Build Yourself a Better Butt

Current economic conditions mean that money is tight; however, can the same be said for your rear end? Don’t let your sagging stock portfolio be an excuse for skipping workouts this year, especially those targeting your bum. Learn how to tighten your assets with a moderate investment of time—and no gym membership fees!

Anatomy of the Glutes

Arguably the strongest muscle in the body, the gluteus maximus is one of the most conspicuous parts of the muscular system, connected as it is with the power of keeping your trunk in an upright position. The gluteus maximus allows your leg to extend behind you and permits outward rotation of the femur (thigh bone). It is the primary gluteal muscle involved in cycling, jumping rope, squatting, climbing stairs and running. It is also the largest of the three gluteal muscles that make up our buttocks—the other two being the gluteus medius (located at the superior and outer portion of the buttocks) and gluteus minimus (located underneath the gluteus maximus), named so for their size.

Whether you want it to be larger, smaller or rounder, the overall shape of your butt depends on three primary factors:
  1. The size of our gluteus maximus muscle. Remember that muscle mass is lean and doesn't take up a lot of space. Strengthening your glutes can improve muscle tone and result in a tighter, firmer appearance.
  2. How much fat lies on top of that muscle. As with any muscle group, it is not possible to selectively "spot reduce" this layer of fat from the buttocks, which means all the donkey kicks in the world won't burn away butt fat. However, all types of cardio exercise will help reduce your overall body fat.
  3. Genetic factors. Individuals are genetically predisposed to store fat in specific regions of their body—one of these regions is the buttocks. This is especially true for women, which is why women tend to have larger and rounder rear ends (often associated with femininity) than men. Genes also play a role in the shape of your butt. Genetics mostly determine whether your rear is heart-shaped, bubble, pear-shaped or flat. While you can slightly change your overall composition of body fat and muscle mass, you'll probably always have the same shape, just larger or smaller depending on changes in your body fat and muscle tone.<pagebreak>
Exercise serves to strengthen and firm the glutes, while appropriate eating habits coupled with aerobic exercise help address the fat tissue on the surface. Every body responds differently to exercise, so it's important to experiment with a variety of butt exercises to identify which ones yield the best results for you.

Contrary to popular opinion, weight training is unlikely to make a woman's butt bigger. The average woman doesn’t "bulk up" from strength training because she lacks a significant amount of the hormone testosterone, which is essential to developing large amounts of muscle. It would take hours of time in the gym on a daily basis, strict eating habits, and use of steroids for most women (and men) to achieve a bodybuilder physique. Due to these facts, I recommend women use heavier weights with fewer repetitions when training their glutes at the gym. This approach is usually more effective than exercising with lighter weights and more repetitions.

Six Butt-Blasting Moves to Try

For a shoestring budget, you can't go wrong with these efficient moves. Remember that form and technique are critical for optimal results and for minimizing the risk of injury. Maintain slow, controlled movements instead of using momentum, and focus on the quality of each repetition over the quantity of reps. Unless otherwise specified, do two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise, three times a week (resting at least one day between workouts).
  1. Step-Ups: Stairs are found everywhere—work, college campuses, homes—and they're like free exercise equipment. To target your glutes while going up stairs, remember to push down with your heel while straightening your leg. Alternate legs or do all your reps on one leg, then switch. 
  2. Lunges: For added effectiveness, lift your front toes off the floor, which shifts your weight onto the heel, thereby increasing the work of the glutes. This quick fix prevents pressing down on your toes, which targets the quads.
  3. Squats: You can’t beat this classic butt-strengthening exercise. Try single-leg squats to increase the challenge or hold onto dumbbells for added resistance.
  4. Glute bridges: Challenge yourself by performing the bridge with one foot as you get stronger, or add a stability ball for variety.
  5. Quadruped leg lifts: On your hands and knees, tuck your belly button to your spine to stabilize your torso and spine. Lift one leg up, keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees, until the upper leg is parallel to the ground. For greater effectiveness, straighten the leg. This creates more resistance and prevents the hamstrings from taking over the work from the butt muscles.
  6. Stair climbing: Like the strengthening step-ups above, climbing stairs as a means of cardio also targets the butt. In fact, any incline (such as a hill or an inclined treadmill) works the glutes more than walking or running on a flat road. Since cardio is important for helping reduce body fat, get more out of your booty-shaping plan by adding some inclines or stairs to your cardio plan.
Committing to this glute-firming program places you on a path to improved health with little financial investment. If having a great rear end isn’t motivating enough to add the exercises above to your repertoire, consider the fact that having a strong rear also implies a strong back. Butts and backs go together, which is good news for overall health and functional strength. Consistency is key, of course. For as sure as the sun rises, the stock market will rebound, housing prices will rise, and unemployment will plummet, and when they do, you will be sporting one bodacious booty!