As a personal trainer I am often asked, what are the best exercises for toning the butt? My answer used to be (before I knew better) squats, lunges, etc.
Unfortunately, our modern-day lifestyle has thrown a wrench in things, and it’s no longer that simple. It has become quite obvious that there is a LAZY BUTT epidemic occurring, which is too bad considering the glutes are one of the strongest muscles in the body. Sadly, we’re no longer using our glutes, so we’re losing them.
Sitting deactivates the glutes, and our brain’s ability to communicate with them decreases. Likewise, most of us stand with our hips extended, our knees locked, and our weight shifted too far forward. Do you realize what this posture does to your butt? It sends a signal to your brain that you no longer need your glutes, and it’s okay to turn them off.
Now, you may think that the answer to a better butt lies in an article that you read, perhaps in a Woman’s Health magazine, that encourages going to the gym 3-5 times a week and doing the most effective, cutting edge, butt sculpting exercises. While those exercises won’t hurt, that is not the answer. Spending a few hours throughout the week working on your glutes actually won’t do much to transform them. The focus should be on how you’re going to use your butt the other 163 hours in the week, outside the gym.
Studies show the average American bends over around 2,000 times a day. But, guess what? We’re not bending correctly. We’re no longer using our glutes. Instead, we are using our lower backs. Why do you think that roughly 90% of us will suffer from a bout of chronic back pain at some point throughout our lives? Avoiding sitting for long periods of time, learning how to bend over (using your butt), and standing correctly is a step in the right direction.
Proper movement patterns confirm that the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and calves) is working correctly. When you master how to move, constantly using your butt, and the glute muscles remain active-that is when the rear end magic takes place.
Here’s how to get a better butt…
1. ACTIVATE your glutes! The first step is to retrain the glutes to “turn on” and stay on.
Again, the majority of us stand with our knees locked, and hips extended forward (shown below). This posture effectively turns the glutes off.
Try this instead. When standing, unlock your knees, shift your weight back onto your heels, and push your butt back (extending your hips slightly). This will allow the glutes to do their job and remain active.
2. USE your glutes! If you don’t use your glutes, you’ll lose them…
Learn how to hip hinge. This will save your back, and keep your glutes working overtime.
Here’s how to hip hinge: When bending forward or down, shift weight back on to heels, bend knees (slightly), and extend hips back, while keeping a neutral spine (very important). This allows the glutes to do all the work, while sparing your lower back. Hip hinging makes all the difference in the world. Learn it. Master it. Your glutes will love you, and you’ll love your glutes too!
3. WORK your glutes! Using your glutes during normal daily activities, such as standing, etc., is the first step to a stronger back side. Now, it’s time to target the glutes, and polish them off.
Here are my favorite top 3 glute specific exercises.
- Hip Bridges (single and double leg)
- Split Squats
- Dead Lifts (hip hinging with weight)
* It is very important to note that dead-lifts, if done incorrectly, can lead to back pain and injuries. I highly recommend mastering the technique before adding weight.