Why Your Glutes Aren’t Growing

How to get your glutes to work


Our bodies are supposed to act like a well-oiled machine. When working properly, all of our parts have a purpose, action, and reaction. So, what happens when some of our parts fail to do their job!? For me, I had to learn a hard (and painful) lesson over the last 3 years in the bootie department.

I’ll never forget the first time I paid attention to my behind. I was about 10-years-old and my dad commented about how I had a “bubble butt”. “A bubble what” I thought- not realizing that there was an actual body part behind my torso or that “the butt” would become so mainstream in 2015.

Fast forward through all of school  – all the way past college – and I revisited that butt of mine once again. Now being 12 years older, it wasn’t nearly as bubbly – rather, it just kind of stuck to me in a tag along fashion.

If you’ve read my transformation post – you know that I lost about 20 – 25 pounds after college. A few of the first things to go were my legs and yes, my butt. I remember trying on a bathing suit after I lost all my weight; my thighs weren’t touching and my butt was flat. I thought… YES!! I’m so thin and “in shape”… wrong. Yes, I was thin. Fit and in shape? Nah, not really. Then I started working with a personal trainer and that was my first dose of reality that thin definitely didn’t mean being in shape.

The first day of training he had me do all these leg exercises like lunges and step ups and bench step overs and kicks and so on and so on. The pain in my legs was indescribable and I thought I was going to collapse the whole time. I also cried during that first session and dry heaved the whole way home. Those “thin” legs of mine were literally the same size as my forearms – small and scraggly with no muscle. From that day on, I was up for the challenge to add muscle to my body, but I knew it would be a very painful road.

Then I started competing in bikini shows. At first, I saw some awesome changes with weight training, especially to my quads and hamstrings, but no matter how many squats and bridges, and step ups, and kick backs I did – my butt would not grow. It’s like that area was completely broken… and actually it kind of was. I didn’t understand how so many girls were posting their before and after pictures and it looked like they literally had butt implants?! My arms and shoulders and back were putting on muscle so easy, but once again, my lower half was just tagging along for the ride.

Hip Flexor Complex

My confusion was quickly answered. About a year ago, I started getting really bad pain in my left hip which made me head to a physical therapist. Long story short, I had bursitis in my left hip that was being caused by super, super, super tight hip flexors. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my glutes wouldn’t grow. During that same time, I was studying for my personal trainers exam and was literally reading about tight hip flexors so it all came full circle for me. My PT did a bunch of assessments and discovered that I had lower crossed syndrome. Essentially, LCS is when you have muscle imbalances and super tight and shortened hip flexors. While exercising, areas like your quads fire first and ultimately they become more dominate and take over for your weak areas. Your hamstrings and glutes, on the other hand, are put in a stretched out position which makes them work less and less and makes them almost impossible to grow.

The easiest way to imagine this is to think of a knotted shoe string. If you keep knotting a shoe string, it gets shorter and shorter. Same thing was happening with my hip flexors. They would get tighter and tighter and the tightness was SO bad that it was tilting my hips forward and stretching out my backside. Finally! I had an answer! The only funny thing about this whole situation is that it could have been prevented by using a foam roller. Yes, those things that sit in the corner of gyms and are randomly picked up by people who flail on them because they’ve seen other people do it, too. In reality, those things are super important for the reason mentioned above and helping to release knots and tension through out the body.

So, can you foam roll your whole body to increase muscle mass? Not necessarily – but techniques like foam rolling will improve short term flexibility which will allow your tightened up muscles to relax and help your body reach homeostasis.

So – if you’re following a glute program and you’re doing everything prescribed and you’re lower half is not changing at all OR if one glute is growing and the other isn’t, OR if you can feel knots, try picking up a foam roller and do some work before throwing in the towel. 

I am happy to report that since last year, I have definitely seen a great improvement in flexibility and yes, my butt has finally started growing (for better and for worse… ) 🙂 While that area takes constant attention and maintenance, once you learn how to manage your weaknesses, they can easily become your biggest strength. Watch this video for the proper way to foam roll. I will say that knots will only relax after your brain tells them to. That means, you have to hold constant pressure on your knots (instead of rolling up and down, up and down) for about 20-30 seconds.

Let me know if you guys have come across this, too, and if you are a fan of the foam roller.