Get to Know Your Butt

Admit it, you clicked on this article because that inner 3rd grader we all have inside us giggled at the word butt, and then got curious.  That’s good because that child-like curiosity has led you to a very interesting article on everyone’s favorite:



For many this fleshy piece of mass behind your pelvis is an object of desire, both to have and to hold.  Having a nice posterior is the sole motivation behind many people currently at the gym.

Here’s a fun fact:

Most of these people don’t even know how to use it.

So keep reading because if you have or have ever had:

  1. Knee pain
  2. Hip pain
  3. Back pain
  4. Shoulder pain

This information is very relevant to you.

So grab some coffee or a tasty drink and let’s get to know who your butt is, what it does for work, it’s best friends, and how we can treat it right.


Sounds like we’re taking our butt out on a first date 😉

What is a Butt?

I’m pretty sure Plato or Aristotle asked this very question four score and forever ago.  Let’s take a look:

Fun Facts:

  • It affects your purchase of underwear, shorts, and jeans.
  • Others may notice it when you are shopping at the mall for the aforementioned items.
  • You sit on it at some point during the day. Some people do it for hours.
  • The primary butt muscle – the gluteus maximus – is the largest muscle in your body.
  • Some are small, some wide, some average, some narrow, and some quite large.
  • Among others, K.C. and the Sunshine Band and Sir Mix-a-Lot wrote songs about it in 1976 and 1992, respectively. And ZZ Top wanted to be taken downtown to look for it.

(Thank you Tom Kelso for this hilarious list via breakingmuscle)

Anatomy: There are a lot of muscles in your butt:


Primary muscles & their primary functions:

  • Glute Max: Extension of the thigh (Bringing your leg behind you)
    • Exercises: Rising up from a squat, walking via the rear leg
  • Glute Min: Abduct thigh (Bring leg away from the opposite leg)
  • Glute Med: Abduct thigh (Bring leg away from the opposite leg)
    • Min & Med also serve to stabilize the hip when standing on one leg

There’s also the 6 Rotators of the Deep Butt or more appropriately named “The Hip Rotator Cuff.”  (right side of above picture, & covered more in my first Pigeon article)

That’s very technical.  I found that the best way to describe your butt and it’s actions are via this Smithsonian Channel video on why we even have butts in the first place:

Summary: Humans before cars, buggies, chariots, horses, etc were runners.  Think about it, how else do you think our ancestors were able to chase down food?  As a result we developed big butts to essentially keep our bodies from falling forward.  One of your butt’s main jobs is stability, which in this case is pulling your body backwards to keep you from falling forward.

Unsure of this logic?  Okay think of all the runners, dancers, and yogis that you know.

  • There’s definitely a thing known as runner’s butt (to keep them from falling forward and bringing the leg behind to powerfully compel your body forward)
  • Dancer’s butt (because of all the balance required the butt gets big for stability and once again to keep everything falling forward)
  • Yoga Butt (balance once again, plus 2 words: yoga pants)

Click those above links at your own digression, I linked them to google image searches and you never know what you’ll find there.


Like this one under “yoga butt”

So now we know that the butt is a big player in stabilizing our body to keep it from falling forward and in bringing our legs behind us and out to the side.  Let’s take a look at some of it’s best friends, how problems start to arise for our new squishy friends, and how we can get them to work better.


I mean let’s be honest, the real reason you’re here is to learn how to make that ass clap

Butt Best Friends

Your butt may be the biggest muscle in your body, but I’ll wager to say it’s the MOST UNDERUSED.  (Fun fact, even though it’s one of the smallest, your masseter (jaw muscle) is the strongest)

Your butt is a dirty slacker.  It’s not it’s fault though, it’s that chair you’re sitting in that’s sucking out it’s soul.  Remember that butts were meant to run around freely, not be some extra goodness for you to sit on all day.

The average adult these days spends 8-9 hours sitting.

You can calculate yours here (or don’t that number is gives you a very sad truth)


“Chairs kill your ass, your psoas, and your soul.”

-Dr. Perry Nickelson (Excellent article on that here)

So who picks up for your slacker butt? Your opposite shoulder, the same side hamstring, and the muscles of your lower back.

Hamstring & L/S Erector Dominance: Have low back pain, hip, or knee pain?  It highly likely that your butt is not working.  If your butt isn’t doing it’s job of keeping you from falling forward, whose going to pick up his slack?  The other smaller muscles that keep your upright and it’s fascial friends.

  • Hamstrings extend the hip (same as the glute) and also bend your knee.  Often times in squats people will recruit their hamstrings instead of their glutes. 
    • To help with this try to “screw your heels outward” with the feet hip with distance.  This taps into the lesser motion of external rotation of the glutes and helps get them to actually work when you lift up out of a squat
      • More on this here, plus exercises!
  • Lumbar Spine Erectors:  These guys keep your lower spine in extension, or a backbend.  These muscles are not very big and have a very bad mechanical advantage (meaning they weren’t designed to take the brunt of the work of backbending).  If your butt isn’t working these tiny muscles work instead, and they weren’t designed to be your sole backbenders.  It’s your butt that really should be doing most of that work.
    • They also commonly over dominate your abdominals.
    • If you have telephone pole like erectors, or see someone with these, that’s not a good thing.  That’s a very clear indication that their butt and their abdominals are not working (or not getting proper cell service ayoooooooooooo)


Bro my back abs are so SHREDDED, but man does my back hurt.

