If you're not filling out your jeans and you want to swap your pancake butt for a round, perky backside, following some basic training strategies can add shape and substance to your bottom line. Certain lifestyle patterns can also leave you flat, so some changes to your daily routine may be in order. But the rear-end result will be totally worth it.
Muscles That Create Contours
The primary muscle that shapes your bottom is the gluteus maximus, a relatively large muscle that extends your leg at the hip. Exercises that strengthen and shape your gluteus maximus also recruit your hamstring and quadriceps muscles. According to Aclands Video Atlas of Human Anatomy, the gluteus maximus does not play a significant role in normal walking. If walking is your only exercise, it's not enough to promote a more shapely butt.
In addition to weak, flabby hip extensors, your pelvic alignment influences the appearance of a flat backside. Think of your pelvis as a bucket of water. When it's tilted forward so water spills out the front, it causes an exaggerated curve in your lower spine and makes your butt stick out. When tilted so water spills out the back, it straightens your lower spine, making your butt tuck under and disappear. Strong abdominal and erector spinae muscles, and strong, stretched hip flexors and extensors, are key to repositioning your pelvis to achieve healthy neutral alignment.
Sitting is a major factor that leads to a flat butt. When you sit for long hours, your hip is in flexion, and the gluteus maximus is stretched. If you don't counter that action with hip extension, the gluteus becomes weak and flabby. Sitting also causes your hip flexors to tighten, making it more difficult to fully extend your hips. If you slouch while sitting, your abdominal muscles and erector spinae are not engaged and become weakened, contributing to poor alignment. Becoming more physically active throughout the day will help reshape your curves. A change as simple as climbing the stairs rather than taking the elevator will engage your gluteus maximus, and get you where you're going.
Squats that begin with the knees and hips flexed at 90 degrees and terminate with the hips and knees fully extended are highly effective for shaping the gluteus maximus. Supine hip lifts that begin with the hips on the floor and the knees bent at 90 degrees and terminate with the hips lifted off the floor and fully extended will strengthen the gluteus and erector spinae muscles. Yoga planks held in the full-body pushup position with fully extended hips engage many of the muscles that act at the pelvis, and encourage neutral alignment. Pilates exercises are specifically designed to promote healthy pelvic alignment and hip function. Remember that your body parts all work together to give you good posture and healthy skeletal alignment. Look for fun activities that use all of your major muscles, and you'll be on the road to a better body.
Michelle Matte is an accomplished fitness professional who holds certifications in personal training, pilates, yoga, group exercise and senior fitness. She has developed curricula for personal trainers and group exercise instructors for an international education provider. In her spare time, Matte writes fiction and blogs.