Ifs, Butts and Maybes: The Glutes as a fashion accessory

Part One: Ifs?

Iffy more like.   We sit too much really, and don’t walk enough.  This is the real Glutes story but it isn’t making the headlines.   At least not on TikTok or in Closer magazine

If you want something on trend buy Flares not Jeggings.  Drink a smoothie with activated charcoal in it and not Kale;  Do HIIT rather than Zumba

Don’t try to make your body fit with whatever is the current fashion, because it is just that: a fashion,  a passing fad

Genes, lifestyle and a bit of good luck make the shape of a women’s bottom but these days the bottom is seen as a fashion item.

Those of us old enough to have been around, remember the heroin chic look of the early 1990s.  It is what made Kate Moss famous: angular, borderline underweight, no curves

“Yeah butt no butt……!”

I think Vicky Pollard might have been onto something

original drawings of 1920s dressmaking pattern designs

We have all seen pictures from the 1920 with the androgynous, flat curve-less bodies of the Flapper girl or the angular look of the 1930s:  all bias cut frocks, typified by Wallis Simpson (who is famous for saying that you can never be too rich or too thin).

How about Kylie Minogue’s bum?  That was the thing at one point. The It-Butt no less. It made Kylie’s career and the gold shorts famous.

At some point in the 1990s fashion dictated we flaunt both the underweight no butt, and also the round small perfectly formed butt.

And now we have Kim Kardashian. The pinnacle at the intersection of consumerism, fashion, social media and celebrity.    Specifically though, her bottom: the very zenith, it would seem,  of bottomly perfection.   The highest a bottom has ever achieved.  And the widest.

How much of it is actually muscle though?

Kim Kardashian in black skin tight capri trousers

So many young women and teenagers want their body to look like this:  the current fad for the large bottom, made infamous by Kim.   She’s got there via surgery, assiduously chosen clothes and photoshop.  If you can’t invest in all of that jiggery fakery, try this: work with the body you have got, rather than trying to force it to become something that it isn’t

Women who naturally look like this are vanishingly rare, although I did once know a lady who was one of my son’s carers in After School Club many years ago.   Beyond that you ain’t gonna look like that by going to the gym a bit more often.  It’s surgery or nothing and the Brazilian Butt Surgery isn’t not commonly available in the UK because it is very risky

So, what to do? How about we aim to make our Butts functionally stronger, which may in turn make them bigger.

I’m all for that and a little bit obsessed.  I’ve written about it before in another blog post:  Life! Does my bum look big enough in this?

Part Two: A Quick BUTT  Anatomy Lesson

The shape of your bottom is determined by the width of the pelvis and the angle at which the thigh bone meets the pelvis.   It varies slightly from person to person.  If the angle of the femur is wider then you will have a wider bottom.  This shape has often been referred to as child bearing hips which is not, in actual fact,  a relevant correlation.  The ability to safely give birth (in this context) relates to the inside anatomy of the pelvis not the outside articulation with the thigh bone.  Subtle differences in the  orientation of the sacrum (the base of the spine) relative to the pelvis will impact bottom shape too

In addition, the amount of muscle makes a big difference too.  The less work the glutes do, the more they wither away (literally) and you can end up with a frogs bottom: kind of non existent

How narrow your waist is matters.  The narrower the waist, the bigger your bottom and hips will appear to be.

The major (but not the only) muscles of the bottom are the family of glutes (gluteals):

Gluteus Maximus (the big one at the back),

Gluteus Medius (the biggish one at the sides), and wonderfully,

Gluteus Minimus (a baby Medius, and lies underneath)

All of the Glutes stabilise the body in standing.  They are functionally active all the time when you stand. This is often forgotten about because we are so eye dominant that we kind of forgetwomen doing a Deadlift exercise about the entirety of the back of the body and focus on what we see in the mirror.  Standing properly is an effective glute workout relative to sitting down, or standing in a sloppy way.  It is why people deadlift.  The end range of a deadlift is, after all, standing tall with the bar ball held in your arms, resting on your thighs.   It is standing with extras (albeit big extras)

 

