Exploring the Terrors of the BOO-Ty: The Butt Muscles
It is October, our favorite month because all month long we get to celebrate the strange, mysterious and even scary things we love. This year, October is dedicated to the deep dark power of the BOO-Ty!
Your booty has tremendous power. It is home to thirteen different muscles, including the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle in your body. Working together in harmony, your butt muscles are responsible for all the movements that we think of as “hip opening” including all three splits, hip extension (like needle scale), and even back bending.
Too often, we neglect our butt muscles or treat them like they are all one big lump, rather than understanding and developing each individual section of the booty. Think of it, as you sit still and read this, you are sitting on a powerhouse of flexibility!
So here is a brief guide to your booty muscles and their areas of specialty:
The Gluteus Maximus (main butt): Undoubtedly the celebrity of the booty, the gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the body and responsible for hip extension. You engage maximus to bring your leg back behind you, stand up from bridge, press up into a contortion handstand, or stabilize your standing leg in a front leg scale.
The Gluteus Minimus and Medius (upstairs butt): These two glute sidekicks are the multitaskers of the booty. They do a wide range of jobs from moving your leg out to the side or back, rotating your pelvis, or internally and externally rotating your femur. They are so versatile that they can often be hard to target but boy oh boy is it important to love them. These two are important for every kind of split, side leg scales, and pelvic stabilization in back bending. These are the muscles you need to help you square your splits.
The Hamstrings (downstairs butt): While the hamstrings are not technically in your butt, they do attach right underneath your glutes and so we consider them part of the booty family. Engaging the upper fibers of the hamstrings is absolutely essential to hip extension and therefore backbending. If you have lower back pain with back bending, downstairs butt is your new best friend.
The Tensor Fascia Latae (outside butt): Despite a name that makes it sound like an expensive coffee drink, this muscle is terribly important. The TFL stabilizes and flexes the hip and internally rotates the femur, as well as helping with abduction. While it is not a prime mover in most flexibility positions, if it is weak and neglected it will get very tight and painful and can be a primary cause of multiple hip and knee problems. Strengthening your TFL will lead to happier, healthier hips in all positions.
The Deep Six (deep butt): These muscles are the covert operators of the butt. They lie deep inside the hip socket, underneath the gluteus maximus. Because we cannot see or touch them, we often forget that they exist, but these are the muscles that will make your middle and straddle splits splendid! They work to externally rotate the femur in the hips socket, which, for the majority of humans, is essential to get a deep middle split. They also act as stabilizers, similar to the rotator cuff in the shoulder. So if your Deep Six is offline it can contribute to a host of problems from snapping hip syndrome to piriformis syndrome (sciatic pain).
We realize that this dazzling variety of muscles may be a bit scary, which is why we are dedicating the whole month to doing exercises that work each section of the BOO-Ty.
Unleash the terrible power of the BOO-Ty and your hips and back will be BOO-tiful!*
* Apologies for our terrible sense of humor. This is what happens when you spend most of your life hanging around circus nerds.