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Why Your Butt Exercises Aren't Working

Why Your Butt Exercises Aren’t Working


May 16, 2018

When Charlotte’s Book founder Robin Shobin approached me to write about the glutes—how to change them with exercise, how long it takes to see results, etc.—I was slow to start. The information needed for this would result in a novel series, not an article.

We all have very different goals for our desired backsides, and on top of that, our bodies are a reflection of what we eat and do. This means we each have to adjust our (very unique) behaviors with our personal goals in mind. Here lay the problem.

If I’m working with a model with a wide hip bone who wants a small, flat bum, she’ll require a specific training, nutrition, and cardio approach. A thin woman who wants to increase the size of her glutes, on the other hand, requires a totally different training, nutrition, and cardio approach. If I’m talking to a woman who’s attempting to lose a significant amount of weight and generally improve the area…you guessed it. Your personal goals and starting point will determine your exact course of action and how long it will take to get the results you want. But I can offer some general tips to get the derrière of your dreams.

Lower body exercises are key

Many women dream of a firm, toned bum. To achieve this, lower body exercises are essential to incorporate into your programs. Exercises such as Bulgarian split squats, Romanian deadlifts, squats, lunges, and step-ups are all great choices.

It’s important to make sure that you’re actually using your glutes when you perform the moves. One helpful reminder (which my clients are all sick of hearing) is, “The front leg does all the work.” Whether you’re performing lunges or step-ups, for example, the working leg is always the front leg. Make sure that you’re pushing through your heel using your glutes while doing the exercises. I sometimes see people in the gym doing lunges with their heel off the ground, pushing through their toes. That’s one of the things to be aware of.

The proper level of intensity is just as important

Doing the right exercises—even with the proper form—isn’t enough. You need to make sure that you’re doing them with the proper intensity. To change the lower body, you need to perform exercises with enough resistance to build muscle. Otherwise, you’re essentially doing warmup sets or cardio drills.

If you’re just starting out, your body weight alone may be enough resistance for some people. As you get stronger you’ll need to adjust your resistance accordingly. A good gauge of whether you’re using the appropriate resistance is making sure that the last two to three reps of each set are a struggle. If you get to the end of your set and feel like you can perform more reps, you need to increase your resistance on the following set.

When you’re first starting out or trying new exercises, determining the appropriate lifting weight will require trial and error. I find it helpful to keep an exercise log, recording the exercises performed, weights used, and number of repetitions and sets done. This way you have a handy reminder as well as the ability to track your progress.

Don’t forget about rest days!

Rest days, aka growth days, are extremely important in you journey toward your ideal butt. This is when the magic happens.

As you work out, you’re putting tiny tears in your muscles. Rest days allow the muscle to repair and grow. This is why it’s so important to incorporate rest days into your programming. It doesn’t mean that you can’t go to the gym or workout on your rest days—you just need to give the body part in question a rest. So if you worked out your legs, you’ll need to focus on another body part.

Many people choose to perform one or two leg days per week, but this depends on many factors, including your nutrition and supplement plan, how much you sleep, the number of sets you do, and the intensity of your workouts. You can start with one leg day per week and see how your body feels and reacts. Some people are able to recover more quickly than others, but factors such as nutrition and lifestyle play a key role. Again, with trial and error you’ll be able to determine what works best for you.


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