What Works Best for My Butt
I love my butt — and my tummy's not too shabby either. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. I'm 42, I had a baby this year, and my lower half is basically cellulite free. No, it's not just good genes: I've been a fitness editor and exercise physiologist for 17 years, and I just wrote my 34th get-a-better-butt story. I've also written 29 features on getting fab abs. I've gotten some great advice, and I took it to heart; now I want to share it with you. Here are my favorite strategies, culled from interviews with top trainers, instructors, and sports-medicine doctors.
1. Keep Your Rear in Plain View
If you're not in love with your butt, you may hide it under long, droopy T-shirts. But Tracey Mallett, star of the Renew You Sleek & Lean DVD, gave me the best piece of advice a few years ago: "If you're targeting a body part, make sure you can see it in the clothes you wear." It's motivating to see those muscles working while you sweat! Focusing on your butt? Wear yoga pants or tight-fitting shorts.
2. Use Weights, Not Just Your Body Weight
I'm all about saving time, so I usually add weights to basic moves like squats or step-ups to maximize my results. "You'll work your glutes harder and burn more calories," says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of The 12-Week Triathlete. Place a body bar or barbell across your shoulders, or hold dumbbells.
3. Try the 30-Second Rule
Instead of rushing through squats and lunges, I hold for 30 seconds at the lowest point of the move. This not only helps to spice up my routine but also allows me to take an extra-deep contraction through my glutes and core and stabilize my spine before lifting back up.
4. Take It Sloooow
When I see people swinging their weights quickly at the gym, I have to stop myself from walking over and correcting them. I get it — the faster you lift, the sooner you'll finish — but rushing through your strength routine not only cheats the clock but also shortchanges you of your results. Slow down by pretending you're underwater; take at least 4 counts to lower into a squat, and then 2 to 3 to come up. Your muscles will have time to fully contract, maximizing the move's potential.
5. Stick to Positive Reinforcement
I have a 4-year-old picture of myself wearing the teeniest blue bikini taped to my computer. In the photo, I can see every muscle in my butt, thighs, and calves. One look and I'm instantly revved to hit the gym. The alternative — staring in a mirror and analyzing everything you hate about your body — is never going to motivate you to improve, trust me.
6. Do Mini Workouts All Day Long
I try to make the most of mini breaks throughout my day. I keep a set of ankle weights in my desk drawer and do standing leg lifts or leg extensions during phone calls. Waiting in line at the bank becomes a chance to do calf raises; on walks, I do lunges as my dog sniffs every tree in sight. All those quickies add up to a better booty.
7. Tone While You Walk
Thanks goes to Therese Iknoian, exercise physiologist and author of Walking Fast, for showing me how to tone my tush while walking. With each step, when one leg extends behind you, keep your heel on the ground as long as possible. When you do lift your heel, roll through the foot, then push off with your toes. "You'll feel your glutes contract with every step," she explains.
3 All-Time Favorite Butt Moves
The first time I saw a bridge, I thought it looked easy, but it ended up kicking my butt. Here's how to do it: Lie faceup on the floor, knees bent, hands at sides, abs engaged, and lift hips 4 to 6 inches. Lift hips 1 inch more while pressing into palms; hold for 3 seconds, then lower back to first lifted position. Do 15 times. Next, do the same move with right leg extended toward ceiling, squeezing through left glute. Do 20 to 30 small pulses; switch legs, repeat.
Modified Warrior 3
I love this super-effective toner from Tamilee Webb, star of the Tight on Time DVD series. A. Stand with hands on hips, knees slightly bent. Hinge forward from the waist, bringing torso parallel to the floor while extending right leg behind you, foot flexed. B. Bring arms out to sides and slowly bend your left knee 4 inches, then straighten (don't lock knee). Do 10 to 12 times; switch sides.
I used to loathe the squat because it's hard and, well, it hurts. But it's one of the best lower-body strengtheners, so I found a move that doesn't strain my knees and is still effective: the weighted lateral squat. To do it, stand with legs shoulder-width apart, with a 12- to 20-pound body bar on your shoulders. Squat down, taking a big step to the right with right foot. Hold for 5 counts, contracting glutes. Return to starting position, dragging your right foot back. Alternate sides for 20 reps.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2007.