Here’s a question every trainer receives on a regular basis: “How do I get a better butt?” The media is filled with answers, but sadly most of them claim you can get a “toned tush” with only two weeks of leg raises, or “chiseled cheeks” by completing a simple 30-day squat challenge, or a “fabulous fanny” by popping a weight-loss pill. Truly changing one’s body, however, requires hard work, dedication and some heavy lifting. Most people define “toning” as adding a bit of muscle and losing body fat. To achieve this, you must lift a challenging level of resistance while monitoring your energy balance—calories in vs. calories out.
Entering “Beast Mode” for a Better Butt
Complete three sets of eight to 10 repetitions of each of the following exercises while using a weight that brings you close to failure. Before adding a significant amount of weight, make sure you have mastered proper form and alignment (an ACE Certified Professional can help you with this).
1. Barbell Squats
With the amount of hip flexion and extension involved, the glutes are the driving force for this popular lower-body exercise. To ensure maximum glute involvement, try dropping the hips past parallel if this is comfortable and safe for you.
How: With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, drop the hips down and back, being sure to keep the back angle and shin angle parallel to one another. Place the barbell just beneath the neck so that it rests on the “squishy” parts of your shoulders. Choose a depth that is both challenging and safe for your knees and hips. Engage your glutes and drive up from the floor.
2. Weighted Lunges
The key to this lunge is squeezing your glutes throughout the movement, which makes you feel much more powerful and stable. Lunges are also directly related to mobility—walking, running, kicking and stepping—so you will be working functionally as well as improving the appearance of your glutes.
How: For a standard forward lunge, begin in a split stance with the feet a little less than shoulder-width apart. Hold dumbbells in both hands. Lead the movement by bending the back knee down toward the floor, keeping the front knee tracking forward over the middle toes. Return to standing by engaging the glutes and pressing through the front foot and ball of the rear foot.
3. Lateral Step-ups
Involving both hip flexion and extension, this exercise adds some side-to-side movement and targets the smaller gluteus medius and minimus muscles.
How: Select a step height in which your knee is 90 degrees when your foot is placed upon it. Hold dumbbells in both hands. With your right foot centered on the step, press downward into the full foot. Engage the muscles of the right hip and drive the left knee up. Slowly lower down with a soft landing and repeat.
4. TRX Hip Presses
Suspended body-weight exercises can be extremely challenging. The TRX Hip Press targets the glutes and hamstrings, focusing on flexion and extension only at the hips.
How: With the TRX Suspension Trainer at mid-calf length, place your heels into the foot cradles so that you are facing the anchor point. Bend your knees so that your feet are directly underneath the anchor point. Keeping the knees bent at 90 degrees throughout the entire movement, engage the glutes and press the hips up so that the knees, hips and shoulders are in alignment. Slowly lower to the floor and repeat.
5. Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts
This exercise focuses on maximum hip flexion and extension while also incorporating balance and core strength.
How: Begin by holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand of the planted foot. Keeping a neutral spine and only a slight bend in the planted leg, hinge forward, remaining square with the floor. Once the end range of a flat torso is reached (your body should form a capital T if you have the mobility) lower that leg back to the floor.