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Practically everyone knows that Pilates can help you sculpt beautiful abs. But devotees of the ever more popular workout have a secret: It's also a great way to get sleek thighs, a tight tush, and a totally toned lower body. You don't have to squander your savings on expensive studio lessons to reap the benefits.
"You can get the same great leg and glute workout on your own as you would on fancy equipment like the Pilates Reformer by changing moves to a standing position and incorporating tools like weights and stability balls," explains Michele S. Olson, PhD, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. "The added resistance helps target all the muscles of the lower body while strengthening your core and improving your balance." Olson, who created the following workout (that's also her modeling the moves!), recommends working up to two sets of 15 to 18 reps using a 9- to 12-pound body bar or barbell. Do these exercises three times a week for eight weeks and you'll show off enviable legs and an amazing butt to go along with your firmer middle.Solutions for Stubborn Trouble Zones Problem: Saddlebags
The Fix: Traveling squats with resistance band
"To tone your outer thighs, you need to move laterally," says John Boyd, group fitness director at Chelsea Piers Sports Center in New York City.
The Fix: Flutter kicks on the ball
"To lift and firm your butt, you need to work against gravity," explains Boyd.
The Fix: Standing calf raises
"You don't need more than your own body weight to gain definition in your calves," says Boyd.
Mari Winsor, pioneer of Pilates for the masses, uses a stability ball as an added challenge for total-body toning (you'll work hard to keep the ball under control). There are also plenty of soothing stretches between strength moves. ($19.95)Denise Austin's Hit the Spot Pilates
Zone in on key trouble areas with video vet Austin's progressive Pilates workouts. Three ab-intensive segments build toward increasingly more challenging routines; the remaining four sequences hit the hips, thighs, and glutes. ($14.95)The Quick & Dirty Guide to Pilates
Mix and match dozens of moves to create a Pilates workout that's customized to your fitness level and target areas. Bonus: Click on the Angle Change button to get a different visual perspective on each featured exercise. ($26.98)Q&A: "How can I get rid of cellulite on my legs and butt?"
In a word? Exercise. "Cellulite is basically the buildup of fat tissue stored unevenly, which produces its dimply appearance," says exercise physiologist Michele S. Olson, PhD. To speed fat loss and minimize cellulite, follow a healthy diet and do at least four 45- to 60-minute aerobic workouts each week. In addition, says Olson, do strength moves like the ones here three times a week. "Resistance activities are key to maintaining a toned lower body -- you're sculpting lean muscle mass while burning excess fat."
Originally published in Fitness magazine, December 2005.