While women tend to naturally build quad muscle faster than the muscles on the back of their bodies (although there are exceptions), it's not necessarily what everyone wants. So how can you get the most out of your lower-body workouts and focus on your posterior chain, particularly your all-important buttocks? Discover a few things to keep in mind before starting your booty-based training programme.
1. GLUTE ANATOMY & GENETICS
Did you know that the glutes are the most important muscle group in the human body? Working with the other lower-body muscles - the adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves - they allow us to walk, run, jump and move in general.
The main things that will determine the size and shape of your glutes are the length of your bones and the length of your muscle insertions.
The muscle insertions are the points where the muscles attach to the bones or other muscles that move during an action. The origin is the point where the muscle attaches to the bone that remains immobile. This is what we use to judge the length of a muscle.
As you can imagine, these will vary from one person to the next and can't be changed. That's why some people will have extraordinary transformations when they start a muscle-building programme: it's thanks to their genetics. For other people, it'll be much harder work. Even with two people who are the same height, weight and build, their genetics will vary and so the results won't be the same.
This doesn't necessarily mean that their training programme is bad or ineffective. You just have to accept that there are people with better genetics than others and that all you can do is work with what nature has given you.
The same training programme will give slightly different results in different people. Hence the importance of never comparing yourself to other people when you're doing the same programme as a friend, coach or influencer.
If you don't get the same end result as your mate, so what? All that matters is that you're the best version of yourself!
2. A WELL-KEPT SECRET: SURGERY, PHOTO RETOUCHING & POSING
If you spend hours on your phone scrolling through photos of all those super-toned fitness influencers, you've no doubt noticed that some of them seem to have incredibly out-of-proportion curves. This is what is driving many people to want a toned bum at any cost, without big thighs.
But it's worth understanding that, although there are women who are genetically disposed to these unusual shapes, many of them have actually had surgery to achieve their look. Yep, there's an operation that places small implants just above the bum to give it more of a curve.
As well as surgery, there's also the question of the pose they strike in their photos, which can completely change the shape of their figure, particularly when paired with good lighting and sometimes (often) photo retouching software. Hence the famous "Instagram vs Reality" hashtag: arch your back, suck in your stomach, let a shadow fall in just the right place, and you've got yourself an insta-ready photo!
So our advice is to put those images you see on social media into perspective: like films, they're showing you things that don't exist in real life.
3. WHAT EXERCISES WILL BUILD YOUR BUM NOT YOUR THIGHS?
If you want to build your glutes, the best option is to lift heavy.
Circuit, HIIT, strength and similar programmes are all very well if you're starting from zero or want to "tone up", but you won't gain volume with this type of training. That's right: loooooong sets of kickbacks without using weights won't actually achieve much long-term. If you want a curvy bum, you need to pump some iron.
What's more, isolation exercises - which target just one muscle - shouldn't be the sole type of exercise you do. They can certainly be incorporated into your training, but most of the work should be done with multi-joint exercises, i.e. ones that mobilise all of the muscles of the lower body. Why? For several reasons:
They generate greater energy expenditure, which will boost your metabolism and burn more calories.
So if you want a strong, powerful lower body, you'll need to build your thigh muscles (because everything's connected) through a high-volume, long-term weight-training programme (because muscles don't grow in just a fortnight).
If you feel that your thighs are too bulky, then you might be carrying a bit more fat in that area. In this case, you'll need to focus on nutrition because the fat will still be there as the muscle grows, giving an impression of chubbier thighs.
So what can you do to avoid building too much thigh muscle?
Here are some programmes you might want to try:
- If you have weak glutes: 3 lower-body sessions per week, one of which focuses solely on glute isolation exercises.
- If you have strong thighs and don't want to build them up: 1 glute-based lower-body workout + 1 circuit + long cardio workout.
NEED A COACH?
Whether it's weight training, HIIT or strength circuits, choose the programme that fits your goals and let a coach guide you!
4. WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT FOR A TONED, ROUND BUM?
When you follow a weight-training programme, it's important to eat the right foods for your goals.
If you want to shed a bit of fat, it's best to create a slight calorie deficit (but not too much as this would cause you to lose muscle) in order to gradually lose the fat and end up with thinner thighs.
Whether it's for weight loss or weight gain, remember to eat enough protein to build and maintain your muscles (and therefore your booty)!
Not sure about your nutrition? Check out our special feature on all things food: tips, recipes and much more!