Why do I have a flat bum?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Sometimes when you’re scrolling through Facebook you come across a gem like this one (and I quote): “walking 5kms daily and my rear end is still flatter than what the flat earth society believes the world to be.” Comments and suggestions poured in; ranging from observations like “Tall men do not grow bottoms” to suggestions such as buttock implants or padded underwear. Some readers suggested the exercise route, while others the drink sugary drinks and sit-down a lot option.

Whilst this post gave me a good chuckle, I decided to do my research and asked Dr Google “how many people ask why they have a flat bum?” Google didn’t spit out an exact answer to my query however there was a lot of traffic to this query. Google suggested more questions to ask like: Does running flatten your bum? Can you lift your buttocks with exercise? And my personal favourite: Does sitting on your bum all day make it flat? Apparently ‘office-ass’ is a thing!

Why does ‘office-ass’ occur??

Sitting down all day has been linked to many health conditions, and it is the inactivity rather than the physical position or pressure from sitting that contributes to loss of muscle mass. Other contributing factors may include poor eating habits, injury, chronic lower back conditions, hip joint arthritis and poor movement patterns or postures. As we age it takes more effort to maintain muscle mass, so what you did in your twenties may: 1. Not be possible and 2. Not be effective, anymore.

Can you lift your buttocks with exercise?

The group of muscles most commonly associated with your buttocks are the Gluteal muscles: Maximus, Medius, and Minimus (cool names huh!).

Gluteus Maximus is the largest muscle in the body and forms the bulk of your buttocks. It helps keep your body upright, lifts your torso back up when you bend over and helps extend the hip joint when your foot is off the ground.

Gluteus Medius & Minimus help rotate the thigh and stabilise the pelvis when you stand on one leg.

My friend who walks 5km daily couldn’t understand why walking hadn’t helped – the answer is, that walking doesn’t require much effort from the Gluteus Maximus muscle. Strength exercises need to be specific, which for Gluteus Maximus involves exercises such as hip thrusts, bridging, donkey kick, squats, lunges, deadlifts and other variation of these exercises.

Does running flatten your bum?

The short answer is no. Your body adapts to load – meaning the type of exercise you do affects how you look.

Here is a picture of a marathon runner next to a sprinter – while it might be an extreme example you can see the difference. Marathon runners train for endurance, sprinters train for power and speed. You don’t see muscle bound endurance athletes because they don’t need it for their sport - so they spend their time training to keep running for a very long time.

How to strengthen and tone your buttocks

For those who don’t want to spend hours at the gym or just want to maintain what they’ve got, give these simple suggestions a try:

  1. One of the best booty exercises you can do is step-ups. Choosing the stairs is not just good for your cardiovascular system but it will help your hips too.
  2. Stand up>sit down and repeat…..When you get up from your office or dining chair, sit back down and get up again a few times. It’s basically squatting and using the chair helps you to use the correct technique.
  3. Add hills to your daily walk. It doesn’t matter if you walk outdoors, or on a treadmill. Adding in hills will increase your muscle activation.

Here’s some other exercises you can try at home:

  1. Bridging – lay on your back with your knees bent. Clench your buttocks, push through your heels and lift your hips and lower back off the ground. Hold 5-10 seconds, lower down, relax and repeat.
  2. Donkey kick – start on your hands and knees (crawling position). Keeping your back still, push one leg back and up in the air. Pause, then lower and repeat.
  3. Squats – stand with your feel shoulder width apart, bend at the hips and knees, letting your trunk lean forward like you are going to sit down. Try to keep more weight on your heels than your toes, then push through your heels to straighten back upright.
  4. Lunges – take a large step forward, bend both knees evenly so that your back knee drops towards the ground (and your front knee stays behind your toes). Push back through your front leg to bring your feet back together.

It’s important to have a balanced training program rather than only exercising one body part. Make sure you talk to your physio or gym instructor to make sure that your regimen ticks all the boxes. If you have joint pain with any of these exercises, please speak to your physio and don’t keep pushing through pain. If you do suffer from chronic back pain it is a good idea to get your physio to check your technique and advise you on specific exercises for you before you start.

Should I clench my buttocks when I walk

Absolutely not – please don’t do this! Whilst clenching your glutes during a specific exercise like bridging is one thing, walking around all day or going for a walk whilst clenching is NOT good for you. Aside from making you look a tad odd while you walk, it can lead to tightening up in the wrong ways and result in other issues. For example hip impingement (pinching in the front of the hip) can occur due to overactive posterior hip muscles blocking the normal gliding motion of the femoral head in the hip socket during hip flexion activities (sitting or bending).

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