Surely the glutes are one of those areas that we all think about – who among us doesn’t admire a well-shaped, firm behind? For some of us, the glutes can be a real source of vexation: there are flat butts without shape and flabby butts without tone. Our butts can be too big or too small.
Women in particular can have issues with their glutes. This is for a few reasons. One, women have estrogen. Estrogen, a reproductive hormone, directs our bodies to store fat around the butt, hips and upper thigh area. Second, the areas I just mentioned tend to be areas where cellulite is found. Cellulite is found in about 85% of women (and you do NOT have to be overweight to have cellulite!) and is caused by the loosening or laxity of the soft connective tissues that are in between the skin, muscles and fat cells. As this connective tissue becomes loose, it pulls the skin, causing the characteristic dimply look of cellulite. Lastly, women tend to “need work” on their glutes because they don’t like to lift heavy or do sprint/high intensity training.
When I decided to do my first show a year or so ago, my glutes were definitely a problem area. My butt was rather small and flat. It needed mass, shape and lift. Here are some training tips that my lovely trainers Ms. Jill Coleman and Mr. Jade Teta used to help me reach my goals. I share them with you mainly because they are slight variants on what you may have seen before. I am quad-dominant, which means that when I train my lower body my quadriceps (the front of the thigh) tend to do all the work, letting my butt become lazy. These variants helped me target my glutes.
Following these tips will help you “carve out” your butt from that overlaying layer of fat that may be covering it. These tips will also help you to tighten the connective tissue and skin in your glute/hamstring/upper thigh area, reducing cellulite (trust me, ladies, I’ve seen it with my own eyes) and giving your butt a lift.
1. Heavy Walking Lunges: To me, there is no more functional exercise than the walking lunge. To start, grab some 20-25lbs dumbells in each hand (and in a few weeks aim to go heavier!) and take a big step forward with the right leg. Drop the left (back) knee slowly towards the ground. Try to almost touch or skim the ground with your knee. This wide step and deep knee bend will stretch the glutes. While you are dropping that back knee to the floor, slowly bend your torso forward towards the front knee. Keep your back straight – do not round the back. Then slowly stand and take the next step. I emphasize taking it slow at first so you can get your form right. This lunge uses a wider stride than a standard lunge and combines the torso-lean as well. Take ten steps, turn around, and take ten more steps. Do four sets. In between sets I like to do the following exercise…
2. Deep Squat Jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder length apart and squat down while pushing your butt back like you are going to sit in a chair. Get your butt as LOW to the floor as you can. When your butt is close to the floor, jump up as high as you can. Use your arms, pushing them back, to help propel you. Land in the deep squat position and jump again. Do 15 reps. Go as fast as you can until you can’t do another one, stop, and complete your set. Again, keeping your glutes as low as you can to the floor will help stretch them and then cause increased work in them as they contract. Pylometric exercises such as squat jumps really spark fat burning in the muscle and will go a long way towards helping you melt that fat away. Do 4 sets. If you really want to kick it up a notch, take some dumbbells with you…
3. One-Legged Squat from a Bench/Platform: Start with 20-25lb dumbbells in each hand, standing on a bench. Standing with your weight on your left foot and the right toes hanging slightly off the bench, bend your left knee slowly, until the toes of your right foot come close to the floor. Bend that left knee as much as you can, then straighten it and do another rep, staying on that left side. Do ten reps, then switch side. This exercise definitely targets the glutes and was one of the toughest ones for me to do! Remember to bend the knees, and not the hips. You should definitely be feeling this exercise by 5-6 reps or the weight is not heavy enough. Do 3-4 sets.
4. Straight-legged Deadlifts from a Platform or Step: You can use dumbbells or the straight bar with weight on it for this one. Again, aim heavy. You may want to start with 80lbs (total) and adjust from there. This exercise primarily hits the hamstrings (the back of the thigh) but the glutes are also involved. The reason I’ve included it here is because it helps develop that separation from the glutes and the hamstrings. This is a common area for water and fat storage and this exercise helps to target the area and produce a beautiful cut for all to admire while you are strolling down the beach in a bikini!!!
Standing on a step, with the weight, bend at the waist, letting the weight come forward. Bend until your torso is at a 90 degree angle with your legs, then bend just a *little* more, until the weight is slightly below the level of the step. Again, this puts more stretch in the muscle and you will have to use more force in the contraction. Then, straighten your torso out while keeping the spine and knees straight. While you are bending forward, focus on pushing the butt back and keeping the knees straight. Really feel that stretch and think about where you are working. If you don’t have a step platform, that is OK, bend as far forward as you safely can. Do 10 reps, 3-4 sets.
5. Hack Squats: I typically use a machine because you can go much heavier on a machine with this exercise than by using free weights (or, at least I can!). Adjust the shoulder pads to your height/comfort level and choose a weight that is going to make you sweat. Slowly lower your glutes down and back, again, like you are sitting down into a chair, and bring your butt down as low as you can to the ground. Aim to get the thighs slightly past parallel, again aiming for stretch of the glutes and increased work there during the contraction. Stand up and repeat. Aim for 10-12 reps. Do 3-4 sets.
6. Sprints: You will not find a better bum than the one found on a professional or Olympian sprinter. The glutes are one of the most heavily developed in these athletes as the very movement of their sport, the sprint, recruits and uses the glute muscles. The glutes of male and female sprinters are high and tight with a beautiful shape. We can work towards that by incorporating sprints once or twice weekly into our fitness regime. I like outdoor sprints, but you can do them on a treadmill as well. Head to your local track or open field. Sprint the straight-away and walk the turn. Recover, and sprint again. Try to get 10-12 sprints in. If you are in an open field, sprint for ten seconds, then walk until you recover, and go again. Note: when you first start out, sprints can be pretty tough. Therefore I suggest for the first two weeks or so, you only go at 75% of your top speed. You also want to warm up with brisk walking, kicks or even light jogging for about 5 minutes before sprinting. Sprinting will help improve your weight training and vice versa.
7. Make sure your nutrition is on-target.
*Reduce salt. I don’t recommend you add any salt to your food. Familiarize yourself with herbs and spices and use these to flavor and season your food. I use a ton of garlic, both fresh and powdered.
*Increase foods that contain potassium: things like coconut water, chicken breast, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens), avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. Adequate potassium helps your electrolyte balance and will help you shed water more readily.
*Incorporate red meat: bison, grass fed beef, buffalo and pork are a rich source of taurine, which acts as a mild diuretic and has positive impacts on blood pressure; and carnitine, which helps with fat-burning.
*Vitamin C supports the soft tissues and can help tighten and tone the skin and connective tissue in those problem areas. Great sources are red, orange and green veggies and fruits.
*Stay hydrated! Drink enough every day so that your urine remains a very light yellow. Staying hydrated will actually help your body shed water from problem areas, among many other things. Fat-burning enzymes work in the medium of water.
*Make sure you get adequate protein! Protein and fiber, with every meal. Make it your mantra.
8. If you want to lose muscle mass in your rear, an additional ingredient is needed: more cardio. I don’t often recommend additional cardio, but if you have a lot of muscle mass on your rear and you are not happy with it: I am jealous, but you can burn it off by using incline walking on the treadmill or stairmill. The best way to get muscle off is to burn it away by excess cardio. Get the incline angle pretty high, between 12-15%, and start at a 3.0 grade. Do 3-4 45 minute sessions per week. You can increase the speed as you see fit.
I love to hear from you! Send me your questions, comments and tricks you use to firstname.lastname@example.org I am also on Facebook!!!