Gluteal muscles enable walking and running by a movement called Hip Extension which is the backwards movement of the thighs, loaded by body weight,  relative to the pelvis and the ground.  This is getting a bit esoteric I grant you , butt it matters because I want to point out the difference between:

Hip Extension vs Back Extension

This next picture (below) is pretty extreme but it gets the point across.  This woman, shown clearly in the right hand picture, is arching her back to make her bottom appear bigger. Be careful about this. Be very careful.  Sticking your bottom out to make it appear more pert (whatever that means) and more rounded means arching your lower back in and this can:

  • cause backache
  • make the back muscles have to overwork
  • chronically weaken the abdominals because they have to stretch to accommodate the tight back muscles
  • reduce the strength and function of the glutes because the lower back is dominant, overworked and “taking over” the function of the Gluteals

woman making her bottom look bigger by arching her spine into back extension

 

So, avoid going for the appearance of the big bum by sticking it out.

When you are doing strength training for the bottom make absolutely sure that you are doing Hip Extension (legs back relative to the body) and not Spine Extension (back arched)

I’ve seen sloppy technique over and over again in people who think they are working their glutes but they are doing an exercise that is far too extreme and so, sadly, they are bypassing the glutes and just working the lower back

For example:

  • poorly performed Glute Bridges or ones performed with a 20 kg (yes I did say 20) on their pelvis.  Truly painful to watch and probably to do ,if it’s badly.
  • deadlifting, with poor technique and/or tight ankles so the back arches to accommodate the inability to properly squat to the floor.  It is pretty much game over for glute strength at this point
  • deadlifting with poor technique in the end range where you just arch your back rather than truly use the gluteals to stabilise the body against the load being lifted.  This is also a major problem with Kettlebell swings.
  • all fours leg lifting when the back arches with each repetition  rather than an isolated leg lift with a neutral spine
  • with side leg lifting, the arching of the back presents as a hip hitch.  Same problem as with all fours leg lifting

Part Three: MAYBE We Could be More Holistic. More Realistic

We are in the sadly ironic situation that we really do need to work more on Glute Strength and getting our bottoms more active, strong and better able to hold us up properly

So here’s the manifesto

The 5 point plan for bottoms everywhere

  • Stand more.  Yes we can start simple and ensure that the glutes are functionally engaged (but not just squeezed).    I’m adding a Youtube clip if you’d like more on how to stand properly: https://youtu.be/SBAlQ-ojzBU
  • Walk more.   Still simple.  Walking  helps almost everything! and I’ve talked about this in an earlier blog post, 
  • Watch the shoulders. Yes also still simple: If you round your shoulders you tend to round the spine forwards (into flexion).  The Glutes promote relative extension of the spine (that is, standing tall and straight and away from flexion).  Ensuring the spine is appropriately extended will in turn keep the glutes switched on and keep you standing taller
  • Padded trousers or pants, like a padded bra.   Honestly, why not?  It is just reverse Spanx with built in silicone.  This must be a thing: I’ve seen enough of it on Ru Paul’s Drag Race!
  • Really effective Glute Exercises.  Ones that lend themselves to being done properly and tend to leave the lower back alone

My personal choices for glute exercises

It isn’t an exhaustive list. Instead, a list of things that most people can have a go at and get right, if given a few teaching points

Gym style

  • Squats
  • Deadlift with an approximately 15 kg weight
  • No weights?  Do a Dynaband (Exercise band) squat.  Here is a clip of how to do this, with and without bent knees.  (If you are in the know: a Squat deadlift or a Romanian Deadlift)

Pilates Style

  • All Fours Swimming and probably not the Classical version from lying on your tummy
  • Glute Bridge with narrow legs /feet and then also with wide legs/feet
  • Side leg lifts being super careful to keep the trunk stable. no hip hitching which is the same as arching your back
  • Anything standing tall on one leg

Yoga Style

  • Any Warrior Pose
  • Mountain pose
  • Triangle Pose

I’ve added this link to another excellent article about the Glutes.  It gives very similar suggestions for exercises that I’d chose .  The first picture is very dodgy though.  Surgically enhanced butt I suspect!

Final links

Here are three Youtube clips, each for a 10 minute Glute/buttock workout

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