I know, everybody posts about butt stuff for the clicks…but hear me out because this is important. Not getting-insta-likes important – taking-the-best-possible-care-of-your-health important. Because I love you and I’m looking out for you. Okay? Good chat. Now, stand up. Walk around a little bit, shake your legs out…alright, on the count of three, I want you to take a deep inhale. Ready? 1…2…3. As you exhale, RELAX those butt cheeks. Feel any different? If you don’t, there isn’t anything wrong with you, but if you did feel some tension release, then you might have a chronic case of MOM BUTT. You can sit down if you want to.
Before anyone gets all insulted by what they think i might mean by Mom Butt, let me explain what it is and how it happens. It’s actually a thing, there are good reasons why lots of us (and not just moms; men and women are equally susceptible) develop it, and it’s not meant to be insulting, although the term definitely does bring to mind a less than flattering picture.
Mom Butt is what happens when you spend all day every day dealing with small people, bending over to change diapers, pick up toys, pick up kids, wipe noses, bums, and sticky fingers, kiss boo boos…you get the idea. Basically as a mom of young kids (say, under 8 or so years old), you spend a disproportionate amount of time standing like this:
And your glutes have learned that they have to squeeze for dear life to support your lower back and pelvic floor. If you’ve spent any time being pregnant, you are doubly susceptible because your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles have been stretched, fatigued, tightened, ripped and pulled in various directions for a prolonged period of time. They may or may not have learned to behave themselves again, whether you had a baby last month or seventeen years ago. Mom Butt is what you get when you have chronically pinched-tight glutes, a posterior pelvic tilt (think of that pelvic tilt that Jane Fonda or Kathy Smith used to cue back in the 90’s as though it was a desirable thing – women’s strength training has come a long way since then), and some muscle atrophy from carrying yourself in that awkward position for months or years at a time.
One of the most common complaints I hear from beginning clients, especially in the last five or so years (or since the instagram peach emoji became a thing), is “I have a flat butt.” I also see women working their glutes to the pain in the gym every damn day to get that round perky peach thang going…but here’s the problem with that approach: if you take a muscle that is clenched and tight and overworked, smashing it with more work is not going to have the desired effect.
So where to start to get those poor little glute muscles growing? Well, first we need to get them to relax, but before we can do that we need to invite your abs and pelvic floor muscles to the party. This is a process that will be different for everybody (depending on where you’re starting from) so I’m going to speak in general terms here.
I get it; breathing seems like an odd place to start BUT if you’re trapped in a shallow breathing pattern, no part of your body is going to work quite to its potential. We need to nail some good breathing habits in so that all your muscles can start working together. Start by lying on your back on the floor with your legs bent and your feet flat. Put your hands on your rib cage, and take a long, slow, deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth (as though you were breathing through a straw). Did you feel your rib cage expand in all directions? Spend a few minutes down there on the floor and just breathe, feeling your rib cage expand and your back push into the floor with each inhale.
Activate whatever isn’t working.
In most cases, that’s the abs – specifically the transverse abdominis and the rectus abdominis (especially if there’s a leftover diastasis recti from pregnancy). The best exercises to make this happen (WITHOUT aggravating your discs or making a potential diastasis recti worse) are bird dogs, dead bugs, and plank variations.
Release whatever’s working too hard. (Hello glutes!)
This is going to take a multi-faceted approach, especially if you’ve been a butt clencher for a while. Now, if you were diligent about #2 and got your abs fired up from all directions, your glutes should just need a little nudge to let go. A good stretch and some foam rolling will feel really good and help over the short term, but what we need to do is get those little bois lengthening under some loading…which means squats and deadlifts! If you aren’t used to weight training, never fear – we’re gonna start with body weight exercises.
20 Minute Mom-Butt Antidote
1. Lay on the floor and get connected with your breath. 10-15 deep breaths – focus on 360-degree expansion on the inhale and gentle contraction on the exhale.
2.a) Bird Dogs – 6 each side, timed with breath: exhale as you lift the arm and opposite leg, inhale in neutral (hands and knees)
2.b) Plank – whatever variation is appropriate for you! You need to be able to maintain good form and breathe throughout but it should be challenging enough to feel like you’re getting some work done. Hold for 15 seconds.
Repeat 2 a) and b) three times.
3. a) Foam rolling – hit both butt cheeks from the stretched position for about 20-30sec each
3. b) Glute stretch – again, get each side for 20-30sec
4. a) Squats! Use some support if needed or add a weight but make sure you are keeping your back straight and dropping those hips down between your heels. 10-15 reps
4. b) 1-leg Bodyweight deadlifts: 8 each side
4. c) Glute Bridges: add a weight, a band at the knees, or elevate your feet if you want an extra challenge. Make sure you are fully extending your hips at the top and fully relaxing right down to the floor at the bottom. 20 reps
Repeat 4 a), b), and c) three times.
Cool? This should only take 20 or so minutes UNLESS you fall asleep during #1 but you probably needed it anyway. Don’t worry – it happens to me too. Let me know how it goes – I want to hear from you!