As I’m writing this it’s snowing outside, but we know that eventually it’ll be shorts and swimsuit weather, right? Or maybe you’ve got a wonderful spring break planned for a few weeks from now and you wouldn’t mind toning up the lower half a little bit before you hit the beach.
Here are some secrets to sculpting that beach-ready butt:
Avoid endless cardio. Walking, the elliptical machine and even jogging on the treadmill won’t do much to tone your legs and butt. You need some good ol’ fashioned resistance training. And did you know that sprints — hill, track, treadmill, incline, whatever — count as both cardio and resistance training?
I use the “sprint” as a relative term. For some of us, a jog might be a sprint.
Important note: if you’re new to running or haven’t run sprints before, make sure you start very slowly, doing less than you think you should. If you have health issues, don’t do it (and definitely check with your health care provider before starting a new or more intense exercise program. Better to be safe than sorry!).
Warm up thoroughly and make sure you do a slow cool down to return your heart rate to normal, followed by stretching. Sprints can really jack you up the next day. Start with a few — four or five 30-second sprints should do it, with a minute or so of active recovery (walking) between bouts — and then take a few days off before hitting them again.
Put your mind into the muscle. Our bodies like to be efficient and our butt muscles are big. That means that given the chance, our bodies will recruit other, less-energy-using muscles to take over rather fire up those big muscles, especially if we sit a lot during the course of the day. If you want to learn more about it, go here. (Do you folks want more about this stuff? Or do you just want the highlights?)
Mostly, though, just think about your butt muscles when you work them. Try not to lock your knee joints and try to focus on the muscles you are working.
Lift weights. Here are some great butt (or as I tend to call them, “posterior chain”) exercises, demonstrated by my client Kayla Dunn of Brewer, who is getting ready to compete in her first bikini show in April.
For the record, Dunn, 23, dispels the notion that lifting weights makes a woman look “bulky.” She works hard in the gym. She also works hard outside the gym — she is a a waitress and is going back to college to pursue a nursing degree (she already has a business degree) and is studying to become a personal trainer.
Single leg deadlift: Hold weights in either hand (I like kettlebells because of the way the weight is dispersed), standing on one leg, knee bent. Back straight, shoulder blades slightly pinched, come to standing.
Bulgarian Split Squat: This is just like a stationary lunge, except the rear foot is elevated. Make sure the knee of your working leg tracks forward but not past your second toe, torso remaining upright. To make this more difficult, use weights. To add a core element, hold a weight in the hand on the same side as the elevated foot. For more resistance, hold dumbbells in both hands
Romanian deadlifts: If this is new to you, it’s a good idea to work with someone who can watch your form. A great primer (and a great site) on more detailed form is here.
Grab a barbell (or use dumbbells) and, neck long and shoulders back, slide the weight down the front of your legs, knees soft as you lower the weight. Keep your back straight, and then lift the bar by bringing the hips forward to neutral position.
Glute bridge: Start this one unweighted, especially if you have back issues and then work up to using a weight on your hips. With feet on a bench or step, toes pointing up. lift your hips, focusing on the glutes, and then lower *almost* to the floor, keeping muscles contracted, and return to the top, for reps.