Apart from what your mommy and daddy gave you (i.e. genetics), a few other factors that determine the shape of your butt are posture, fat, and muscle. Lacking in either of those 3 is probably why you’ve got a pancake bottom.
So, how to turn a flat bum into a round one?
Improve your posture, maybe gain a bit of fat, and grow your gluteal muscles.
It’s not as easy as it sounds though. Some people, including myself, just have a harder time adding volume back there. But while I can’t say I now have the best looking peaches, I do believe I’ve made good progress.
With that being said, this article will focus on how you can improve yours, no matter what shape or size you were blessed with. Let’s start by addressing the reasons why you might have a flat bum, followed by how you can fix it. Let’s get to it!
How poor posture affects your butt
If you’ve been working a desk job for quite some time now and you constantly keep asking yourself, “why is my butt so flat?”, then the reason might just be because you’re sitting down too much, staring at paperwork and a computer screen all day.
From my experience, this is particularly one of the most common reasons why people have poor posture.
When you sit on your butt for hours on end, you tend to slouch which hunches your upper back forward, flattens your lumbar curve, and tilts your pelvis backwards. Your spine basically resembles more of “C” shape rather than the normal “S”.
Overtime, this bad posture sticks with you regardless if you’re sitting down or upright. The backward tilting pelvis, in particular, makes your butt cave in instead of pop out.
It doesn’t help that it also tightens your hip flexors and ultimately takes away from the function of both your glutes and hamstrings. This can lead to neck and low back pain and also make it harder to activate your glutes during workouts.
How inactivity flattens your bum
Research has long established a strong connection between a chronic sedentary lifestyle to loss of muscle strength, mass, and negative changes to your metabolism.
In other words, you probably have a flat butt because your glutes aren’t functioning properly or they’re simply not strong enough to lift your bum.
This often goes hand-in-hand with working a desk job without leaving your chair for hours but sometimes, it’s really just you being lazy. Think Netflix marathons or just fiddling with your PlayStation for days on end.
Inactivity doesn’t just weaken your muscles though. It tightens some of them, too – and there goes your posture, then there goes your butt.
How a bad diet flattens your bum
Just in terms of calories, there’s 2 ways this can go:
- You eat too much, or
- You’re not eating enough
Eating too much, as you know, makes you fat.
What makes this a little complicated is that figuring out how to turn a flat bum into a round one actually involves you gaining a bit of weight (more on this later). Also, you can’t choose where your fat goes, so when you gain too much weight everywhere else, it can take some shine off of your bum.
Next, maybe you’re just not eating enough. Just like how you can’t pick a specific spot to deposit all that weight, you also lose fat systematically. So, when you get thinner, you lose some meat everywhere else which, of course, includes what might now be a pancake bottom.
Apart from eating too much or too little, however, you simply might just be eating the wrong types of food. This is particularly important when you’re working out because your glutes need the right kind of nutrients to grow.
On that note, I’ve noticed that these 3 – bad posture, inactivity, and bad eating habits – almost always go together. If you’re lazing around all day, there’s a good chance you’re not eating right and you’re probably not doing any sort of exercise either.
This brings us to the main part of our discussion – how to turn a flat butt into a round one through proper nutrition, exercise, and postural correction.
How do you fix bad posture to get a rounder bum?
Poor posture is basically just a string of muscle imbalances running down your spine that affects your hips, legs, and shoulders.
In the case of flat butts, it’s because of the backward tilting pelvis. Here, your hip flexors are tight while your glutes are weak. To fix this, you’ve got to stretch those tight muscles (i.e. your hip flexors) and strengthen the weak ones (i.e. your glutes).
We’ll talk more about glute activation exercises that can help correct your posture below in our “How to get a round bum through exercise” portion but when all those imbalances have been addressed, your posture should improve and that butt should pop back out.
Another way to fix and, more importantly, prevent bad posture is to have proper workplace ergonomics. The MayoClinic has an easy to understand guide on this topic but basically:
- Your chair should be high enough that your feet are flat on the floor (or on a foot rest) and your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Your desk should be high enough that your hands are slightly lower than your elbows with your wrist straight when using the mouse and keyboard, and close enough that your upper arms stay near your body. It should also have enough clear space underneath it to fit your feet, knees, and thighs.
