Like the rest of your body, the shape of your buttocks changes with age. One characteristic many women notice as they become older is their bottom widens and looks flatter. Gone are the “perky” buttocks of youth. In its place is a backside that’s not as well-defined and, in some cases, downright flat. These changes, as you might expect, are more common in women who don’t work out. What causes the shape of our buttocks to change as we grow older and what’s the best way to “redefine” them?
Why Buttocks Flatten with Age
Some women start out with relatively flat buttocks. If you have poorly defined buttocks when you’re young, it’s probably genetics. Each of us inherits a certain body shape and type. Even then, you can change what you have to some degree. You can even improve the shape of your buttocks, by building your glute muscles and by decreasing body fat all over. Yet, you’re still somewhat limited by the size of your bones and how they’re structured.
Before menopause, higher levels of estrogen dictate that more fat goes to your hips, thighs, and buttocks and having more body fat in the buttocks keeps your rear from looking flat. After menopause, as your estrogen levels drop, there’s a tendency to store fat around the waist and tummy and less in the buttock region. That’s a double whammy since you have less fat to give your backside some contour and your tummy is more prominent. This makes your buttocks look flatter in contrast. Plus, as you age, you have the downward pull of gravity on your buttocks. That, too, makes your rear view look flatter. Don’t forget, you also lose muscle after the age of 30, including muscle in the glute region, and this speeds up after menopause.
Lazy, Lazy Buttocks
So you’re dealing with less fat storage in the buttocks and more in the tummy as well as the effects of gravity – what’s a gal to do? Plenty! You can reshape the muscles that underlie the fat so you have strong, firm, more defined buttocks. Unfortunately, the glute muscles in the buttock region become lazy over time, a product of too much sitting and not enough focused activation of the glutes.
Think about how much sitting you do each day. As you’re sitting in that office chair or ANY chair, your hip flexors tighten and your glutes relax. This imbalance not only makes your glutes lazy but it throws your posture off and can lead to lower back pain. Sitting too much is linked to all kinds of ills and this is another one to add to the list.
As strange as it might sound, a study showed that sitting a lot may actually change the structure of the fat cells in your buttocks. The weight and pressure of sitting cause them to expand – not what you want. Instead, you want more defined musculature to make those buttocks “pop” again. That’s where glute training comes in.
Reshaping the Glutes
You have three muscles in your buttock region. The largest and most important, in terms of core and postural stability, is the gluteus maximum. Just underneath the gluteus maximum is the gluteus minimus. Like the gluteus maximus, it’s primary role is to extend and internally rotate your hips. The gluteus medius lies outside the pelvis and, along with the gluteus minimus, stabilizes the hip when you raise the opposite leg off the ground.
To reshape your glutes, you’ll need to activate all of these muscles from a variety of angles with an emphasis on the gluteus maximus, one of the strongest muscles in your body. By getting this large muscle to hypertrophy, your buttocks will push out more. This will help you overcome the wide, flat buttocks syndrome. As a bonus, you’ll also create better body alignment by compensating for tight hip flexors that come from prolonged sitting.
What Are the Best Glute Exercises?
When you think of effective glute exercises, squats and lunges probably come to mind. Deadlifts also effectively activate your glutes and hamstrings. No doubt, these exercises are an essential part of any glute-strengthening/hypertrophy routine – but don’t stop there. Remember how we said you need to work your glutes in a variety of ways? One exercise that involves no weights is actually one of the best for glute activation. Based on EMG studies, it’s the hip thruster.
According to research by Bret Contreras, hip thrusts, based on EMG, activate the upper and lower gluteus maximus more than squats do. This doesn’t necessarily mean that hip thrusts are better than squats for building your glutes. Yet, you should be doing them. Although you can do hip thrusts without weights, once these become easy, lay a weight plate or a dumbbell across your stomach as you thrust. Remember, you’re trying to grow the muscle and you need progressive overload to do that.
Another exercise, according to ACE, that’s highly effective for targeting your glutes are quadruped hip extensions. To do this exercise, get on your hands and knees. With your core engaged, lift one bent leg slowly into the air as you push your foot towards the ceiling. Switch legs and repeat. As with hip thrusts, you can add progressive overload by wearing an ankle weight when you do this exercise. Don’t use weight until you’ve mastered the move as it can throw your form off.
Yet another EMG study showed that one-legged squats and one-legged deadlifts are highly effective glute activators. Doing one-legged exercises like this also introduce a balance challenge you don’t get when you do standard squats and deadlifts.
Activate Your Glutes Whenever You Can
Do yourself a favor at the office. Stand up every 30 minutes and activate your glutes. If you can’t do squats at your desk, do glute squeezes and hold for as long as you can. Wake up those sleeping glute muscles whenever you get the opportunity. What doesn’t challenge your glutes makes them flat and flabby. What works them makes them stronger and more shapely.
The Take-Home Message
Doing glute exercises and not sitting so much becomes even more important as you age. A flat butt is more than an aesthetics problem, weak glutes can throw off your body alignment and posture. Wake up your glutes every chance that you get.
Medical Daily. “Sitting Too Much Expands Your Butt, Creates Larger Backside: Can Cellular Expansion Lead To Obesity?”
Brett Contreras CSS, The Glute Guy, “Hip Thrust and Glute Science”
Brett Contreras CSS, The Glute Guy, “Squats Versus Hip Thrusts Part I: EMG Activity”
Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy “Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises”
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