We all have body parts that are stubborn. These are areas that just don’t respond to exercise like the rest of our body. This can be insanely frustrating. These days I must get at least 10 messages a day from people (usually women) who ask me how to get their butt muscles to grow. Out of those 10 messages, roughly 8 of them simply aren’t doing the best exercises in the best ways. They aren’t doing barbell squats, deadlifts or lunges and they aren’t lifting heavy. Once they do the right exercises their butts grow.
Then there are those messages that make up the minority. These people do the right exercises and follow good programs, but they still get little to no results. The issue with these people is usually a poor connection to their glutes. They have “sleepy butt syndrome". Before we get into “sleepy butt syndrome” lets talk about the genetic reasons some people have difficulty developing their butts.
Part of the reason some body parts don’t seem to respond well is due to muscle belly length. Shorter muscle bellies simply don’t have the same muscle building potential of longer muscle bellies. The muscle belly of a muscle is literally the bulk of a muscle. Think of a bicep. It’s a muscle with tendons attached at both sides that then attach to bone. When the bicep contracts it pulls on both ends to create movement. The meaty part that contracts is the muscle belly and its length can vary dramatically from person to person. Muscle belly length is determined by your genes.
Another reason some body parts don’t respond as well as others could be due to muscle fiber density. If you took a muscle and looked at it closely with a microscope, you would see individual muscle fibers. When you train a muscle properly with resistance, those fibers grow. The muscle fiber number you have within a particular muscle is known as its muscle fiber density and this is also largely due to genetics, although training can have an impact. After years and years of hard training its theorized that a level of muscle fiber “splitting” (hyperplasia) happens where new muscle fibers are created, however this takes a LONG time. Most of your muscle fiber density is due to your genetics.
Now that you understand how genetics can make developing a muscle difficult, lets talk about something that is entirely controllable. How well you CONNECT to your butt muscles makes a HUGE difference in how well they will develop. The best butt builder exercises are typically compound movements which are exercises that move and flex and/or extend two or more joints. Compound movements heavily target lots of muscles. A good example is the barbell squat. This compound exercise is one of the absolute best butt builders out there and it targets the quads and the hamstrings as well as the butt. Although the squat targets three major muscles, it does not target them all equally. Part of what determines which muscles do most of the work is based on your muscle recruitment patterns and muscle activation. If you aren’t firing and connecting to your butt well, then barbell squats will do little to build your glutes. If you are mainly using your quads during squats your quads will grow and your butt won’t. Learning how to fire and connect to your target muscles makes all the difference in the world.
Priming your body properly BEFORE a lift can help you feel and connect to your glutes (among other things). This is where isolating exercises can help. Isolation movements focus on a single joint and allow you to focus on and target specific muscles. In this case we want to target the glutes. A great way to feel and connect to your glutes before you squat would be to do some slow and controlled butt isolation exercises like donkey kickbacks or single or double legged hip thrusts. Slowly Squeezing the glute muscles helps you feel those muscles and this ability carries over to the big and effective compound movements like the barbell squat.
The best part about priming is that it only takes 10 minutes. That’s it. Do 10 minutes of priming before your butt exercises and you will immediately feel a difference. You will see a difference within a month. Below is an example of a very effective butt workout which includes priming.
Do the following workout 2 times a week with 1-2 days off in between workouts.
Priming (Hold the top of each rep for 3 seconds and squeeze hard. Rest 30 seconds between sets)
1. Donkey Kickbacks (3 sets of 15 reps)
2. Bodyweight Hip Thrusts (3 sets of 15 reps)
1. Barbell Squats (3 sets of 12 reps)
2. Romanian Deadlift (3 sets of 12 reps)
3. Walking Lunges (3 sets of 8 reps each leg)
4. Barbell Hip Thrusts (3 sets of 12 reps)