- Your monitor should be about an arm’s length away. The top border of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level.
Having these should help keep you more upright when you’re sitting. But, of course, I get that even with an ergonomic workspace, there’s still a good chance that you melt into your chair. Long hours do that to people.
In that case, I suggest making cues that remind you to have proper posture. Maybe stick a note on your monitor that says “sit properly”, or make every doorway you see as a reminder to check your posture, or maybe roll your shoulders back every time you check your phone. Little things like these really do help, in my opinion.
How to get a round bum through exercise
First of all, fixing your pancake bum means a lot of hip movements. However, if you’ve been sedentary or have bad posture, that likely also means that your butt has partially forgotten how to work.
We have to address this and switch your butt “on” before the main lifts as it can help maximize the effectiveness of the exercises as well as possibly prevent injuries.
Warm up with these basic glute activation exercises first:
Start with your back and feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Keep your hands at your sides.
Then, engage your core. A good way to do this to push your lower back against the floor. Keep your core engaged, clench those cheeks, and lift your hips off the floor until your torso and your thighs form a straight line. Hold that position for 2 seconds then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.
Make sure your core and your glutes are engaged throughout the whole movement. If they aren’t, it doesn’t count. Do this for 20 repetitions (reps).
Single-leg glute bridge
This follows the same principles as glute bridges but the difference is that you only have 1 leg on the floor because the other one is raised to the ceiling. This introduces more challenge to your standard glute bridges.
Keep the lifted leg as straight up as possible but a little bend on your knees is still acceptable. Do this for 20 reps on each leg.
Clams (or clamshells)
This exercise focuses on activating your gluteus medius which is a muscle located at both sides of your hips. Firing up this muscle will help you stabilize your hips when you do heavy lifts, especially ones that require you stand on one leg. And when you have more stability on your hips, the better you’ll be able to workout that butt.
Start by laying on your side with your hips facing directly forward and your hips and knees bent at 45 degree angles. Make sure your heels are in line with your hips and shoulders. You could also use your hand to prop up your head or use your arms as a sort of pillow for your head to rest on.
Next, engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Keeping your feet together, lift your knees as high as you can without rocking back or moving your hips. If you do, you’ve gone too far. Remember, the point of this exercise is to help your gluteus medius stabilize your hips.
Hold that position for 2 seconds then slowly lower your knees back to the starting position while keeping your core and glutes activated through the rep.
Do this 20 times on each side. Mini loop bands inserted above both knees makes this exercise harder.
Quadruped hip extension (or donkey kicks)
Start in a quadruped position (get on your hands and knees) with your elbows straight and directly below your shoulders, your hips below your hips, and knees bent 90 degrees.
Next, engage your core and lift your left leg until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Keep your knees bent to minimize the action of your hamstrings and put most of the effort on your glutes. Also, lifting your leg until it’s parallel (or beyond parallel) to the floor might encourage your back extensors to help – you don’t want that.
As usual, keep your core and glutes engaged, and pause for 2 seconds at the top before slowly lowering. Do this 20 times on your left leg then do the same on your right leg.
Start in the quadruped position with your core engaged. Lift your left leg to the side while keeping both your hips and knees at 90 degrees. Pause for 2 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
A few key points though:
- Lift your knees as high as you can without twisting your torso and/or your hips to prevent other muscles from compensating.
- Remember to keep your core and glutes engaged throughout every rep.
Do this 20 times on one leg then do the same with the other.
There are other glute activation exercises you can do such as banded crab walks and monster walks but these should do for now. Also, 20 reps for each of these mobility exercises might seem time consuming but, as a PT, I want you to first learn how to control your muscles before actually lifting anything heavy and I think 20 reps serve as good practice.
With that said, let’s move on to the main lifts.
What is the best exercise for flat buttocks?
