Having a peachy butt is not just about aesthetics. It’s more importantly about how the muscles at the top of our hamstrings/bottom of your butt cheeks, a.k.a. the ‘smile’ muscles, work to help you stand and move.
I see a lot of people with under-developed smile muscles and overworked side glute muscles (i.e. indents in the side of the butt). Quite often they come along telling me that they have very weak glutes and that their medical practitioner has told them to strengthen them, so they squeeze them for dear life, do a zillion butt thrusts and hope for the best.
While it is important to have strong (big) glute muscles, we need to make sure that the ones underneath your butt are strong enough to balance this out and keep your pelvis in good alignment. When these muscles are not working effectively it can impact on other areas of the body that end up doing more than their fair share to compensate, e.g. the hip flexors, knees and ankles.
But the question is, how do we activate this elusive area and be on our way to a Kylie Minogue-esque derriere?
Here are three easy ways to get those muscles working:
1. Sit bones squeezes
Make sure you are sitting with both feet flat on the ground, and up on your sit bones – your body should look like a double L shape (head to knees an L and knees to toes another L – all at right angles). Squeeze your sit bones together (you should bob up) and release them. Do 8-12. You should feel under your butt, your inside thighs and your belly activating.
Have your feet a little wider than sit bones distance apart, knees tracking toes and hip bones pointing forward (ie not up (bottom tucked under), or down (bottom sticking out). Lift your toes to make sure your weight is in your heels and squat back as though you are trying to sit in a chair. Dig into your heels to return to standing (but be mindful not to add in a little pelvic thrust at the end). Do 8-12. Make sure you are not gripping your big glute muscles when you do these.
3. Static lunges
Put one foot forward and one back, sit bone distance apart. Make sure the outside edge of your feet are parallel so that both hip bones are pointing forward. Lift up your back heel and dig in the front heel (hello smile muscles). Check your back heel doesn’t swing in. Bend your knees and lunge to the floor. Keep your body upright. You should feel a stretch in the front of the back leg and if you dig into your front heel, the smile muscles on the front leg side. Do 6-8 each side.
So there are three exercises for you to be getting on with. Remember it’s all about the things you do most often that have the biggest impact. So when you are walking, for example, be mindful to make a heel strike with every stride and not to only use the front of your feet. Think of pushing your legs forward from your smile muscles, rather than pulling from your hip flexors. When standing, check in on yourself – are are you gripping your butt? If so, stop. Give your butt a wiggle if it helps.
Let’s change those habits and get that butt smiling.
I will leave you with some words from Ron Fletcher (Pilates legend and the guy who started the school I trained at), “When my ass cheeks fall, I’m finished.”
Now there’s something to live by….