illustration of a museum display of a woman with large glutes
Illustration by Elnora Turner
Health

‘How Do I Get a Big Juicy Ass in Time for Summer?’

Every influencer is promising the cheeks of your dreams, but only a few will deliver.
March 31, 2021, 6:19pm
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How do I get a thick and juicy ass by the time I’m vaxxed in the next two or three months? Maybe I can’t totally transform, like you said, but what if I do only want to look, like, just a little bit better? I see lots of womens’ pictures posted by influencers where they say they got a bigger butt from the booty band workout the influencer sells, for instance. It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, or take that long!! But I just wanna know what I can do in like, three months. —Ass Wanter

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I want to explain this not because I think everyone should have a huge butt (well, actually, OK, I do). I also don’t want to explain it because I think this is a “great reason” to work out, but I accept that it is a reason people do actually work out. I have avoided this topic for a long time, but with people furiously clicking on butt-workout videos now more than ever in anticipation of this summer, it’s time to share my years of monastic study on where butts come from.

The reason I do want to explain it is that I think reasonable expectations will set us free, even freer than any one-weird-trick-to-have-a-huge-butt-in-10-days workout videos. There are zillions of them online, and they are extremely, extremely, millions-of-views popular; if you were to post a video called “HOW I GREW MY GLUTES 9 INCHES in 10 DAYS (NATURALLY)(SERIOUS)” with a thumbnail of a zoomed out photo of your butt next to a really zoomed in photo of your butt, implying growth, that would be an instant one million views. The people want to know how the ass becomes large, and influencers and fitness gurus alike are delivering. Sort of.

A little later on, I will recommend to you the best kind of workout that I think will get you a little bit of results. But first I want to explain how to think about butts, or any muscles. This is not to harsh the workout mellow of people who are happy believing the butt-building marketing fantasies of fitness gurus because they find it inspiring or whatever; as long as they are not self-harming, god bless them, nothing I say will matter and I’m glad they are happy. People who reject outright what fitness gurus say as bad and harmful, I support that too. But to the people who get excited about the promises of this or that diet or workout program, only to be frustrated when they don’t work, become disillusioned with the process of “taking care of themselves” in general, or even the worst of all, blame themselves: I feel like I can help.

Where butts come from

So here is my experience with butt muscles, or “my glutes.” It was the devil himself who put a free vector graphics website into my hands, and first I made body-composition avocados; now I have made butt balloons.

Think of butt muscles (or really any muscles) like balloons. Balloons can be inflated or not, and they can be any size. There are the balloons that clowns make animals out of; there is the Goodyear blimp; there is everything in between. Before I started lifting, I had the smallest of balloon capacity back there. When I did exercises that promised a “nicer butt,” the best they could do, all they could do, was pump up the balloons that were already there. My butt might get a little shape tweak, but didn’t really change size. To actually get even a little bigger, we were going to need to build a bigger, more capacious balloon.

This happened when I used the universally accepted method of actually making any muscle bigger, because my ass, and your ass, are muscles like any other muscles. This meant becoming basically competent at lifting heavy weights* by doing compound movements like squats and deadlifts with good form (starting small, but continuing to challenge myself and getting progressively heavier) and eating a lot of food to grow, over the course of years. Anyone who went from having no butt to a huge butt, who is being honest, will tell you this is the case. Both the people who give big butt instructions and the people who want to follow them tend to gloss over this part, and focus on lighter, foofier movements. And while the lighter, foofier stuff doesn’t do nothing, it does much more when it’s done along with the major building block of “slanging some heavy weights for a few reps.” The lighter, foofier movements are what Snackwell’s cakes are to an overall balanced diet.

I feel like you don’t have to look too terribly wide and far to find examples of people with muscular butts and their (somewhat secret?) history with lifting heavy weights. An influencer might be selling these little kee-kee workouts with no weights and lots of movements that seem all about the ass, but then they themselves can squat or deadlift hundreds of pounds. Here is Charly Jordan, a famous influencer and ass-haver, squatting Jen Selter, another famous ass-haver. That girl has to weigh at least 120 pounds. She’s talked about training for being a track star, including lifting heavy weights. We already talked about Melissa Alcantara, a.k.a @fitgurlmel. Personal trainer and incredible glutes-haver Presley Pritchard endorses heavy lifting. Lilly Sabri, who has 2.6 million YouTube subscribers and sells endless Snackwells-cake-type “grow your butt in 14 days with 10 minutes” workouts but interestingly has a whole power rack with heavy plates at her house.

Do you have a question about working out, eating, health, or why you shouldn't be afraid of lifting heavy weights? Send it to swole.woman@vice.com and follow @swolewoman on Instagram.

Even one of the most famous glorious ass-havers in the game, Megan Thee Stallion, has been posting her butt workouts, and guess what she is doing? That’s right: At the 1:20 timestamp, she gets in the heavy weights first, and only then progresses to the smaller “accessory” movements, the way that any good, actual muscle-developing workout would go. Here is sciency fitness guru Natacha Oceane also explaining this. Ass-builders just know: This is how the shapely ass happens. 


