Big butts are trending and these days it seems we’re all on a quest for a sexy, rounder derrière. Celebs are also cashing in on the craze with People Magazine reporting JLo’s taken out a multi-million dollar insurance policy on hers, Kim Kardashian’s cover shoot for Paper magazine almost broke the internet, and then there’s the next gen of celebs, the social media influencers posting pic after pic of curvy butts and almost impossibly small waists with claims that you too can get a butt like theirs with just a few squats per day.
Unfortunately for most of us it’s not that easy, although the butt muscle (or technical term ‘Gluteus Maximus’) is the biggest muscle in our body responsible for the shape we see in our butts, genetics does play a huge role in what shape you start out with. I, like many, suffer from what I call ‘flat butt’ syndrome, it’s like when I stand side on my butt’s almost non-existent and the only way I’m able to get any semblance of shape in a photo is by almost distorting my back to create the illusion of a butt! But (excuse the pun) all is not lost, with some proper exercise, sleep and good posture, we are all able to enhance and build a little extra shape in our behinds and maximise what genetics gave us.
I sat down with Personal Trainer Alana Pearce to chat all things health and fitness, and why glute activation is so important.
Tell us about your personal fitness journey and why you became a Personal Trainer?
My own fitness journey is what inspired me to become a PT, I loved having a trainer myself, it did so much for my own development, I couldn’t deny the passion that was slowly building in me. I love working closely with people and really enjoy training people’s mindset just as much as their bodies. I never imagined I would love it as much as I do, I wouldn’t change a thing, I absolutely love what I do.
What is your main motivation for keeping fit?
Initially, like most people, I wanted to look good in a bikini, but now it’s about so much more than that. The feeling of endorphins rushing through my body after a hard training session is the most addictive feeling in the world. I have developed a genuine love for moving my body as much as I can. I love setting myself challenges and slowly working towards achieving them, it’s what keeps me sane and I hate going more than three days without an exhausting, sweaty training session!
What is your training routine like and what exercises does it involve?
I’m probably one of very few people who you’ll find genuinely loves burpees! The harder the session the more I enjoy it. I love to combine high intensity training such as sprints, sled pushes, stairs and rowing drills with dynamic, compound movements such as cleans and other olympic lifts. I like to get as sweaty and out of breathe as I possibly can! It’s a bit of a standard joke between other trainers and myself that I’m always the sweatiest person in the gym. My goal is to be as fit, fast, agile and mobile as possible.
How important is diet to weight loss, and do you credit your body mostly to diet or exercise?
One word, extremely. Diet is absolutely paramount to achieving any results; exercise alone can only do so much. Whilst lifting weights will sculpt your body, it is often the extra layer of body fat that stops us from feeling satisfied with our results. I am very conscious of my eating, I absolutely love food but I know when I need to rein it in. When I fall off the bandwagon I notice it. There is no truer statement than ‘we are what we eat’. If we eat correctly we can control our weight, our health and our mood, and with that we can absolutely, no questions asked, change our life.
There is nothing more valuable or empowering than feeling comfortable in our own skin. With a combination of healthy eating and functional training we can create the bodies and the mindset we have dreamed of!
With people leading such busy lifestyles these days it’s easy to have limited time to dedicate to fitness, how long do you recommend someone work out for if they’re time poor? Is it about quality or quantity?
For people that are time poor my suggestion is get up and do it early so you don’t spend the whole day coming up with excuses as to why you aren’t going to train, getting up that hour and a half earlier makes SUCH a huge difference. Plus if you train in the morning you can ride that happy endorphin wave all day!
It’s definitely about quality rather than quantity. That doesn’t mean if you’re training super hard once a week that it will suffice. It wont! 3 x 45 minute training sessions per week is realistic for most people and will certainly get you results if you are using each minute effectively. I see so many people come into the gym day in day out and their bodies never change. Some people may just need a kick up the butt to get their training to the next level. Remember, our bodies get very used to movements very quickly so we need to constantly change our programs and shock our bodies if we want them to continue progressing.
A piece of advice you’d give to someone looking at hiring a PT to help them get in shape?
Find someone you vibe with. Anyone who has been involved in a trainer-client relationship knows how important this is. Working with a PT is such a personal, trusting bond. I’m going to assume that it goes without saying that I suggest you find a trainer who actually ‘knows their shit’.
Whilst we all have different areas of expertise, more often than not, us PT’s are delivering similar concepts to different clients depending on their goals. You want to train with someone who makes you excited to get into the gym at 5.30am, someone who motivates you and outlines exactly what realistic changes can be made and is just as excited by your results as you are yourself.
For me, there’s no better feeling than getting a heartfelt text from a client, thanking me for helping them achieve their goals and their dreams. It can often be a really emotional journey for both of us.
Which part of a women’s body do you tend to find is the problem area?
Most women come to me with aesthetic goals, it normally goes a little something like this – “I want to lose the fat on my belly, trim down my inner thighs and hips, tone up my arms, but I don’t want to get bulky”.
We’re doing a glute activation workout today, aside from the aesthetics of glute activation (building a better looking butt) what are the actual physical benefits of making sure your glutes are firing properly?
So many women suffer from what I call “lazy butt syndrome”, this leads to overloading the quadriceps (thigh muscles), which we DO NOT want!! I can pick up straight away whether someone is activating their glutes properly, and in 99.9% of cases they’re not. Sometimes the best glute activation exercises are simple body weight movements that stimulate the glutes to fire correctly.
So many of the niggling aches and pains that are common complaints nowadays, come from muscular imbalances that can be prevented. Without getting too technical, if the quads are overloaded, due to poor glute activation, or the knees are falling inwards in lower body movements (squats, lunges), again, due to poor glute activation, this can put significant strain on the knees. Correct exercise prescription and technique management can help with these issues tenfold!
Whilst its great to have a sexy, toned booty, it’s also paramount to the longevity of our bodies performance to have butt muscles that actually work.
Following on from our chat Alana hit me with a postural analysis to make sure my glutes are firing and then put me through my paces with this specially designed glute activation workout.
ALANA’S SESSION PLAN
Postural analysis: The aim here is to identify exactly how your body is geared. I mainly focus on the alignment of the pelvis. Are the hip flexors too tight and pulling the pelvis forward? Are the hamstrings strong enough to be pulling the pelvis back into perfect alignment? Are the glutes firing correctly?
If appropriate changes are made to correctly align the pelvis, we will increase our range of motion and also eliminate potential back pain amongst other things.
CIRCUIT #1 – BODY WEIGHT GLUTE ACTIVATION
- Plank position, leg raise x 10 each leg
- Glute bridge x 10
- Power band around ankles, step back for 6, 10 steps on the spot x 3
(Repeat round 2 times)
CIRCUIT #2 – GLUTE FOCUSED MOVEMENTS
Smith machine squat (focusing on activating the glutes and pushing up through contracted muscles) x 10
- Bulgarian split lunge (holding 6kg dumb bells) x 10 each leg
- TRX pistol squat x 8 each leg
(Repeat round 3 times)
CIRCUIT #3 – COMPOUND MOVEMENTS AND HEART RATE ELEVATION
- Kettlebell swings x 20 @ 12kg
- Dumbbell squat press x 12 @ 6kg
- 30kg sled push
(Repeat round 4 times)
Alana trains clients out of Centennial Health Club in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. Centennial Health Club boasts state-of-the-art weights and cardio equipment, an indoor sprint track, climbing wall and TRX frames, plus a vast range of group fitness classes all set in picturesque surrounds.