Butts, Butts, Butts!

Photo courtesy Joe Mac

Photo courtesy Joe Mac

Way back in the mists of time (in 2012), I wrote what might be one of my favourite posts for this site:


It’s all about how training your glutes is super important, as they’re one of your biggest muscle groups and should be the drivers of a great deal of your lower body activity. They’re also notoriously undertrained – especially in the derby community.

Much like your underloved gluteal muscles, this post never got much attention.  If you haven’t had a chance, you should probably check it out.

If you just can’t be bothered to click (even though there are many pictures of famous sports behinds and terrible butt puns), here’s the summary:

Your glutes need some love.  If you ride a desk all day, and skate derby all night, your hip flexors are in peril of being tight, your quads super-dominant, and your glutes underused. Those with weak or inhibited glutes (from letting other muscles do the work) can develop screwy movement patterns, putting them at risk for pain or injury.  Even if you manage not to hurt yourself, ignoring one of the strongest muscles in your body (the gluteus maximus) is not a recipe for optimal performance.

What makes up this posterior powerhouse?

Anatomy review!

The largest muscle, and one of the strongest in your body, is the gluteus maximus. It’s main function is extension at the thigh, like when you rise from a squat, or extend into the top position of a deadlift.

The other gluteal muscles, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, abduct the thigh (pull it away from the midline of the body).   When you walk, they work with the TFL to keep the pelvis from dropping away to the opposite side.  They also aid in hip rotation – when your hips are flexed, they internally rotate the thigh, when your hips are extended, they externally rotate the thigh.

How to Wake Up Your Glutes

There are tons of exercises out there that will claim to shape and lift your derriere.  Do they all work?  Depends.  Leg work should be a cornerstone of your derby cross-training, but it doesn’t always translate into glute strength.  If you’re someone who has a hard time recruiting your glute muscles (like in our above example), even the best exercises might not get your butt working as hard as you’d like.

So, first step to gluteal recruitment:

Feel Yourself Up

Poking your glutes, or engaging in activity that specifically lets you feel your glutes working (ie. the butt pump) are both great ways to make sure that you’re engaging the muscles you want to engage.  What sort of exercises will give you a good idea of whether or not your butt is working?

My personal favourites are glute bridges and hip thrusts (the same exercise, but your shoulders are on a bench for the hip thrusts, and on the ground for glute bridges).  Set up your bridge with your knees bent, feet on the ground – 6-9″ from your butt.  Shoot your hips into the air, squeezing your glutes – The way you place and root through your feet matters, so adjust until you can really feel your glutes in the top position.  Make sure that you extend your hips fully, making yourself into a table, engaging your core.  Pause at the top to make sure your glutes are firing, then lower your hips slowly, stopping before you touch the ground.  Rinse and repeat.  Make sure to breathe and keep your neck neutral as you go through the movement.

If you’re interested in activating your glutes from different angles (which I highly support), you can try a quadruped hip extension, and side lying clam.

Next step,

Train Your Lower Body as Usual (but think about your butt)

Now that you’ve got the blood flowing to your gluteal muscles, you can train lower body with the movements you’re used to.  Such as –

  • Squats (any variation you choose)
  • Split Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts (any variation you choose)
  • Loaded glute bridges/hip thrusts
  • Banded
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Cable Pull-Throughs
  • Sled Work

and so on.  Keep it simple, focus on your form, and don’t progress until you’re ready.  The important thing is to think about which muscle you want to do the work (in this case, your glutes) and making sure that you feel them working.  Our bodies are magnificent things – they love to develop compensations and will perform a movement the easiest way they can find.  It’s only your gluteal mindfulness that will combat a lazy ass – so, pay your posterior some attention and get those glutes going!

For further butt-formation, please read:

Breaking Muscle – Buttology

T-Nation – Flat Butt Fix

I <3 my glutes.  What about you?

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