EDIT: You can now listen to this blog as a podcast here.
How to ACTUALLY grow a booty and why there’s so much deception about it on social media.
I’ve been quite hesitant to put together this blog and if you’ve been following me for some time you probably know why. But for those of you who don’t know, in summary, I used to post pictures of my bum on my Instagram page for years. It completely validated me as a person became a sort of addiction. It was toxic for me and my followers on many levels and if you’re interested in reading more about that and why I stopped then you can read more about that here, here and here.
So despite this journey I’ve been on, I still get asked about how to grow glute muscles regularly so I thought I’d put together an official piece of content covering this subject. I’d rather be the one to give trusted and sound advice about it than no advice at all.
NOTE before we jump into this; just know, that having a big booty doesn’t make you more worthy or successful than other females. PERIOD.
So a bit of an overview, your ass is made up of 3 main muscles, the famous glute maximus, the glute medius and the glute minimus. The glute maximus is the largest and responsible for the majority of the shape of the glute – it’s actually the largest muscle in the human body.
The glutes are responsible for a variety of essential functions which is why it’s important to be training your glutes regardless of if you have goalz to grow it or not.
So now we know the glutes are made up of muscle which can be strengthened and grown like any other in the body. Lifting weights is essential for muscle growth but you need to make sure you’re progressively overloading your glute exercises over time. Your body responds to this stress and adapts to cope with it, which enforces muscle growth. Progressive overload could include increasing the weight itself, decreasing rest periods, playing with time under tension or switching up the tempo. With that in mind, it’s important to have a structured training programme in place which changes over time and is tailored toward hypertrophy (aka muscle growth).
Mind muscle connection
Instead of just ‘going through the motions’ of an exercise, you need to make sure the right muscles are actually firing correctly. Our sedentary lifestyles can cause a disconnect to happen between the brain and the glutes, meaning that if you’re new to training, you can’t walk into the gym and do a squat, you expect your glutes to know what to do. I always say, your body is like a learning machine, if you sit down all the time, your body will become really good at sitting down and the same applies to your exercises – do them consistently and you’ll get better over time.
So activating the muscles and mobilising the body before jumping into your workout is essential, and my recommendation would be to spend some time working with an experienced Fitness Coach (maybe just 2 or 3 sessions) going over the basics to make sure you can both switch on the glutes and perform the basic exercises with proper form.
The squat myth
So if you want to target the glute muscles you do squats, right? Well not necessarily. Although squats should be a part of any good fitness program, a load of studies have shown that squats are better at activating the quads than the glutes. And a study by the glute guy Brett Contraras in 2015 showed that hip thrusts resulted in more glute activation than the squat, this is mainly due to the glutes being most activated when the hips are fully extended. But because the glute is such a versatile muscle, the best glute training programmes include lots of variety. Squats should definitely be on the table still, but if you’re more quad dominant you can better target the glutes when squatting by setting your stance wider and turning your feet outward. As discussed earlier, properly activating the glutes prior to your workout will also help here.
In general when it comes to glute training for hypertrophy, you want exercises which can continually get harder over time. When it comes to something like jump squats or donkey kicks (which we often see on social media), there’s only so much you can progress these exercises with additional weight due to the general practicality and keeping correct form. This is why exercises such as the hip thrust, lunges and deadlifts are generally favoured for building strong, muscular glutes.
ANTERIOR PELVIC TILT
This is one of my biggest bug bears. There is no one exercise or product which can get you a certain physique however we are often made to feel that way when we’re on social media. Influencers and celebrities alike have cottoned onto the fact that the majority of womxn want a big booty and a small waist right now. It’s deemed as super attractive and comes with a whole ‘status’ thing which I discuss in my other blogs. So when you’re on your explore page and you see a video pop up of a girl in baby blue seamless leggings doing jump squats looking cute AF, you think, wow, how can I also look like that?
The truth is that these workout routines were never designed to help you grow muscle, they were designed to show off some good ass angles and catch your eye. Low camera angles, pastel colours, side lighting, and an arched back (aka, the anterior pelvic tilt) along with exercises which include jumping are all signs of a clickbait set up. These high impact bodyweight exercises are absolutely not what ‘grows the glutes’, and it’s downright dangerous to be arching your back whilst performing them in a bid to make your bum look bigger too. The majority of people are not functionally sound enough to start doing jump squats in their front room without first addressing their mobility, and it’s likely to end in long (if not short) term injury.
However, if influencers shared what they actually do to build glute muscles, their content would be extremely repetitive and boring. It’d be compound lifts over and over again getting progressively more difficult. Ideally working on their mobility too. This simply wouldn’t get as much engagement or hype on the gram.
