva vs Arnold Schwarzenegger | Do Squats & Deadlifts make the Waist THICKER?

Arnold’s waist size here was about 34 inches and Sergio’s an insane 28 inches!
Why do you think there’s such a difference? They were both at the top of their game and had nearly the same level of conditioning so it’s certainly not body fat levels. Do you think it’s because of Squats? If so then you should know that Arnold’s heaviest squat as per him was 545 pounds whereas Sergio has squatted 500 for 4 reps which translates roughly to the same 1RM as Arnold’s.

The difference here is because of the genetic structure of these two.

So hopefully this article and all the points I’ve discussed in it have convinced you that Squats & Deadlifts DO NOT thicken your waist and that you can and should include them into your training program without them getting in your way to achieving that nice, tapered torso.

And that’s it guys. That’s the video for you. Hope you enjoyed it and found it informative.

What are the other excuses you’ve heard people give to avoid squats and deadlifts? Comment below and let me know! And share this article with your gym mates so they have one less excuse to use the next time you get them to Squat and Deadlift with you.

Thanks for reading and until next time… Keep learning, Keep growing!

Suneet Sebastian

Suneet Sebastian is a self-confessed fitness science nerd. His passion and desire for learning, educating and promoting critical thinking in the fitness industry is what sets him apart from the average "guru". He has made a name for himself as an elite Strength & Conditioning coach among professional athletes and regular enthusiasts alike with his extremely detailed and thorough advice backed by concrete science and leaves absolutely no stone unturned when it comes to educating and empowering those that seek to take their fitness to a whole new level. To know more about Suneet's background and the story behind the foundation of Sebastian Fitness Solutions, click here.

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  • Enrique Pasion

    There are a lot of claims out there indeed about squats and deadlifts does thicken the waistline.

    Thank you for debunking this! Agree that genetics does play a part. Very informative read indeed!

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