Butts that seem to defy gravity usually result from genetics, a healthy diet, a vigorous daily workout schedule or all of the above. While even the best butt exercise may not be able to undo the effects of a sedentary job paired with a sedentary lifestyle, a well designed gluteus workout maximizes muscle tone and helps create the appearance of an uplifted lower half. It's all done with muscles.
Muscles in the Buttocks
Whether you call it your glutes, your butt, your buttocks or your booty, your gluteal region is composed of three major muscles. Your gluteus maximus is the largest of the three and the one closest to the surface. As a result, it gives your butt its shape and definition. The gluteus maximus is the primary muscle involved in hip-extension exercises, so these exercises, which involve pulling your knees down or backward, help shape your buttocks. The gluteus maximus also plays a role during external rotation, or what dancers call turnout. If you wonder why dancers have such tight glutes, watch those plies in the turned-out position. Your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus assist the maximus, but also support abduction, or moving your leg away from your body's center.
A Harvard University study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology focused on the role butt muscles play in running. That research indicates running on a hill or some other incline more fully engages your glutes. Incline elliptical training has a similar effect, as does backward pedaling. If you add this type of training to your workout, increase the incline gradually, and add backpedaling segments. Other exercises, such as walking lunges performed on an incline, add to your butt-lifting routine.
When mom and grandma knelt in front of the TV and performed the quadruped exercise, they knew what they were doing, according to the American Council on Exercise. The organization commissioned a research team from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, to determine the best butt exercises. To its surprise, the quadruped landed at the top. The exercise starts with your hands and knees on the ground and involves lifting your leg directly behind you. To engage the glute medius and minimus, lift the leg up, then bring it out to the side. Grandma called this the fire hydrant. These researchers also found benefits from one-legged step-ups on the bench, and standing hip extensions, which involve positioning a weight or resistance behind your knee and lifting that leg behind your body.
On the Ball
Use of an exercise ball can be useful in buttocks exercises. If your knees don't permit kneeling, lie prone over the ball for the quadruped exercise. For postural alignment during squats and lunges, place the ball against the wall, position it behind your shoulder blades, and perform the exercise. Ball bridges, performed with your calves draped over the ball, help correct an imbalance called reciprocal inhibition, which results from excessive sitting. Sitting tightens your hip flexors, and when hip flexors do all the work, your butt muscles are not engaged. During the glute bridge, your hip flexors stretch, or relax, as you lift your spine into the bridge position. Without the hip flexor's help, your glutes must do all the work. Challenge yourself. Perform the exercise with one leg, or incorporate a resistance band and lift against the resistance to increase the benefits
- The Journal of Experimental Biology; The Human Gluteus Maximus and its Role in Running; Daniel E. Lieberman; 2006
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In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.