Flat buttocks syndrome may not be a real diagnosis; however, genetics do play a role in body shape, according to Penn Medicine. Fortunately lifestyle choices, including diet and activity, can also play a role. And specific butt-targeting exercises may help even more.
Some women have flat buttocks because their bodies are built that way, but others might have spent too much time sitting and are now afflicted with weak buttocks muscles.
Gluteal Amnesia Is Real
While genes might be the reason for some women have a flat butt, many other women who spend too much time sitting down might suffer from gluteal amnesia, according to Michigan Health.
Gluteal amnesia is the technical way of saying the muscles of your tush may have forgotten how to do their job. When you lead a sedentary lifestyle, your hip flexors will tighten and your glute muscles will lengthen and weaken over time. This leads to inefficient muscle activation, according to Michigan Health.
Your glute muscles are supposed to stabilize your hips and pelvis, the Cleveland Clinic says. But those tight hip flexors and long, flat glute muscles have created an imbalance by not functioning properly. In the end, you're likely to experience hip and lower back pain. You might even find that you feel more numb in your glutes because the muscle weakness compresses, pulls or pinches the nerves, according to the Cleveland Clinic .
Read more: 4-Week Butt Lift Challenge
While people who are active are less likely to develop flat, weak butt muscles than people who are sedentary, no one is immune. Even those who exercise regularly can find themselves with a flat butt and hip and back pain if they sit in front of a computer or in a car for a significant amount of time.
However, you can prevent "flat butt syndrome" and plump up your butt by doing exercises that target the glutes, as well as simply getting up and moving throughout the day. Michigan Health recommends walking around or going up and down a flight of stairs every hour, as well as doing regular glute squeezes or hamstring stretches while seated. Other glute-focused exercises include:
Move 1: Bodyweight Squat
This move, which doesn't require any special equipment, works not only your butt and hips, but also your abs and legs, particularly your thighs, according to the American Council on Exercise.
- Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, and turn your toes out ever so slightly. Pull your shoulders down and back and place your arms at your sides.
- Engage your core by contracting your abdominal muscles, which stabilizes your spine, and shift your weight back into your heels.
- Push your hips back and down as you descend, like you're sitting down into a chair. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor — or as close to parallel as you can get. Your knees will naturally push forward, but try to control how far out they go so they don't shift over the toes. Continue to engage your core muscles while keeping your back straight.
- Use your leg and glute muscles to push yourself back up. Keep your abs braced, back straight and heels on the floor until you've reached the starting position.
- Repeat for a total of 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Make this exercise harder by doing a barbell squat. Place a barbell on the soft part of your shoulders, just beneath your neck, says the American Council on Exercise.
Read more: Can Pilates Help You Build a Stronger Butt?
Move 2: Side-Lying Leg Lifts
The Cleveland Clinic suggests doing 15 to 20 repetitions on each side three times every day to combat gluteal amnesia. Like bodyweight squats, side-lying leg lifts do not require any special equipment.
- Lie down on your right side with your head propped up by your right hand and your legs straight and stacked on top of each other.
- Point the toes of your left leg and lift it as high as you comfortably can. Hold for a beat and then lower it to the floor.
- Do 15 to 20 reps on one side, and then turn over so you're lying on your left side. Repeat for another 15 to 20 repetitions.
For extra work, strap an ankle weight on or use a resistance band that's looped around your ankles.
Move 3: Glute Bridge
Massachusetts General Hospital recommends the glute bridge exercise to combat weak butt muscles and restore glute function.
- Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Push down through your heels and lift your hips up until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Slowly lower back down until your glutes are back on the floor.
- Complete 1 to 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Stretches and Foam Rolling
Massachusetts General Hospital also recommends using a foam roller on your glute muscles. Do 10 slow rolls each day, following instructions from the Orthopaedic Institute for Children.
Move 1: Foam Roll
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Lift your glutes and put the foam roller under your butt, extending your arms behind you to prop yourself up. Bend one leg and angle your body so that one side of your glutes is holding the majority of your weight.
- Roll your glutes back and forth; the range of motion will be small.
- Shift your weight to the other side of your glutes and repeat.
Glute stretches can also help activate your muscles and relieve pain in your buttocks. The National Academy of Sports Medicine suggests a piriformis stretch.
Move 2: Piriformis Stretch
- Lie on your back. Place your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Cross one leg on top of the other, so your ankle is resting on the opposite knee.
- Loop your arms around the leg that still has a foot flat on the floor and pull the leg back until you feel a stretch in the butt cheek on the opposite side. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then relax.
- Alternate the stretch on each side so you've stretched each butt cheek four times.
Read more: 6 Stretches to Loosen Up Those Tight Glutes
- Cleveland Clinic: "No Joke: Your Desk Job Promotes ‘Dead Butt’ Syndrome"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Moves for a Better Butt"
- Michigan Health: "Are You at Risk for Dead Butt Syndrome?"
- Massachusetts General Hospital: "Getting Glutes in Shape Will Enhance Your Exercise"
- Penn Medicine: "What Your Body Shape Reveals About Your Health"
- American Council on Exercise: "Bodyweight Squat"
- Orthopaedic Institute for Children: "Foam Roller Exercises"
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Piriformis Stretches to Relieve Piriformis Syndrome"