Today’s reader request post is a subject that is near and dear to my heart: booty building! Abby asked how “skinny ass women can get their asses back” and I am more than happy to oblige. First, let’s consider my back story.
I was pretty blessed in the genetics department. Even at my skinniest, I still had a badonkadonk. I’ve mentioned before that my nickname in high school was “perky” due to the status of my derriere, although that later became “perky pig”.
I don’t know if it’s due to my dancing background or what, but I’ve always had muscular legs and glutes. When I started lifting, I was relatively strong and my lower body responded well to training.
That being said, I have successfully developed a bigger, more shapely butt – especially in the last year as I’ve incorporated more direct glute work into my programming. Without wanting to sound too conceited, my butt is famous at work – many trainers and their clients comment on it. At first I was embarrassed but I’ve learnt to embrace my gift! I just measured this morning and I’m 41 inches around. Not bad!
Glute training is something I focus on with all of my clients, and I have successfully transformed self-proclaimed pancake butts into my very own perky pigs 😉
Initially, when I started lifting I thought deadlifts and squats would be enough. I thought that, because I was already genetically gifted, I didn’t need to spend hours isolating my glutes. When I first heard of Bret Contreras and his barbell hip thrust, I was extremely sceptical to say the least. I didn’t see how thrusting into a bar would be good for your back, and I couldn’t imagine showing my face in the gym afterwards!
I couldn’t completely dismiss his technique without trying it, however. In only a few short weeks, I felt a massive difference in my glute activation – which carried across into all of my other lower body lifts. Physically, I noticed things looked tighter and rounder within a matter of weeks. I was sold!
Knowing what I do now, I always have my clients perform squats, deadlifts and glute bridges from the get-go (quick note: a glute bridge is done from the floor, whereas a hip thrust is where your back rests on a bench for increased range of motion).
Most people have inactive glute muscles caused by being sedentary, which is a shame considering the glutes are the strongest muscle in your body. Having weak or inactive glutes increases the chance of lower back, hamstring and quad injuries as those muscles try to compensate.
The good news is that once you learn how to properly engage your glutes, you can do it all the time: during every workout (including upper body!), standing in line at the grocery store, brushing your teeth… the list goes on! As my glutes became stronger, I noticed a carryover into areas I would have never expected – like an improved bench press.
Before every workout, and on rest days when I do mobility exercises, I perform the following exercises as a warm up. By purposely activating my glutes before each session, I’m confident that I’m working the correct muscles. I also do the following with all of my clients. If you feel any of the exercises in your lower back or hamstrings, it means you are not engaging your glutes properly. Focus on mastering these moves before adding any resistance.
Side lying clam:
Quadruped bent leg hip extension:
Flat butts are caused by a lack of muscle. As Bret says, abs are made in the kitchen but glutes are made in the gym. You can diet all you want, but unless you train your glutes regularly, you will never have a shapely backside. In fact, losing fat can often make your butt appear worse.
Glutes can withstand a high volume of training. I personally hit them twice per week, but I’ve known others to see success working them five times per week. I typically recommend varying your rep ranges more so than any other muscle group. I can’t think of any other exercise I do where I regularly perform 15-20 reps other than the hip thrust. Everyone is different so mix it up with lighter weights for higher reps and heavier weights for lower reps to find the method which works best for you. I regularly incorporate isometric contractions with my hip thrusts, where I hold the top of each rep for two seconds.
Like with all other exercises, you must apply the principle of progressive overload to your training. Once you have mastered the bodyweight glute bridge, hold a dumbbell or weight plate on your lap to increase resistance. Once you feel confident, try the exercise with a weighted barbell. Regularly try to increase either the weight you lift or the number of reps you perform. As a general guideline, you should be able to hip thrust more than what you squat but less than your deadlift.
I recommend performing a variation of deep squats (back, front or goblet) and deadlifts (conventional, sumo and stiff-legged) once per week. I usually hit barbell hip thrusts once per week, and perform single leg hip thrusts (with my supporting foot on a bench) during another workout.
I also make sure I hit 4-5 other glute exercises throughout the week such as lunges, split squats, back extensions, cable pull-throughs, high step ups and reverse hypers. Make sure you do a mix of exercises that stretch the glutes (eg squats, good mornings) as well as exercises that squeeze the glutes (eg kettlebell swings, hip thrusts). The only cardio which will help build that booty is hill sprints, but it’s not essential.
Here’s a workout guaranteed to make your booty pop!
What is your favourite glute exercise?