Like growing every other muscle in your body, the best exercises for your butt are ones that challenge its movements the most because they recruit more of your glutes than other movements.
Specifically for your gluteus maximus (the largest glute muscle on your backside and the muscle that’s largely responsible for the shape of your butt), a study says that for an exercise to be classified as “high level”, it has to at least activate 60% of the muscle.
The table below shows what exercises the study found are best:
|Butt exercise||Average % of gluteus max activation|
|Modified single-leg squat||65.6%|
The study categorizes these exercises and all their variations as a whole which I think is great for simplicity purposes. You really wouldn’t be wrong if you included any of these exercises in your butt-day routine as they will all help you grow your gluteus maximus.
However, any trainer would tell you that each variation of the above exercises serve different purposes.
So, how to get a round bum, you ask?
It’s all about training all your gluteal muscles, not just the g.max. I’m referring to your gluteus medius (or “upper butt”, as what a lot of people call it) and your gluteus minimus (or “under booty”).
It’s only when you develop all these muscles that you achieve the rounded butt of your dreams.
The catch is that there’s really no specific exercise that isolates the gluteus minimus, but it does get activated in other leg/butt exercises, especially ones that involve hip stability and hip abduction.
Per research, these include resisted hip abduction (which we will talk about below) and single-leg exercises like the single-leg bridge and the single-leg squat.
Fortunately, the gluteus medius is much easier to develop. Try these exercises:
While a standard step-up would perhaps be the best variation for recruiting your gluteus maximus, research says that crossover step-ups are better for your gluteus medius.
Stand beside a platform (a step, a box, or a bench are what’s commonly used) then move the foot that’s farther from the platform across your body and onto the platform. Make sure that your foot is still facing forward. This is your starting position.
Use the elevated foot to step-up on the platform and go back to the starting position slowly. That’s 1 rep.
While the crossover step-up activates your gluteus medius on the concentric (or “stepping up”) portion of the exercise, the lateral step-ups use the muscle on the eccentric (or “stepping down”) bit.
Stand beside a platform and place the foot nearest to it on top of the step. Using that foot, lift your body up and onto the platform, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
Side-lying hip abduction
A study suggests that this exercise might be the best for activating your gluteus medius. If not, then it’s at least better than clams and lunges.
Let’s assume you’re working on your right g.med first.
Start by lying on your left side with your left hip and knee bent to help with stability. Then, slowly raise your right leg straight up. Hold the highest position you can for about 2 seconds then slowly lower your right leg back to the starting position.
I highly recommend using cables or bands to add resistance to this exercise. Otherwise, it won’t nearly be as effective.
Seated hip abduction machine
This machine may make you look awkward at the gym, but if you want to learn how to turn a square bum into a round one, trust me — you’ve got to do this.
This machine works both your gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. Per research, it recruits more of your maximus if you do lighter weights but as you progress to lifting more and more plates, your medius starts to take over the lift.
If you want to maximize the effect of the machine though, I strongly recommend you go heavy. You can always target the gluteus maximus through other exercises.
Foods that make your butt bigger and rounder
It’s no secret that your muscles, including your glutes, need nutrients to grow. All that exercising won’t nearly be as effective without fat, carbohydrates, and most importantly, protein.
Your muscles need protein because they break it down into amino acids which they then use to grow. And, because you’re working out, you’ll need more protein than the average person. Research says that you need about 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to support muscle growth.
You also need carbs as your body stores this as glycogen which will then serve as an energy source for your workouts. Carbs are also excellent protein sparers, meaning they save most, if not all of the protein you ingest from being used as fuel, so your body focuses on utilizing it for muscle growth.
Lastly, you need fat to create a healthy balance of hormones. Testosterone and insulin, in particular, are crucial for muscle growth.
Now, if you’re not working out and you still want a rounder butt, you might want to consider calorie dense food. These foods will help you gain weight all over your body, including your booty. Be careful not to overdo it though as you might just end up obese instead of thick and curvy.
We talk more in-depth about this in our Super Foods That Make Your Butter Bigger article, so I suggest you read that, too.