Fascial Best Friends Forever: Butt & Shoulder

Your butt is also very intimately connected to your opposite shoulder (Left shoulder – right butt cheek vice versa).  This is why people with shoulder pain, often have an opposite butt problem going on.




Your butt links to your opposite shoulder as a way to transmit force when you walk and run via the Thoracolumbar Fascia (TLF).


You can see how the butt is connected to the shoulder via the fiber orientations of the muscles and the white stuff (fascia)

The Thoracolumbar fascia is designed to glide and shear along the low back to aid in force transmission when you move.  Here’s a study that shows that a decrease in this tissue’s ability to glide/shear links to generalized low back pain.

  • A decrease in your TLF’s ability to glide means that your body has to find another way to transmit force, or glide elsewhere (chances are this is where you’re experiencing pain)
  • They also say that an inability to diaphragmatically breathe diminishes your TLF’s ability to glide

So while your butt is slacking because of sitting, your back is also stiffening, decreasing its ability to transmit the forces of when you walk around when you finally get up.


Butts are freakin’ important

How to Werk that Butt:

As we near the end of our first date with our butt, let’s recap.  You’ve pretended to be interested in it’s job of stability and moving the legs behind you.  You nodded and feigned interest in learning about it’s best friends.  You even stuck through the parts where it started complaining about all of it’s problems with it’s work and friends.  Now we finally get to the part that you’ve endured the date for:

American Dad Gym Class.gif

When you get to dance with dat butt, or more aptly named: the how to use your butt part

I’ve already provided you with a few resources above:


Here’s a few from me:

  • Gluteal Awareness:  Start to become more aware of when your butt should be active.  Any time when you walk and your leg goes behind you, squeeze your butt.  It’ll feel and look weird at first, but the eventual goal is get it to fire on it’s own, without your conscious recruitment.
  • Musical Butts: This one is one of my favorites.  When you start to become more aware of your butt, try to isolate and squeeze each individual cheek.  This can be done standing, sitting, laying on your stomach or even laying face down.  Put on a song, and try to squeeze each cheek to the beat of the music.  Have fun with this one, grab a friend and make a whole butt choreography!
  • GET UP! You don’t have to dedicate a whole hour of your day to fitness and moving around.  Sure that’s a good thing, but guess what? Sitting for 8 hours and then moving around for an hour after is not reversing that 8 hours of sitting.  Just a minute of movement every 20-30 minutes is much better for you.  Especially if you sit at a desk all day.  So get up, grab a coworker, put on a song, and play musical butts for a minute!
    • Side bar: THE WORST thing you can do after working out for that hour, is to sit back down.  Your muscles are all wet, mushy, and pliable.  So if you work out, then sit down right after, you mold that butt you just worked into a chair!

Here’s a yoga exercise to try at home, or in your own practice:

My new favorite thing for teaching people how to isolate their butts is in…

Cobra pose


Use these cues:

  1. Roll your shoulders back, hug your elbows in, and relax your hands rather than press the floor away
  2. Tuck your chin (look down right in front of your hands, rather than how this picture is showing)
  3. Squeeze your butt, and relax your legs

Shoulders and glutes remember they’re best friends here.  Plus you get to try to squeeze your butt, without your hamstring taking over (hence that last bolded cue).  It’s really really hard to isolate your butt at first.  It took me a few weeks to actually get it down.  Once you get it, MUSICAL BUTT COBRA haha.  Have fun with it!  Butts are freakin hilarious.

The Rear End


Remember you want a butt that can work, not a gold-digger trophy butt that looks good but only ends up causing you a lot of pain.


There was a lot of information in this article.  So try to take just one thing and apply it to your life.


Then come back and get to know your butt all over again.

Get off your ass and work that bad boy!

-Dr. YG


*My butt hurts from all this sitting and writing.  So I’m going to take my own advice and get up.  I’ll add that everything referenced in this article is provided by the above hyperlinks.  Plus who even reads these sources anyway?  You’re welcome for the hyperlinks 🙂

14 thoughts on “Get to Know Your Butt

  1. Hi, I appreciate all the knowledge and tips you share to better ones posture! I am however confused with on tip you gave in this article titled “get to know your butt”. You said to imagine screwing your heels outward, and every other pt and trained says to screw the feet and heels inward, even the video link you provided the trainer says to screw the feet into the ground counter clockwise which would turn the heels inward towards the mid line, not away from the mid line as screwing your heels outward cue would do. can you please let me know which direction the heels should turn, outward or inward.

    Thank you again for the great website!!


    1. Hello! Great question! So screwing the heels counter clockwise would be screwing them outward. The outward turn of the heels is External hip rotation which is one of the primary actions of the Glutes. Note: Your toes will spin inward when your heels turn outward.

      At the end of the day I would try both and see what works best for you!


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