How to Build a Better Butt
I’ve never had much of a butt, but imagine how shocked I was when I lost it completely. How did it happen? Well, I was sick, and I lost weight, and I turned around, and just like that… no more bum. The tragedy of it all haunts me, and unfortunately this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Everyone gains and loses weight differently. Some people carry weight around their abdomen. Others gain weight first at their hips. And some people are rail thin and need muscle to keep from looking like skeletons. But back to my backside. Or lack thereof. Whenever I lose weight or don’t work out enough, my butt falls off. It’s why I request glutes in class every single time. Fortunately, my post-surgical weight gain plan is starting to work. And, as I am obsessed with my glute strength, I was able to get at least some curve back. How did I do it? First of all, to understand how to build a better (read: firmer and stronger, no matter the size) butt, you need a quickie anatomy lesson of what’s there. The “glutes” are actually three muscles – the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. A lot people spend a lot of time training the glute max. Think squats. Lots and lots of squats. The problem is that when you only do squats, you’re missing out on what I think are the more important parts of the glutes – the medius and minimus. These muscles are on the upper outer part of your bum. And if you build them up, you lift the tush, creating a rounder look. Beyond aesthetics, these muscles are important for stabilizing your hips, which allows you to walk smoothly and also helps prevent hip and knee pain (and potentially hip and knee replacements later in life). I see people with a lot of weakness here. I see it in people walking down the street. I see it in students kneeling with a leg lifted in class who “dip into their hips” or are doing a bridge and can’t keep their hips even. I see it when a person stands and shifts their weight to one side (like all of these people are doing in these fitness ads. Shame!) Here’s what to do – Fuse Pilates-style. First, don’t neglect the glute max. It’s important for forward momentum when you walk (and hopefully walking is on your life-long agenda). So, we do bridges in parallel, leg lifts in parallel, etc. But to work the glute med and min (cute nicknames, huh?), there’s a couple of ways to go: Closed-chain exercises: This means that your leg isn’t floating in space – it’s attached to something (the floor, the footbar on the reformer, a ladder rung). When you do single leg exercises in a closed chain – like a single leg bridge – the leg that is on the floor has to do a lot of work. And your glute muscles are all working together to stabilize that position. It’s also the reason why when you’re in a quadruped position and you’re moving one leg, it’s the kneeling hip that often starts to hurt. It usually means that your glute med could use some strengthening. Open-chain exercises: In these exercises your leg isn’t attached to anything. So, we might do a leg lift in external rotation – focusing on contracting the muscles that lift your leg from this position (you guessed it, glute med and min).