The majority of these influencers actually don’t have huge glute muscles and it becomes obvious when they stand up straight – you can always see their posture bending and arching to try and hide this. Which, as I discovered, leads to long term issues in posture. It’s a trend which I hope dies soon.
Training split for muscle growth
When we talk about a training split we are referring to the way that you break up your training over a period of time. A popular split is the ‘bro split’ which would be something like Monday train chest, Tuesday train glutes, Wednesday train back and so on until the entire body is covered at which point you’d be at the end of your cycle. However, science indicates that training a muscle more frequently (even with a lower daily volume) in a training cycle is one of the most effective ways to grow it. So instead of doing 16 sets on a Tuesday destroying your glutes and them not recovering until you train them again the following Tuesday is not the most effective way to get the most out of your sessions. Instead, try to incorporate glute training 2-3x per week as part of a full body workout. This way you can get more frequent activation and give yourself a better chance of recovery before your next session. Now there is an argument for and against using the ‘bro split’ but ultimately it’s going to come down to what fits into your lifestyle – if training 3x per week causes you to lose sleep or increase stress or just isn’t feasible for you. then it may actually yield better results for you training them once or twice a week.
In terms of reps and sets, there is no magical range really but evidence favours higher weight and lower reps (4-6 reps per set) for building strength. But even if you do 8-12 reps or more, so long as you challenge yourself and hit failure then you’re going to have created a stimulus for building muscle.
If you’re a beginner in your fitness journey, you’re likely to see something called ‘newbie gains’ which is where you see muscle growth quite quickly as your body responds to training. If you’re more experienced, it can become more difficult over time to see continual growth and there will eventually be a plateau.
Sleep, hydrate, stay happiness, avoid stress
All of these things can impact the body’s ability to recover and grow muscle. And with that being said, you want to make sure your glute muscles are fully recovered before jumping into another session.
Eat food and hit your protein target
If you want to make muscle gains you need to be in a calorie surplus which means you need to ideally be eating slightly more than you’re burning every day, consistently. As many of us still fear weight gain and associate it with negativity, this can be quite challenging. Lots of women want the big glutes but also want the teeny tiny toned waist. I’m here to tell you that if you want to make serious glute gains it’s likely that you’ll put some body fat on, too. But is it possible to naturally get that instagram-model body? More on that later.
For now, I want to talk about the importance of protein – protein is an essential part of muscle growth and you need to be hitting your protein target most days consistently in order to see it. 1.5g – 2g of protein per kg of body weight is the daily recommended amount for muscle growth, so I weigh 60kg so that means my daily protein intake should be around 90g – 120g. The average person in the UK is far from hitting their daily target even for maintenance, so this may mean looking at your diet and keeping a diary for a couple of weeks to see what’s going on and where more protein can fit into the picture. I recommend using the Cronometer app if you want to track your food intake, but if you’d like to know more about food then my advice is to speak to a registered dietician or nutritionist, not me, or any other influencer or personal trainer unless they are qualified to do so. A quick note on supplements here – supplements are not essential at all unless you are struggling to hit your daily protein target, in which case, protein powder can be a good idea. Other than that don’t bother wasting your money. There is no cream you can rub on or pill you can pop which will make any significant difference to the size of your ass.
If you follow all of this advice to a T, there’s no guarantee that you’ll end up with a Jlo booty. Why? Because genetics plays a huge role in your physique. I make no secret of the fact that genetics is why I have the body that I do and it’s important to remember this when going after aesthetic goals. It’s irresponsible of influencers and celebrities to say ‘you can look like me’ and proceed to sell workout guides and products – especially when they’ve tweaked their body using Facetune or had cosmetic surgery – this is something we see a lot on social media.
As for the Instagram-model body?
It’s simply not not realistic for most people, and not healthy. Some people have the genetics, some people use Facetune and some people pay for surgery. But the safest and most effective way of getting close to this body type is by following the advice in this podcast – which to be honest, is all just textbook muscle growth protocol.
So those are the most important points to consider if you have goals to grow your glutes, but I encourage you to train your glute muscles for supporting your lower back, protecting your knees, supporting proper pelvic alignment and generally keeping your body mobile and functional first and foremost. I do believe the shift away from training solely for aesthetics is happening as the HAES and bopo communities continue to thrive, but I do not forget that those communities are living in their own sort of bubble. Until the mainstream media can represent more diverse bodies in a positive light, the majority of people will simply desire whatever the media pushes to be ‘attractive’. The fact that you’re here right now listening to this means that you have a desire to change how you look and at the end of the day, it’s fine. We’re only human and we care about how we look and feel. Just don’t become obsessive about it like I was or use it at a determining factor to how successful and attractive you are.
If you’re serious about growing glute muscle then my advice is to get a structured programme put together by a fitness coach and a nutrition plan from a registered nutritionist or dietitian.