The Truth About Cellulite

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image of leg, cellulite

The Truth About Cellulite

image of leg, cellulite

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The Truth About Cellulite —What It Is And How To Get Rid Of It…

What is cellulite?

In my work as a Body Transformation Specialist, one of the most common problems my women clients are faced with is the appearance of cellulite, along with stubborn lower body fat pockets that just won’t seem to go away.

Cellulite affects around 80% of women, and there is a lot of conjecture and misunderstanding about what it is, why you have it and what you can do about it. It’s not just a problem of the overweight – many active, lean women have cellulite too.

So, read on for some deeper insight into this mysterious type of fat…

Let’s get it straight from the beginning – cellulite is not a disease, an illness or a ‘condition’. It’s simply additional fat. It looks different because of the structure of the fat cells in the connective tissue of women – and if that connective tissue doesn’t hold in the underlying fat, it creates that lumpy look.

Underneath the dermis (the skin’s inner layer) and epidermis (the outer layer) are three specific layers of fat. Cellulite tends to develop in the subcutaneous fat layer, just beneath the skin.

The subcutaneous fat layer in a woman is organized into large upright chambers where the fat is stored. In men, these chambers are organized into small slanting units – which is why men (the lucky buggers) are rarely affected by cellulite.

Along with the female hormone Estrogen which tends to increase fluid build-up, and our tendency for thin skin, the superficial fat shows through more easily in women. I know – it’s hardly fair.

Additionally, your body composition (muscle to fat ratio), genes, skin thickness, age, lifestyle and activity level all influence whether or not you have cellulite and how much you have.

So what if you’re already active yet still have a soft, dimpled bum?

Good question.

The answer is probably something you have never even considered before.

It is not common knowledge that in today’s age of convenience the majority of folks have weak or ineffective gluteal muscles.

The answer is probably something you have never even considered before.

It is not common knowledge that in today’s age of convenience the majority of folks have weak or ineffective gluteal muscles.

So, if still you don’t have that firm, toned tush you have been training for, it may actually be that without knowing you are using the wrong muscles when you exercise – and if you don’t activate and engage the right muscles, you’ll NEVER have a beautiful butt.

So how does it happen?

Given we spend so much time on our backsides in this ‘age of convenience’, our bodies have become less able to engage and work the glutes properly.

In a nutshell this is because the more time we spend sitting (think desk job…), the shorter our hip flexors become and the longer or more stretched our glute muscles get – when your muscles stretch it is much harder to activate them.

So if you want your butt to be nice and firm, tight and toned (as well as avoiding unnecessary back and hip pain), then it’s essential to learn to ‘switch on’ your glutes and balance them with your hip flexors.

Consider your glutes and hip flexors as part of a marriage – there needs to be a nice even balance between both parties in order for the relationship to function properly. If one side is more dominant than the other, you’re very likely to have all sorts of problems! Strains, pulls, tears, lower back pain and many other issues are associated with these major muscle groups of our body.

The gluteal muscles compromise the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus and the hip flexors (in which we will consider the most dominant hip flexor, the Iliopsoas, but keep in mind there are more less-dominant muscles also involved) consist of the psoas major, psoas minor and the iliacus.

This ‘marriage’ of muscles is involved in a number of movements about the hip that can greatly affect your posture and daily tasks such as sitting, walking, running and ultimately many areas down (or up) the chain. Hip flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, adduction, abduction, transverse adduction and transverse abduction are among the major roles of the glutes and hip flexor muscle groups. In real layman’s terms, they are responsible for a lot of stuff!

There are two main problems that we experience with our glutes.

Some of us are not able to engage our glutes at all – not even for everyday activities, like standing or walking and not for exercising such as running or squatting.

Others are able to engage their glutes but they are very weak because they are dominated by other muscles such as the quadriceps (typically). Even if these people aim to train their glutes when they hit the gym, they often end up missing the mark and allowing the stronger, more dominant leg muscles to take over. This leaves them with a great imbalance that just keeps increasing, and causing a multitude of problems as time goes on.

If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk and have a rather sedentary job, not only is it good for your eyes to break from that computer screen (if you work at one) but it will also be good for your butt if you get up at regular intervals, take a quick stroll and perform some hip flexor stretches. This dynamic stretch is a great one:

Lunge into Hip Flexor Stretch

Lunge forward with your front leg at a 90 degree angle and your back knee almost touching the floor. Slowly push hip forward to create a stretch at the front on the hip while holding the lunge position. Step back and repeat with other leg. Repeat 6 times.

The above stretch is also great to add to the beginning of a workout as part of your warm up and preparation.

Aside from stretching, if your glute muscles are weak it’s really important that you instruct your body to ‘switch on’ the appropriate muscle group. We need to let the right muscles know it’s time to do some work!

A great way to do this is to incorporate some activation exercises into a ‘dynamic’ warm up. Rather than just jump on a treadmill, a dynamic warm up involves a series of exercises to prepare the appropriate muscles and joints for training. This type of warm up will help to mobilize, stretch and strengthen the muscles thereby aiding in rehabilitating any current imbalances or injuries and avoiding future ones.

A couple of great glute activation exercises to add to your warm up regime are:

Glute Bridge

Lie on the floor with a weight plate across your hips, your spine in a neutral position and take a wide stance with your feet. Face your toes outwards and bring your legs up to a 45 degree angle.

Contracting your glutes, push your hips up, forming a straight line with your legs and back. Lower and repeat for desired repetitions.

Really squeeze and hold those glutes at the top of the movement and control that movement down, keeping tension on the muscle at all times. You can do this one with or without the plate for extra resistance.

X-Band Walk

Take a slightly wider than shoulder width stance, place a resistance band under your feet and criss-cross over with your hands to form tension and essentially an ‘X’ shape with the band.

Take wide lateral steps while maintaining tension on the band. Repeat for the opposite side and complete desired repetitions (noting that if your program states 10 repetitions; that is 10 repetitions on each side, for a total of 20 reps).

If you have a resistance band, this is an excellent one to engage the Glute Medius – one of the smaller glute muscles that are very often weak. It might look simple, but trust me, you will really feel this one.

The other important thing you should do if you suspect you have weak glutes is to prioritize those exercises and schedule them first in your workout.

Adding appropriate stretching and activation exercises, and prioritizing posterior chain work will not only help to build a nice toned, firm butt, it will help to improve or prevent lower back and knee pain.

From an original article by Sue Heintze

Sue Heintze



Sue, aged 42, is a Fitness Professional and contributing writer to Australian Oxygen Magazine, Australian Women’s Health & Fitness magazine and Shape Magazine.

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