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Women like big butts and they cannot lie!

July 27, 2013

An article entitled “For Men, a Gluteus More Maximus” [1] recently appeared in the New York Times.  To summarize, Jeff Vickers, a wealthy Virginia contractor was unhappy with his buttocks, and spent a cool $10,000 to have fat from his abdomen and sides removed and injected over his glutei. In doing so his waist decreased from 36” to 33”, and he now feels more confident.  But most important, his jeans no longer fall down.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery the amount of men receiving butt implant procedures has increase almost 300% since 1997. Large gluteals have recently been correlated with a longer penis length in adult men [2]; thus we can speculate that women are genetically programmed to be sexually attracted to men with bigger butts.  While I do not have any empirical data to prove this hypothesis (and I have searched PubMed), specific feedback during dating about my powerful, well developed posterior kinetic chain supports this hypothesis anecdotally.

As an obsessed lifter, I take several issues with this article.  Take a look at the comments of Dr. Constantino G. Mendieta, a buttock implant specialist:

As men age, they tend to lose fat from their buttocks, faces and hands, while gaining it in stomachs and chests, Dr. Mendieta said. Weight lifting yields only modest results for the posterior.

“’The only way to pump up your derrière,’ he said, ‘is with your wallet.’”

Issue #1

Dr. Mendieta doesn't even lift

As a fitness professional, I am upset to see that there is only one line about exercise buried deep in the article:

“’Mr. Moore warned against “gluteal amnesia,” a term that has been used in the magazine to refer to muscles that slacken when parked in a chair for too long, and recommended stand-up desks and “good glute and hamstring exercises” over surgery.

But some men, like Michael, 41, an entrepreneur in the tech sector in Manhattan, say regular exercise hasn’t been enough.

Issue #2

Andrew adam newman

Andrew Adam Newman clearly does not lift!

While the detrimental effects of sitting on the health of the body, mind, and glutei are of concern, at no point in this article do the words “back squat”, “deadlift”, “lunge”, or even “get off your butt!” appear.

Now that we’ve established Dr. Mendieta and Andrew Adam Newman don’t lift, and Michael is too lazy to lift, let’s discuss how we can use weight training to develop large, powerful glutei that scream “I am a dominant sexual machine!” to the opposite sex.

Time to get Anatomical. 

The glutei are composed of three muscles: maximum, medius, and minimus.  Take a look at the direction their fibers run to gain a better understanding of each gluteal’s function:


The glutei minimi abducts the hip, or in layman terms lifts the leg out to the side. The glutei medius originates higher and more laterally on the pelvis, and is also involved in hip abduction. While they contribute only a small portion to the overall size to the buttocks, the minimi and medius play a major role in hip stability and allow the glutei maximi to function optimally during hip extension.

Note that the glutei maximi fibers run vertically at the top and slightly oblique at the base.  This gives the maximi a wide range of action, from hip extension, hyperextension, and transverse abduction in the upper fibers, and the aforementioned movements plus abduction and external rotation for the lower fibers. In general, the glutei maximi are most intensely recruited during hyperextension, such as sprinting or horizontal jumping.

The Squat

It’s fairly well known phenomena that if you want developed glutes you need to squat.  Additionally, the squat is one of the most functional and healthy resistance training exercises.  Moreover, squats will turn you into a sexual tyrannosaurus! But what type of squat is best for developing the glutei?  A quick review of EMG data may help answer this question:

  • Wide stance squats recruit the glutei maximi to a greater degree than athletic stance [3]
  • The deeper the squat, the more the glutei maximi is recruited [4]
  • Besides looking foolish, squatting on instability objects does not increase glutei recruitment [5]
  • A faster eccentric phase results in greater glutei maximi recruitment [6]
  • Single leg squats target the glutei medius more than bilateral squats [7]
  • Single leg squats appear to activate the glutei maximi more than lunges [8]

Thus, for maximal glutei development perform deep back squats with a wide stance.  Additionally, to ensure the glutei minimi and medius are strengthened in parallel to the maximi (for optimal hip function and health) perform 1-2 unilateral movements per session.

Jaffe does squat

Daniel Jaffe does indeed squat!

Unilateral Movements

Other unilateral exercises include:

Traveling Lunges, reverse lunges, split squats, single leg squats, and traveling reverse lunges.

Targeted Glutei Maximi Exercises

Exercises that specifically target the glutei maximi are also required to improve glutei recruitment and strength during the squat and deadlift. The following exercises specifically target the glutei maximi in the anterio-posterior plane.  They allow you to load the glutei and perform hip hyperextension (which we saw resulted in greater glutei activation) without tremendously loading the spine.

Example Workout

  • Warm up and antagonist (hip flexor) stretching
  • 4 x 8 working sets of wide stance back squats
  • 3 x 10 working sets of unilateral deadlifts
  • 2 x 12 working sets of RFE split squats
  • 3 x 15 working sets of band resisted glute-hip bridges

 Jason Cholewa, Ph.D, CSCS

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1. Newman AA. For Men, a Gluteus More Maximus. New York Times. Published 2013.

2. Orakwe, JC, Ogbuaqu, BO, Ebuh, GU. Can physique and gluteal size predict penile length in adult Nigerian men? West African Journal of Medicine. 2006; 25(3): 223-225.

3. Paoli A, Marcolin G, Petrone N. The effect of stance width on the electromyographical activity of eight superficial thigh muscles during back squat with different bar loads. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2009;23(1):246–50.

4. Caterisano A, Moss RF, Pellinger TK, et al. The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2002;16(3):428–32.

5. Li Y, Cao C, Chen X. Similar electromyographic activities of lower limbs between squatting on a reebok core board and ground. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2013;27(5):1349–53.

6. Manabe Y, Shimada K, Ogata M. Effect of slow movement and stretch-shortening cycle on lower extremity muscle activity and joint moments during squat. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 2007;47(1):1–12.

7. McCurdy K, O’Kelley E, Kutz M, Langford G, Ernest J, Torres M. Comparison of lower extremity EMG between the 2-leg squat and modified single-leg squat in female athletes. Journal of sport rehabilitation. 2010;19(1):57–70.

8. Boudreau SN, Dwyer MK, Mattacola CG, Lattermann C, Uhl TL, McKeon JM. Hip-muscle activation during the lunge, single-leg squat, and step-up-and-over exercises. Journal of sport rehabilitation. 2009;18(1):91–103.

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