Are you happy with your butt? Most of us aren't. We think they're too small, too big, too saggy, too flabby...this list goes on. The right cardio exercise and weight training activities (like squats and deadlifts) can make a difference in your backside, depending on your body type and genetics. Find out the best cardio and strength training exercises for strengthening and toning your glutes, hips and thighs.
Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your hips, butt and thighs and they're also a functional exercise, helping us build strength for a variety of daily activities.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and, for added intensity, hold weights at shoulder level or at your sides.
- Bend the knees, and lower into a squat, keeping the knees behind the toes. Imagine that you're sticking your butt out behind you, but keep the torso upright and contracted.
- Press into the heels to stand up.
- Repeat for 2-3 sets of 8-16 reps
More About Squats
Lunges are a challenging exercise because they work so many muscles at the same time. On the front leg, you'll work the glutes and hamstrings and, on the back leg, you'll work the quads and calves. What's nice about lunges is that there are a variety to choose from such as:
- Static Lunges
- Side to Side Lunges
- Sliding Lunges
- Low Lunges
- One-Legged Lunge
- Wheel lunges (front, side, reverse)
- Step by Step: Lunges
You can also elevate the back foot on a step or platform to really challenge both legs. This is a great move for the glutes and thighs, but please avoid this move if it aggravates any knees problems.
If you have problems with lunges, try an alternative to lunges.
3. Step Ups
Step ups are another great exercise for the glutes. For step ups, place one foot on a step or platform and push through the heel to lift the body up. This is an excellent exercise for the glutes, providing you use a step that's high enough, although you may need to work up to a higher step if you're a beginner. You eventually want a height were your knee is at about a 90-degree angle.
The other key is to concentrate all your weight on the stepping leg. In other words, lower down gently, barely touching the toes of the other leg to the ground. You'll really feel this when you take it slow and concentrate on the working leg.
More Step Ups
While I'm fond of more compound moves (like the squats, lunges and step ups listed above) since they work more muscle groups, the hip extension is an exercise that specificially targets the largest muscle in the body...the gluteus maximus.
For this move, you can hold a dumbbell behind the knee or use ankle weights for added intensity.
Deadlifts are great for your hamstrings, butt and lower back, but this one-legged version is a great way to add intensity to the exercise and engage your stabilizer muscles to keep your body balanced. Form is critical and you should skip this exercise if you have any back problems.
To do this move, take the left leg back just a bit, lightly resting on the toe. With the weights in front of the thighs, tip from the hips and lower the weights as low as your flexibility allows. Keep your back flat or with a natural arch and make sure you keep the abs contracted to protect the back. Squeeze the glutes of the working leg to raise back up. Do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Now the exercises listed above aren't the only strength moves for the glutes, but we often forget that there are cardio activities that will also engage the backside.
Hiking is one of those activities and it also burns tons of calories because you're typically going up steep mountains and maybe even getting into thin air, which requires lots of energy. Also, walking up an incline automatically gets your glutes more involved and, if you're wearing a backpack, you're really getting a workout. Plus, you get to see nature at its best. A 140-lb person burns about 390 calories in about an hour.
If you live in a flat area, try raising the incline on your treadmill to mimic hiking up a hill.
Riding a bike is great for your heart and it also targets almost every muscle in your hips, thighs and butt. On a stationary bike, alternate 3 minutes at 70-80 RPM with 2 minutes at 100-110 RPM for a calorie-blasting 30 minute workout. You can also try Spinning at the gym or riding outside. Increase your resistance and stand up to really work your glutes. A 140-lb person burns 335 calories in 45 minutes.
Running, like walking is accessible, easy to learn, reduces stress, helps in weight loss, and it makes you feel good. Plus, it really works your butt, especially when you add a few hills to your regular running route. Sprints are another option for folks wanting to both burn more calories and tighten up the tush. A 140-lb person burns 475 calories during a 45 minute jog.
More Running Resources
Kickboxing is an excellent workout for the entire body, including the hips glutes and thighs. Controlled front kicks, roundhouses, side kicks and back kicks work your hips, thighs and butt while complex combinations that include punches will target your abs to make them stronger. A 140-lb woman will burn up to 500 calories with 45 minutes of kickboxing.
Walking is easy: you can do it anywhere, anytime with no special equipment. There's no learning curve and it's something you can incorporate all day long. If you walk up hills, you can really target your glutes and, if you pick up the intensity, you'll burn more calories, which can help if you're trying to lose body fat. A 140-lb person burns about 300 calories an hour during a brisk walk.