Does my bum look big enough?

There are many different shapes and sizes, and all are appreciated by both women and men. There isn’t one specific type that is better than the rest.  Some are round and firm, others are flat or and long. They can be jiggly or muscley.  The perfect one is hemispheric, extending 180 degrees in all directions from base. It Defies gravity – pert, does not sag. It is Semi-dense texture – firm yet malleable. Elasticity is essential – it bounces right back on touch. It has presence and with a slight projection it enhances pants and prevents the shirt from falling straight down.

imageBut “Bums” have a far more important role than just looking good; the human butt muscle evolved to help us run upright on two legs instead of dashing about on all fours like our nearest cousins, the chimpanzees. Lucy was found by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray on the November 24, 1974, at the site of Hadar in Ethiopia. The fossil of Lucy, the girl of the species Australopithecus afarensis is thought to have lived approximately 3.2 million years ago, indicates that she was a walker, but not a runner. She was short-legged and lacked a nuchal ligament, the ligament of the back of the neck that helps keep the head stable during running. With the evolution of Homo erectus approximately 1 million years later, this had started to change; Homo erectus had a nuchal ligament and a big bum, suggesting he was probably a good endurance runner. The large bum muscles – are unique to humans among the primates, they propel us forward while stabilizing our torso as we stride. In fact the main reason for our prominent bum may be to facilitate running. The Bum Muscles (gluteus maximus, medius and minimus) are primarily active during climbing; running and other activities that involve stabilizing the body and propelling it forward (Stern et al., 1980; Marzke et al., 1988)

Our “Big Bums” have evolved over millions of years and allow us to run, but bum muscle dysfunction can cause problems. An increasingly sedentary modern lifestyle is being blamed for a condition referred to as Dormant Bottom Syndrome (DBS). It’s becoming more and more prevalent problem due to the amount of time we all spend sitting down, whether it’s at a desk or relaxing in the garden. Industrial, technological and social progress have considerably reduced physical activity levels and greatly increased the participation in sedentary behaviours (Matthews et al., 2012). When compared to our parents and grandparents, the current generation work and live in surroundings that discourage movement and physical activity – we are required to sit for prolonged periods in work, school and home (Owen et al., 2010).

Many common lower extremity running injuries, whether they involve the knee, calf, plantar fascia or iliotibial band, can be linked to weakness and glute muscles in the bum. When the hip strength of runners with various leg injuries was compared to a healthy uninjured group of recreational runners, the injured runners had weaker glutes (bum muscles on the injured side. The healthy runners displayed no side-to-side differences in muscular strength (Niemuth et al., 2005; Cichanowski et al., 2007).  So is your bum all that it could be? I don’t mean aesthetically, but functionally. The answer is probably not!




Cichanowski HR, Schmitt JS, Johnson RJ & Niemuth PE. (2007). Hip strength in collegiate female athletes with patellofemoral pain. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39, 1227-1232.


Marzke MW, Longhill JM & Rasmussen SA. (1988). Gluteus maximus muscle function and the origin of hominid bipedality. Am J Phys Anthropol 77, 519-528.


Matthews CE, George SM, Moore SC, Bowles HR, Blair A, Park Y, Troiano RP, Hollenbeck A & Schatzkin A. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr 95, 437-445.


Niemuth PE, Johnson RJ, Myers MJ & Thieman TJ. (2005). Hip Muscle Weakness and Overuse Injuries in Recreational Runners. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 15, 14-21.


Owen N, Healy GN, Matthews CE & Dunstan DW. (2010). Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 38, 105-113.


Stern JT, Jr., Pare EB & Schwartz JM. (1980). New perspectives on muscle use during locomotion: electromyographic studies of rapid and complex behaviors. J Am Osteopath Assoc 80, 287-291.


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I qualified with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2004. Since graduating I have worked in St. James Hospital Dublin and have worked in all the areas of speciality within the hospital including cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, care of the elderly, neurology, burns and plastic surgery among others . I have also completed a post graduate certificate in acupuncture in UCD 2009. The Physiotherapy Department in SJH has strong links with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students on practice placements and also delivered lectures on the undergraduate academic programme in TCD. I have a keen interest in all sports and currently plays with Cill Dara RFC 1st team squad, and Milltown GAA. I have previously worked as Physiotherapist to Co. Carlow Senior GAA Team, Milltown GAA, Leinster Junior Rugby Team and Cill Dara RFC. I am an experienced runner and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2002. I continue to participate in running events and multisport disciplines such as Gaelforce West, Gaelforce North and the Motivate Challenge. I have a particular interest in strength and conditioning. I utilise this knowledge of resistance training in the treatment of his clients. I am committed to continuous learning and development in order to ensure the optimal level of care is offered to my clients, and with this in mind I am currently undertaking a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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