In an age where celebrities and non-celebrities alike seem to want a bigger butt, you’d be forgiven if you’ve ever wondered: “Does running make your butt bigger?”
Historically, a well-formed butt has been associated with health, strength and sexual attractiveness.
In various cultures past and present, prominent glute muscles (butt muscles) represented virility and fertility.
Glutes have also played an important role in the survival of the human species over millennia.
Humans have evolved to have larger and stronger glutes, compared with our DNA ancestors like the ape.
In anthropological terms, both males and females were attracted to big glutes as they instinctively represented survival, reproduction, hunting and protection.
So why are the butt muscles important when running, how are they used, and crucially does running make your butt muscles bigger?
Are there any exercises and workouts that help you build a bigger butt?
In this guide we’ll explore:
- The importance of your butt muscles when running
- Does running make your butt bigger?
- How to get a bigger butt: 20 butt building exercises
The importance of your butt muscles when running
The glutes are critical in enabling you to maintain an upright posture when walking and running.
Running is considered an all body movement and works multiple muscle groups, especially those in your upper legs – including the muscles in your butt – the glutes.
The glutes are the largest and most powerful muscles in the body.
According to a 2013 study, research data suggests that the large size of the gluteus maximus reflects its multifaceted role during rapid and powerful movements like sprinting and climbing.
Adding that during single submaximal activities such as walking and endurance running, the gluteus maximus is used to a lesser extent.
Your glutes are made up of three key muscles:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
The gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius are the muscles primarily used when running:
- The gluteus maximus extends the hip (bring your leg behind you)
- The gluteus medius abducts the hip (bringing your leg out to the side)
As its name suggests, the gluteus maximus is the largest of the butt muscles, and as such makes up a large part of the shape and appearance of the butt and hips.
Does running make your butt bigger?
Does running make your butt bigger or smaller?
The size (bulk) and tone of your butt muscles (glutes) can be improved with exercise like running.
However, endurance exercise can also contribute to fat loss which will ultimately affect the shape and size of your butt muscles.
This is because endurance activities like running rely primarily on slow twitch muscle fibres.
Slow twitch fibres are not as strong and powerful as fast twitch muscle fibres, which are used mainly for sprinting and strength training.
Therefore, you need to be doing glute strengthening exercises in order to increase muscle mass.
The size of your butt, and indeed the effects of exercise on your butt, will also depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Fat distribution
- Bone structure
As you get older, you lose muscle mass and muscle strength and function.
Studies tell us that muscle mass decreases approximately 3-8% per decade after the age of 30.
This rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60.
Interestingly, studies that assessed changes in mass and strength report a loss of strength 2-5 times faster than loss of mass.
Men have significantly greater skeletal muscle mass in the upper and lower body, compared with women.
Studies show that in women there is a correlation between the percentage of total muscle mass contained in the lower body and body weight.
Body weight is not related to muscle distribution in men.
Fat distribution around your thighs, hips and pelvis will also impact the shape and size of your butt.
- Round-shaped butt. When the fat around your butt is mainly located in your butt cheeks, and not your hips and thighs, then you will likely have a round-shaped butt.
- A-shaped butt. When the fat sits on the outer thighs and hips so they appear to widen at the base of the butt.
- Square-shaped butt. When the fat distribution is mainly around your love handles, then you will likely have a square-shaped butt.
- Pear-shaped butt. When the fat is mainly located in the lower section of your butt and lower portion of your thighs, you will likely have a pear-shaped butt.
- V-shaped butt. When the fat is stored in your upper glutes and mid-section, you will likely have loss of volume in the lower half of your butt, which is commonly linked with the ‘saggy’ butt look.
For leaner and more active individuals, it is thought that the glutes contribute more to the shape of your butt.
For less active individuals with a higher body fat percentage, the glutes are less visible.
Your pelvic bones have a large role to play when it comes to the shape and size of your butt.
The shape of your pelvic bones, your fat distribution around your hips and where your glute muscles attach to your pelvic bones can all determine the shape of your butt.
If you have a big booty and slim waist, for example, you will likely have narrow ilium bones, long femoral necks and pronounced greater trochanter bones.
These bones can make you look more muscular than someone who actually has more muscle.
So it’s not just your muscles that you have to thank when it comes to having a bigger butt!
Your genetics influence your muscle building potential – in other words how big and muscular you can get or look.
If your genetics mean you have a higher ratio of fast twitch muscle fibres, then you will find it easier to build muscle faster and larger compared with someone who has a higher ratio of slow twitch muscle fibres.
Your genetics will also determine how responsive your body is to strength training in general.
Hormones control the size of your muscles – telling them when to grow bigger and when to break them down.
Testosterone – the hormone produced primarily in the testicles – plays a huge role in muscle building.
Men naturally have higher levels of testosterone so are generally much more heavily built than women.
But it’s not all about testosterone when it comes to muscle size.
Estrogen – the sex and reproductive development hormone in women – directly affects the structure and function of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
It also boosts muscle mass and strength and increases the collagen content of connective tissues.
The following hormones are also important when it comes to muscle mass:
- Growth hormones
What you eat, how you train, how you sleep and your approach to fitness will all impact your muscle building capabilities.
How to get a bigger butt
Unfortunately, in the age of TV watching and desk jobs, we spend more time sitting and being inactive, than we do moving.
This has created a culture of glute weakness and all of the problems that go hand in hand with this.
When your glutes are not activated properly, you have a greater risk of:
This can cause all sorts of problems when running because weak glutes equals poor running form and weak points in your kinetic chain.
To combat this, it is recommended you do glute strengthening exercises and workouts in your training routine alongside your running – more on those below!
20 butt building exercises
Do squats make your butt bigger?
The answer is yes! But it really depends on the exercise intensity and type of squat, as well as training loads.
Here are 20 butt building exercises to grow your glutes.
These are split by bodyweight exercises and weighted exercises.
Bodyweight butt exercises
Do 10-12 reps of each, for 3 sets. Make sure you take a rest break in between each set.
Use your own bodyweight as the resistance with these exercises.
- Donkey kicks
- Single-leg glute bridge
- Touchdown squat
- Hip abduction
- Side lunge
- Curtsy lunge
- In and out squats
- Single-leg deadlift
Butt exercises with weights
Do 10-12 reps of each, for 3 sets and take rest breaks in between each set.
Use dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell to complete these exercises.
- Dumbbell Romanian deadlift.
- Dumbbell Bulgarian split squat.
- Reverse lunge with dumbbells
- Dumbbell split squat
- Dumbbell curtsy lunge
- Kettlebell swings
- Barbell deadlift
- Barbell hip thrust
- Dumbbell squat
- Dumbbell step up