This all may not be connecting for you, possibly because you have always found these kinds of less-intense booty-band type workouts pretty hard and can’t see how you could do anything any “harder.” I have always found this to be a useful metaphor: if you were to stand on the street and wave at every passerby for several hours, your arm muscles would not really get any stronger or bigger; your arm would just be really tired. If you were trying to get big arms this way, you would probably be really disappointed but also frustrated that you are working so hard, yet your arm stays noodly. But your arm WOULD get stronger and, eventually, bigger, from doing three sets of five bench presses twice a week, and you’d probably be overall less tired. It’s important not to confuse these things. So if you had pre-given up on heavy lifting at some point because you feel like you already can’t handle the “easier” workouts you are doing—don’t!! Lifting is not relatively harder than anything else, and it’s always meant to be in key with what is challenging for you.  

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Now, there are two other factors to consider: some people are just born with capacious balloons, genetically speaking. They might never need to lift heavy weights because their glute muscles are already enormous, just waiting to receive the little bit of stimulation from a booty band that will make them pop. Genetics also dictate where bodies carry fat, and that’s another element beyond our control.

 Also, any butt muscle also cannot grow infinitely big. Can I change my assless fate? I can. I did. I am not retiring on my pile of a million Instagram followers on the basis of how wonderful my ass is, but there are inches and shapes that are there now that weren’t there before. (Anyone who wanted to say my butt is nothing special, I will lie down and agree; I’m not here to debate the absolute merit of my butt.) But I think I’m probably 80 percent of the way to my total ass potential, and don’t have the patience to go the other 20 percent.

Then there is the factor of “prior training,” which works not all that differently from genetics. Now that I have put all this work and time into building up my glutes, learning to really use my hip muscles by doing clamshells and Romanian deadlifts, that muscle memory is not going to go away when I stop lifting. If I were to stop for a really long time, and then decide I want to fuck around with some booty bands, my booty band results will now be better than they were before I ever lifted, because I have previously done all of that muscle building.

Having a huge ass in terms of muscles isn’t just about building it up the one time, but keeping it pumped up week in and out, by working out. Many people with big butts, or any big muscles, have to maintain them with lots of working out; if they were to stop lifting so much, they would get smaller again. Would The Rock lift so much if he weren’t trying to stay large? 


But OK, here’s what I suggest

So what does all this mean for you, Ass Wanter? Is there any point in doing any of the quarantine glow up workouts promising you a damn wagon simply by doing a bunch of clamshells and kneeling squats? 

What I am trying to say is there isn’t NO point; you’ll get a little shape and a tiiiiny bit of size out of workouts that are more like regular exercise and not about training and muscle building and progressive overload where the intensity goes up. You might even actually learn to use your glute muscles better, which could pay off in the event you do take up heavy lifting. (Most “12 MINUTES TO A BUBBLE BUTT” workout are actually made up of these “activation” type exercises, which have helped me lift better, even, in some cases.) 

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But instead of something that specific, I would recommend something like this Caroline Girvan video, which integrates really good compound movements that will honestly pay off in the ass region. Use weights—as heavy as you can according to your skill!! If you need to make some of your own, here are some suggestions


But if you’re looking at all the transformation pics posted out there where someone goes from having a pancake butt to two planets in a very short time, that is either surgery, the right genetics, or their prior training helping them out. It is NOT just six sets of 20 body weight glute bridges, or frog pumps, or even 2-lb. dumbbell Romanian deadlifts. 


(And another thing about the economy of transformation photos: For every person reposted by the influencer selling a Godly Glutes program who magically got a huge ass in like a month, they are the tip of the iceberg of people who have different bodies or backgrounds, most of whom could not ever make things happen that fast, even in an ideal scenario. This is just a new version of late night infomercials showing off Jenny Craig or whoever customers losing 20 pounds in two weeks. The FTC’s latest regulations actually dictate that endorsements and testimonials in advertising, a category that transformation photos would likely fall under, are supposed to be offset with text about what “typical results” are (e.g., “The average woman’s ass grew by 3 inches with the Godly Glutes program”). But they elide this somewhat by not writing out any actual claims and letting the implications of the images do the work, and social media is already so badly regulated anyway, I’m surely not expecting anyone to take care of this any time soon.)

But if you actually think that just doing a lot of tiresome Jazzercise-type work wouldn’t be worth it to see only a crumb of difference, and you actually wanted your ass to get bigger, you can start your lifting journey now. I know it’s a long road, and the best time to start would have been last year when quarantine started, but the second best time is always “right now.” Give your muscles a chance. Or do the booty band workouts! Everyone has to have their journey; just be gentle with yourself and careful about expecting the world. Or two worlds. I’m talking about your cheeks. 

*When I speak of “lifting heavy,” I’m talking about “using bigger dumbbells or a barbell.” versus “using 2-lb. dumbbells and never increasing them, or only doing light bodyweight exercises.” Strength training scholars debate about how heavy these heavy weights should be, but seem to largely agree that the important thing for growing muscles is using weights heavy enough so that, however many reps you are doing up to 20 or so, you couldn’t do more than one or two reps more with that weight at the time you stop. (So, if you’re doing 8 squat reps, use a weight that you could do 8 reps with but would probably fail to do 10 reps with.) This is a long way of saying, it should be hard, and if you are growing, that amount of weight will go slowly up. In conclusion, use heavy weights, for you, for whatever it is you are doing. Otherwise it’s cardio and not strength training. 

Disclaimer: Casey Johnston is not a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, personal trainer, physiotherapist, psychotherapist, doctor, or lawyer; she is simply someone who has done a lot of, and read a lot about, lifting weights.

You can read past Ask A Swole Woman columns at The Hairpin and at SELF and follow A Swole Woman on Instagram. Got a question for her? Email swole.woman@vice.com.