Why glutes are the new abs

Photo: Katie Kaars

Words: Gemma Dawkins

 

Blame it on a Kardashian, Sir Mix-a-Lot, or the peach emoji: glutes are trending. Yes, for the last decade or so, fitness culture has decidedly rejected the noughties’ obsession with trying to literally work our asses off – and thank God for that. Pass the peanut butter! Of course, whether you’re rocking a pancake or a fluffy hotcake, it should be slathered in some self-love syrup. But there is a valid reason why this fitness trend (for once) might actually lead to healthier bodies: science.

Okay, we’ll be more specific. As a society in general, we are spending more time than ever sitting down – on average around 9 hours per day. This represents an enormous health risk. In fact, sitting has even been called the new smoking – and that’s one bad smell you really don’t want following you around. When it comes to glutes in particular, sitting is the kiss of death: the glute muscles are in a lengthened, weakened position while seated, causing them to atrophy. This, in turn, leads to short, tight hip flexors, which affect the position of the pelvis, which affects the position of the spine, which is connected to the…well, we could go on, but we won’t because that song is super annoying. In short, glute-focused strengthening and conditioning combats some of the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, improving your posture and minimising your risk of injury. Hooray! Pilates for everyone!

So, it might be time to go bottoms up. For the health benefits, obviously, not just because you want a perky peach. (Definitely not.)

Before you hit the squat rack, here are our no ifs, ands, or buts rules for butt building:

 

  1. First things first
    Before starting your workout, practice a little muscle activation. Since our glutes are already lazy and weak (just like our resistance to the snooze button), if you dive straight into a heavy workout without first waking them up you may end up compensating with surrounding muscles (hello, sore lower back). Try glute bridges, crab walks, and clams to get the correct muscles firing, and wonder why the seafood theme is so strong.

 

  1. Step away from the treadmill

You are welcome! Yes, if it’s a stronger, rounder bottom you’re after, you might want to ease off the steady-state styles of cardio training. That’s because hours of traditional cardio such as running, cycling, and the elliptical trainer can cause you to burn protein stores – the same ones that you’re trying to increase if you’re after muscle gain. Instead, make sure your cardio sessions help to increase muscle mass by incorporating plyometric and compound movements.

 

  1. Eat your pasta

This is not a drill. We all know how important it is to eat enough protein (if you aren’t sponsored by a protein powder are you even an influencer?) but the humble potato is mightier than the sword. Is that the saying? The reason is this: in order to build muscle mass, it’s important to have enough glycogen stores. And glycogen, as luck would have it, comes from carbs, glorious carbs. Twirl that fork!

 

  1. Up, down and all around

The glutes are multitaskers – they can move in a range of directions and planes. So, if you’re only doing the same three exercises over and over (squats, deadlifts and hip thrusts, we’re looking at you) you won’t be working your glutes in a well-rounded fashion. And if there’s one thing we want glutes to be, it’s well-rounded! Keep them balanced by mixing up your training. Barre, pilates and yoga all challenge your glutes with stabilising tasks as well as strengthening tasks. All that standing on one leg while it feels like it’s on fire? That’s working your glutes. And those leg circles your Pilates teacher loves? Working your glutes in all directions.

See you in class!