A nice butt. Everyone likes them. Everyone wants one. Almost no one has one these days. Yet almost no one trains for one. Guys and girls included. Granted, some people get by with good genetics, and have shapely posteriors without training them explicitly.
On the other hand, most people, from years of inactivity spent sitting on their glutes rather than using them, have pretty awful butts.
What to do, what to do?
Anatomy of a Butt
Your butt is made up of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They are indeed very distinct muscles with distinct actions, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to treat them as one functional unit.
Function of a Butt
Besides looking rather nice when they are properly trained, the glutes perform a variety of actions at the hip, most importantly hip extension. Bend over at the hips (not the lower back mind you); you’re now in hip flexion. Now straighten up; you’ve just performed hip extension. It’s simply the straightening of the hip joint from a flexed position, and it can (and should) be trained from a variety of angles.
Training the Butt
Now that we know a little about the glutes and what they do, how do we best train them? Lucky for us, there are a great variety of glute exercises which can be included in any exercise program.
Most people are familiar with the basics: squats, deadlifts, lunges, and split squats. These are all fairly good glute builders in people with fairly well functioning glutes. Unfortunately, most people who spend all day sitting in hip flexion are not particularly “well functioning,” so they need a little extra help.
To get things off to a good start, include glute bridges in the warmup of any day you train your lower body; this will help get the glutes active and firing properly.
You may need to spend a few weeks just practicing your glute bridges and stretching your hip flexors before you have the strength and mobility to train your glutes hard. Once you have developed a baseline of strength, get crazy with weighted glute bridges:
Hip thrusts of various flavors:
And pendulum hip extensions:
Throw these movements to your workouts and you can kiss that flat butt goodbye.
Everything I know about glutes I learned from Bret Contreras. The man has studied more glutes than anyone, and I mean that as scientifically as possible. To take your glute training to the next level I recommend all of his stuff, particularly these two articles: Dispelling The Glute Myth and Advanced Glute Training.