How to lift your butt?

In the previous article I explained how you can lose buttocks fat. Buttocks lifting will be equally challenging. The shape of this part of your body depends mainly on genetics (hormonal profile), lifestyle, physical activity, your diet and amount of overall body fat. The entirety of actions you take will build your success. Is it ever possible to lift your butt and make it look better without a scalpel? Surely it is better to attempt to shape your body by means of a training than to sit at home and complain.

You should definitely read:

Top exercises for shapely butt

Read part one: How to lose fat from your butt.

Buttocks consist of muscle and fat tissues: respective proportions of these tissues determine what your bottom looks like. If you have excess fat, focus on a diet, weight training and aerobic (ie. running). If you have too little muscle, introduce some basic weight training and eat better.

The best exercises that will lift your buttocks:

1. Olympic squat:

Kara Bohigian doing the olympic squats:

The involved muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus, great adductor muscle, biceps of thigh, semitendinous and semimembranosus, calves muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus), abdominal muscles (rectus and oblique muscle), back extensors and a number of other back muscles.

The squat is a classic exercise developing strength and shaping the body. When you perform several sets of squats, the abdomen and buttocks do a separate training.

How to do it: put the barbell high on your upper back, sqeeze your shoulders, flex your stomach muscles, "block" your back, breathe in. Start the movement down as if you wanted to sit on a chair. I do not recommend to do it on a Smith machine for it forces you to perform an unnatural movement. A barbell placed on your shoulders or dumbbells which you can hold in your hands are a much better solution. What is the extent to which you should do a squatt? Should I bend my legs only a bit or should I do a full-range power squat? If you want to shape your butt, forget about partial squats. You should do full and olympic ones! It has been discovered that in the lifting phase of this exercise bottom muscles are the more engaged the deeper the squat is.

The biggest work of the buttock muscles was noted during full squats with weight (35,4%), a bit smaller during power squat (28%) and the smallest during partial squats (16,9%). [J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):428-32.]

During the descending phase (eccentric), effective turned out to be powerlifting squat and bodybuilding squat. 

What is the Olympic squat?

It differs from other versions of squats in:

  • a full range of motion (until the back of thigs touches your calfs),
  • high position of the barbell on your back,
  • upright position (back work is minimized)
  • higher engagement of buttocks and quadriceps muscles (especially vastus medialis and one of the quadriceps' heads - VMO)

The most common errors in performing squats include:

  • too shallow squat,
  • bad position of the feet (suggested toes position: 30-40 degrees outside)
  • too narrow position - if you stand narrower than the width of your shoulders, just wait for a knee injury!
  • moving your heels up during squats - improve your technique and work on thigh stretching,
  • excessive involvement of your back - place the barbell higher on the shoulders to reduce the inclination of the upper body during the exercise,
  • improper knees' operation - knees moving to the inside is the best way to injury. In order to minimise the risk of one, certainly work on the barbell placement and the position of your feet.

2. Front barbell squat

Kara Bohigian and her front squats:

The involved muscles: the same as for the Olympic squats, but in front squats front thigh part is stronger. Just like in case of the back squats, buttocks' involvement is higher along with increasing depth of the exercise. It is a harder version of squats, usually for people with good technique (hard to hold the barbell on the chest and shoulder). The most common errors: see back squats.

3. Conventional deadlift and sumo deadlift

Kara Bohigian and her deadlifts: conventional and sumo:

The involved muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, adductor magnus muscle, biceps of thigh, semitendinous and semimembranosus, calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus), abdominal muscles (rectus and oblique muscle), spine extensors, trapezius muscle, rhomboid muscle, levator scapula.

Description: another powerful exercise which involves most of the muscles in the body. Sumo version (with widely spaced legs) engages your butocks to a greater extent than its conventional version. In the deadlift the most important it is to keep your back straight (over the entire range of motion). Overgrab the barbell (back of your hand forward). In order not to spoil the performance, do not straighten your legs too early. The workout must be distributed evenly between legs and back. Over time, you should think about a more difficult version deadlift (stiff-legged deadlift): it makes your back thigh and butt work harder.

4. Step-ups, barbell step-ups 

The involved muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, great adductor muscle, biceps of thigh, semitendinous and semimembranosus muscles, calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus), spine extensor, abdominal muscles (rectus and oblique muscle), gluteus medius muscle,
gluteus minimus muscle, loins trapezius.

Description: Another exercise which engages largest muscle groups in your body. At the beginning you should try it with no weight, with time increasing the weight. This exercise will make your whole buttocks work.

5. Barbell lunges

The involved muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, great adductor muscle, biceps of thigh, semitendinous and semimembranosus muscles, calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus), spine extensor, abdominal muscles (rectus and oblique muscle), gluteus medius muscle,
gluteus minimus muscle, anterior tibial.

Description: Keep your back straight and your hold your body (just as you did for the squats). Do lunges alternately. The bigger step, the stronger work your butt has to do.

An exemplary workout plan:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets, 8-10 reps, moderate weight (75-85% of your maximum)
  • Lunges: 3 sets, 8-12 reps, moderate weight (75-85% of your maximum)
  • Setp-ups: 15-20 reps per each leg
  • Stiff-legged deadlift: 3 sets, 8-10 reps.

If you haven't trained with weight yet, do only one to two exercises from this list. Over time, increase the number of sets and exercises per session. If you want to, you could consider isolated exercises like hip abduction in a standing position, hip abduction in lying position etc. But pay attention to the order: the most important and the most effective exercises are essential multi-joint exercises that make large muscles groups work. Treat isolation as an addition to your actual training. If you focus on isolation, your results will be less visible.

Make sure to read part one: How to lose fat from your butt?


Sources: 1. Zofia Ignasiak, Antoni Janusz, Aniela Jarosińska, „Anatomia Człowieka”. 2. Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego We Wrocławiu 3. Frederic Delavier „Modelowanie sylwetki metodą delaviera”. Wydawnictwo PZWL 2011 4. „The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. „ J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):428-32. 5. „The effect of stance width on the electromyographical activity of eight superficial thigh muscles during back squat with different bar loads.” J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):246-50. 6. „Stance width and bar load effects on leg muscle activity during the parallel squat”, McCaw and Melrose, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999 7. „Effect of foot position on the electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during the parallel squat and knee extension” Signorile, Kwiatkowski, Caruso and Robertson, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1995 8. „High- and low- bar squatting techniques during weight-training” Wretenberg, Feng and Arborelius, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1996 9. 10.