Many of us will now want to firm up, lift and tighten one of the most coveted parts of the body — the bum. The bum, or gluteal muscles to be precise, is an area a lot of women and even men wish to tone up.
Everyone seems to want to work on it but are we even working these muscles efficiently?
The gluteal muscles are the biggest muscle group in the body.
They consist of three muscles — the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus and all play a significant role in the hip mechanism.
Let’s focus on the largest of the three for now, the gluteus maximus commonly referred to as the glutes.
Two-thirds of this muscle is attached to the Iliotibial band known as the IT band, which also crosses the knee and helps support that joint. The other third of the muscle attaches to tensor fasciae latae or TFL and crosses the hip and helps stabilise that area.
The glutes can be broken up into fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibres.
The fibres that insert into the IT band are fast-twitch muscle fibres. These muscle fibres create quick, explosive movements and are the reason why the glutes are not only the biggest but also the most powerful muscle group in the body.
We then need to train the glutes in a fast and powerful way in order to work these muscles effectively.
The ‘heart bottom syndrome’ refers to how fully functional buttocks should look.
A well developed behind should look like an upside down heart with flat lower abdominals. Buttocks that are heart-shaped with distended abdominals are a sign of dysfunctional glutes. If yours looks like the latter then read on…
Exercises such as squatting, lunging and deadlifting will certainly target the glutes but we also need to incorporate moves like jumping, hopping and sprinting to really get the backside working at its full potential.
Knowing that two-thirds of the glutes attach to the IT band, it is imperative that the knee stays slightly bent at an angle of 15-20 degrees in order to keep the IT band taut and glutes fully engaged.
Just place your hand on your bum and slightly bend your knee and it will feel firm. Now lock your leg out and your bum will feel flabby.
Remember to keep this slight bend during all standing exercises like deadlifts and bent over rows.
The thigh also needs to be below parallel to the floor in order to fully engage the glutes otherwise the quadriceps will do all the work. When performing step ups and lunges try and lower that front thigh to just below parallel and you will feel that butt working.
When it comes to squatting, try a variation known as sumo squats, which I regularly give to my clients. As the name suggests a sumo squat requires a stance similar to that of a sumo wrestler.
The wide open leg stance and feet turned out will completely engage the glutes as the thigh bone sits at a greater angle in the hip joint and needs even more stabilising than a regular squat.
The glute and opposite shoulder work as a unit so incorporate a pulling or pushing move with a squat or lunge will functionally strengthen the body. Use exercises like a squat to row and single leg deadlifts.
During single leg exercises we should focus on turning the front foot in slightly which will allow the shin and thigh bone to rotate inwards consequently stretching out the glutes.
These muscles love to be stretched so they can snap back and create ballistic movements.
When executing any exercise we should always place emphasis on the heel of the foot and try and push through the heel rather than the toes. Loading the heels in this way will ensure the whole hip extensor chain is working to its maximum.
Using the tips I have outlined above and following the exercises will not only give your bum a great shape but also leave the rest of your body in great shape too… just in time for summer.