Training and working hard to achieve a certain body look can be frustrating. A lot of newbies to fitness and training are surprised to find that a ripped body is not a given. All the hard work in the world won't give you the same body as someone else, because we all have unique DNA.
Glutes can be particularly problematic. Some people have genes for today's idealized backside: round and substantial. Others are more likely to have a flat bottom, no matter how many glute-squeezing workouts they do.
The truth is that not everyone will get what they consider the perfect glutes unless their genetics make it so, but that doesn't mean you can't make some progress with training. Eat right, strengthen the glutes, and anyone can get better, if not perfect, glutes.
Yes, genetics matter, but other factors determine how you look and how you put on muscle versus fat. This applies to glutes and every other part of your body.
Women especially feel the pressure to develop rounder, more sizable glutes, but many just don't have the genetics for it. Your body size can largely be changed based on diet and exercise, but shape is more tied up in genetics.
For instance, studies have found the genes that determine whether you store more fat in your waistline or your hips (1). Every part of your body shape is at least partly pre-determined by your genetics, and that includes your glutes. You may simply have the genetics for a flatter butt.
As experts in fitness and health love to say, you can't outrun a bad diet. What and how much you eat plays a big role in body composition and size, which in turn impact shape. A balanced diet, without skimping on healthy carbs, is essential for developing glute shape.
Of course, many people improve glute strength and shape in the gym. Even if your genes prevent you from having the ideal shape you want, a regular, balanced workout routine with a focus on glute strength will help you improve on your DNA-determined shape.
Maybe the DNA cards have been stacked against you when it comes to a perfectly shaped booty, but that doesn't mean everything. Even if you can't get the glutes of your dreams, you can make significant changes to your weight, size, shape, and muscle and fat composition by focusing on diet and exercise.
Take on ISSA's Certified Glute Specialist course to make the most of your training and help clients achieve better in their glutes and the whole posterior chain.
Your perfect glutes may never truly arrive, but you can build muscle and change the shape to the extent allowed by your DNA. Nutrition and diet are important, but it's what you do in the gym that will really change your strength and shape.
If you have bad glute genetics, this is when it's important to evaluate your expectations and to be patient. Some people, because of their genetics, respond quickly to strength training, seeing big body composition changes in a matter of a few weeks.
Most people need more time and consistent effort to see results. Expect to be working six to eight weeks before you get significant muscle growth and shape change. Some things to consider to see results sooner:
Make sure you're getting enough protein, which is necessary for muscle growth. Include a protein snack within 30 minutes of strength training.
Really nail down proper form for glute exercises to be sure you're maximizing efficiency.
Focus on activating the glutes with every move. It can be easy to let other muscles, like the quads, take over.
Do fewer reps with heavier weights to build strength.
Avoid sitting too long during the day. Stand to work if you can, or get up and move around every hour. Excessive sitting, even if you workout regularly, can lead to weak glutes that are difficult to activate.
Some people, especially those who have less favorable genetics for muscle building, feel intimidated by the weight room. Here are some tips to encourage clients to get over the fear of heavy lifting and work on their glutes and other muscles.
Regardless of genetics, getting stronger glutes takes work. You need to hit the gym and do strength training focused on those muscles at least twice a week. Here are some moves to make the most of your glutes, with or without the best butt genes:
Squats, and the many variations, are one of the best compound strength training moves. They can work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but without the right form and focus, they tend to let the quads take the lead. To really get the benefits for your backside, focus on shifting the hips back and squeezing the glutes as you come up out of the squat.
There are a lot of variations of the squat, all of which can be beneficial for the glutes. Try single-leg squats in particular to target and load each side one at a time. Bulgarian split squats also target the glutes, one side at a time.
This is a great move for cardio and strength. As with squats, focus on shifting the hips back with each swing and squeeze the glutes as you come up. To be most effective for the glutes, this should be a real hip-thrusting movement. Focus on that part of it and you'll be working the glutes with every swing.
Most casual gym-goers are not familiar with this move, but it is great for glute activation. To do the exercise, rest your upper back on a weight bench, feet flat on the floor and your torso flat and straight like a tabletop. Lower your hips down and squeeze back up to the tabletop position. Try this without weights and then start adding barbells across your lap to progress.
The big moves above really focus on the big muscle: the gluteus maximus. For well-rounded strength and shape, you also need to strengthen the smaller gluteus minimus and medius muscles. The former sits under the gluteus maximus, while the latter is up higher, toward the lower back.
Clamshells strengthen these smaller muscles. Lying on one side with your head resting on your arm, bend at the knees and keep the legs stacked one on top of the other. With the feet together, lift the top knee and squeeze. It's a small movement, but you should feel this on the side of your glutes. Use a resistance band around the knees for added resistance.
Strength training and cardio are not mutually exclusive. There are important reasons to do both. Make sure your clients' training plans include a good mix of both.
Yes, a big, round booty is popular in today's culture, but appearance isn't everything. Even if you have been saddled with a naturally flat bottom, it doesn't mean you can't have strong glutes, and there is more value in having a strong backside than an attractive one. Stronger glutes, no matter what they look like, provides a lot of benefits:
Improved and safer functional movements
Better form in all athletic activities, especially running
Better performance in athletics of all types
Reduced injury risk
Weight loss or maintenance
The glutes are a big muscle group. When they are strong and firing readily, your entire body is more stable and set up to perform and move in ways that reduce injury. And, with more muscle mass in your major groups, you'll burn more calories and find maintaining a healthy weight easier.
So, what's the lesson? Your genetics definitely determine the overall shape and size of your glutes and your ability to put on muscle mass. However, you can make positive changes by adhering to a good diet and regular cardio and glute-focused strength training. And always remember that it's more important to be strong and healthy than to have a so-called perfect shape.
If you're interested in learning more about how DNA determines an individual's athletic ability, diet, weight, nutrition, and muscle mass, check out the ISSA's DNA-Based Fitness Coach Certification.
Science Daily. (2015, October 10). Genetic Variant Shown to Influence Women's Body Shape and Diabetes Risk. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151010225209.htm
The ISSA Glute Training Specialist Course teaches trainers the science behind building better glutes and how to focus on these muscle groups to give clients the best results. You'll learn how to unlock the hips, create better programming, and deliver envious results. You'll master the art of developing a superior posterior and be the go-to glute expert!