It might be perceived as feminine to have developed glutes coupled with thin legs, but it is not a sustainable lifestyle.

Every time I see a post online that reads “how to get a big butt without growing your thighs,” I imagine all the women who will age into their 50s with torn cartilage in the knee, in pain, popping Percocet.

Here’s why:

The muscle group in our thighs, called quadriceps, are designed to first protect your femur, and second carry the weight of your body. Weak and underdeveloped quadriceps put all of your bodyweight onto your delicate knees, breaking down cartilage over time.

Worn cartilage in the joint of the knee leads to osteoarthritis. According to Arthritis Canada, 60 per cent of people with arthritis in this country are women.

As bipedal animals, osteoarthritis is inevitable due to what doctors call “wear and tear,” but strong quads prolong cartilage health.

Strong glutes are important—glutes also take weight off your knees—and I’m happy to see women exercising and getting stronger. But your glutes are heavy, and they need your thighs for support. In fact, glutes, quads, and hamstrings are designed to work together for hip mobility and knee extension.

Glutes help you extend your legs behind your body, but that’s pretty much it. Quads, however, help you run, jump, land, and safely pick up things without hurting your back.

Without strong quads, glutes are overworked and become tight causing soreness, lower-back pain, tight hamstrings, knee pain, and tight hip flexors.

An imbalanced lower body not only leads to chronic pain and injuries, but is simply not functional.

The exercises shared in videos of women with big butts and skinny thighs are all glute isolation exercises. Glute isolation is great as a warm up to better perform leg exercises such as squats and lunges, but they are not practical exercises to practice in your everyday life.

As women age past their 50s, movements such as using the toilet, going in and out of the shower, and getting out of the car become more challenging. Strong quads are essential to these movements and support a better quality of life.

This butt-obsessed trend on Instagram is just that, a trend. Instagram fitness trends can and will change, so it’s not worth sacrificing your physical health for temporary aesthetics.

The habit of separating a woman’s glutes from the rest of her lower body is a problem because it doesn’t stop there. Women are also encouraged to exercise their core for a flat stomach but discouraged to grow biceps, deltoids, and trapezius (the muscles behind the neck, in the upper back). Every muscle in your body is meant to work together so that when you lift something heavy, your whole body is engaged and you decrease the risk of injury. This message isn’t for the Instagram models who swear on glute isolation, but for the girls who admire those models, go to the gym, and wonder why their thighs are getting bigger.
Your thighs are supposed to grow, it’s natural (and it’s sexy). Your knees will thank you for it.

1 comment

  1. As a trainer myself, I echo these words. I have had clients who want “toned” legs & a bigger booty booty, but not thick thighs. These muscles work synergistically with most leg exercises. If you disagree, then look at the quad to glute ratio of any model who has had surgery to augment the size of their glutes. Their thighs appear underdeveloped in comparison. I’m an advocate for total body exercises, targeting major muscle groups and minimizing isolation work only as assistance or as rehabilitation to prime up the muscles involved in the bigger compound lifts. This will not only have you look more proportioned, but will also serve to establish a mind-muscle connection so that your nervous system understands that your whole body is meant to move as one functioning unit.

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