Rounder backsides are in style right now but not everyone is born with one. Some women resort to outrageous tactics to get buttocks that are full and rounded, like getting the infamous Brazilian butt lift. But such a drastic solution doesn’t appeal to everyone – for good reason. Wouldn’t it be better to reshape your buttocks with a little hard work? Doing it this way pays off with other dividends. For example, your glutes will not just be prettier, but stronger. That’s particularly important if you play sports or sit most of the day. If you work an office job and are glued to a chair for hours at a time, your glutes go into slumber mode and weaken. Weak glutes and tight hip flexors from too much sitting create an imbalance that increases the risk of injury. So, maybe it’s time to strengthen and reshape those buttocks so they’re stronger AND more aesthetically pleasing.
Why Buttocks Go Flat
Two factors contribute to the problem of flat buttocks: genetics and aging. Some people, thanks to genes, have a more rounded shape to their buttocks. Of course, you can’t pick the buttock genes you’re assigned but you can change the way they’re expressed through exercise and nutrition. The other factor is aging. Once you hit menopause, a decline in estrogen directs fat storage away from the hips and buttocks and toward the abdominal region. This makes the tummy area more prominent and the buttocks look less pronounced by contrast. Plus, you lose muscle tissue in the glute area, along with other areas of your body. Then, there’s the impact of gravity. Gravity starts to pull a once perky butt downward over time, causing it to look flat.
Sadly, knowing why it happens doesn’t solve the problem – but there’s the good news. You really can change the shape of your bottom line with work. Your buttocks are made up of the gluteus maximus, the “head honcho” muscle on your backside and the largest muscle in your body. It has to be because it helps to keep you in an upright position and also extends your thighs and rotates your hips outwardly. When you rise from a sitting position, muscle fibers in the gluteus maximus extend your thighs.
Along the outside of your pelvis lies the gluteus medius, an important muscle for hip stability. The gluteus medius is also the most powerful abductor of the hip. Plus, the posterior fibers extend the hip and rotate it outwardly, while the anterior fibers flex and inwardly rotate the hip. Beneath the gluteus maximus is the smaller gluteus minimus that helps support the action of the gluteus maximus. It also stabilizes your hip and helps you stay balanced when you raise a leg off the ground.
To get balanced strength and muscle hypertrophy, you don’t want to ignore any of these muscles but targeting the gluteus maximus will give you the most return. As the fibers in the glutes hypertrophy in response to training, your backside looks more pronounced.
Compound vs. Isolation Exercises for Glute Growth
You’ve probably heard that you should do mostly compound exercises, exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time when you train. That’s because multi-muscle, multi-joint exercises burn more calories and trigger a greater metabolic response than single-joint exercises. But to reshape your buttocks, you need to incorporate a certain number of exercises that specifically target the glutes.
When you do squats, deadlifts, and lunges, your glutes get in on the action but you’re also training your thighs. What can happen when you do these exercises exclusively is you build your glutes but also work your thighs. Instead, target your glutes more with exercises that are less likely to work your thighs. Don’t stop doing the big three – deadlifts, squats, and lunges or go too light on the weights, but devote some time to exercises that isolate the glute muscles. Two of the best exercises for accomplishing this are glute bridges and hip thrusts.
You’re probably already familiar with hip thrusts and glute bridges but be sure you’re gradually increasing the challenge over time. Start by mastering the glute bridge before progressing to the hip thrust since this move builds the stability you need to do hip thrusts properly. When you start out doing hip thrusts, use only your body weight, but as the exercise becomes easier, it’s time to add some resistance. You can place a barbell over your hips as you thrust or use resistance bands. By using resistance, you’ll see your buttock muscles take shape as you also develop more strength in your glutes and core. Another variation is single leg hip thrusts that target one glute at a time.
Activate Your Glutes During Compound Exercises
Of course, you don’t want to abandon squats, lunges, and deadlifts, just devote one or two sessions a week to focused glute work using exercises that isolate the muscles. When you do compound exercises, make sure you’re truly activating your glutes. Fine tune your squats to target the glutes even more. You can do this by widening your stance and descending below parallel when you squat. Slow the movement so that you feel the burn in your glutes! When you lunge, tilt your body slightly forward to place more emphasis on your glutes. When you step forward into a lunge, take a longer stride to shift more of the focus to your glutes. Bulgarian split lunges also target the glutes more. Another tip – do alternate leg deadlifts to target your buttocks more. By making small tweaks to compound exercises, you’ll wake up your glutes more and get more glute-shaping benefits.
The Bottom Line
You can change the shape of your backside but it takes focused glute work. Don’t’ forget about the importance of nutrition too! You won’t see those shapely buttocks if they’re covered with fat. Devote one to two days per week on isolation glute exercises and see if you don’t notice a change!
Fitness Rx. “Tight and Toned Butt Workout”
The Glute Guy. “Do More Than Just Squat”
The Glute Guy. “What Are the Best Glute Exercises?”
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