Training Your Hips and Buttocks
All of these exercises (in the hips and buttocks section and those that follow it) can be done at home or at the gym, whatever works best for your schedule. You can use dumbbells or bands and tubing and body weight to achieve the desired level of challenge. Whenever possible, each exercise presents multiple variations so that you can diversify your workouts over time and use whatever equipment that you have available. Strengthening and toning the muscles of your hips and buttocks provides you with more energy throughout the day, adds curves and definition to your lower body, and increases your metabolism. Because your buttock muscles are the largest muscles in your body, when these muscles are toned, you burn more calories even when you sleep. Strong buttock muscles also provide important support for your lower back, help prevent back pain, and improve your posture.
Building and keeping lower body strength ensures that you will enjoy independent living into your later years. Strong buttock muscles power your walk and help you get up out of chairs. Because many of us spend far too much of our time sitting due to the requirements of modern living, adding exercises to ensure the strength and endurance of these muscles is essential. You will immediately enjoy the benefits of your hard work when you discover that you have more energy and endurance to get through any physical activity.
The largest muscle group in your body is the glutei: maximus, medius, and minimus. These muscles are commonly referred to as the “glutes.” As the name implies, your gluteus maximus is the largest. You use this muscle when you walk, run, or jump. Your gluteus maximus gives you the power in your stride. The gluteus medius is smaller and assists in more lateral movements such as side stepping. The more important function of the medial glute is in its role as a stabilizer for your hip joint because it keeps your pelvis level. The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three muscles. When you rotate your leg outward from the hip, you use your gluteus minimus and your gluteus medius. These muscles are underneath what some people refer to as the “saddlebags” area.
Figures 10-1 and 10-2 Squats tone and strengthen your hips, buttocks, and thighs. They also firm and define the muscles that lift your bottom.
GET SET Stand with feet hip-width apart, pointing straight ahead. Pull in your abdominal muscles to support your lower back. (
ACTION Slide your shoulders down and back. Sit back as if you're going to sit in a chair. Do not bend your knees more than ninety degrees. To do this, make sure that your knees track over your feet, but do not go past your toes. Feel the muscles in the backs of your legs and in your hips and buttocks contracting. Keep your shoulders relaxed, abdominals pulled inward. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale as you sit back, exhale as you press up. Avoid arching your lower back by contracting your abdominals and pulling your lower ribs in toward your spine. Avoid arching your neck.
(EASIER) Use a chair or bench to spot you. Make sure that it is not too low. Sit back until you just feel your buttocks touch down. Push up through your heels.
(EASIER) Only lower half way to bench. Push up.
(HARDER) Perform the exercise while holding dumbbells in each hand.
(HARDER) Lift one knee up so thigh is parallel to the floor. Sit back into a one legged squat. Push up through heels. This is also a great balance challenge.
(BANDS OR TUBING) Stand on the center of a band or tubing while holding an end in each hand. Perform squat as described.
Figures 10-3 and 10-4 Lunges tone and strengthen your hips, buttocks, and thighs. This exercise provides firmness and definition to your thighs, too.
GET SET Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take one generous step backward with your outside leg, keeping your legs hip-width apart in a large split stance. Stand on the full sole of your front foot and ball of your back foot. Pull in your abdominal muscles to support your lower back. (
ACTION Slide your shoulders down and back. Bend both knees to a ninety-degree angle as you lower your body toward the ground. Make sure that your front knee tracks over your foot and that it does not go beyond your toes. Your back knee will almost touch the floor. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale as you lower, exhale as you push up. Keep your abdominals pulled inward to support your lower back. Maintain good upright posture. If you need to lean forward, do so from the hips.
(EASIER) Use a wall or chair for support.
(HARDER) Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
(HARDER) Stand with feet hip-width apart to begin. Step forward with one leg into the lunge. Push off to return to start.
(HARDER) Step backward with one leg into lunge. Return to start. Can do either version with alternating legs.
(HARDER) Travel forward across the room as you lunge. Keep weight over heel of forward leg.
(BANDS OR TUBING) Step on the center of a band or tubing with your front foot. Hold an end in each hand. Perform lunge as described.
Figures 10-5 and 10-6 The leg press bridge strengthens and tones your buttocks and the backs of your thighs. It conditions your inner thighs as knee stabilizers and challenges your core muscles, which help you maintain good posture.
GET SET Lie on your back with good alignment, knees bent, with your feet comfortably close to your hips and hip-width apart. Place your arms straight at your sides with your palms down. (
ACTION Push through feet and lift your hips up off ground, squeezing your buttocks and muscles in the back of your thighs. Rest on your shoulders in a “bridge” position as you squeeze your buttocks at the top of the lift. Lower your hips to about one inch above the ground, keeping good alignment, to repeat the exercise. Do not lose your level pelvic position, hike one hip higher than the other, or arch your back. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale to prepare, exhale as you push up. Inhale, return to start. Avoid arching your back or letting your legs open wide apart when you lift. Tighten your inner thighs to keep your legs straight.
(HARDER) While in the bridge position, lift your right leg up and place your ankle on your left thigh. Keep your weaker leg on the ground first. When you are finished, repeat the exercise with your stronger leg on the ground.
(HARDER) Assume same body position, except instead of resting your right ankle on your thigh, straighten your leg and reach up. Do exercise as described.
Figures 10-7 and 10-8 The bent-knee rear leg lift strengthens and tones your buttocks and backs of thighs (your hamstrings). It challenges your core muscles to maintain good posture and adds firmness to the backs of your thighs.
GET SET Kneel on all fours. Place elbows on floor under shoulders. Slide your shoulders down and back. Tighten abdominals to support your lower back. Maintain good alignment. Avoid dropping your head. (
ACTION Lift your left leg until your knee reaches hip height. Keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the ground. (
WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Inhale to prepare, exhale as you raise your leg. Inhale as you return to start. Keep abdominals contracted, shoulders down and back, and neck lengthened.
(EASIER) Lie face down instead of on all fours. Place your forehead on the back of your hand. Avoid arching your back.
(HARDER) Add an ankle weight to the working leg.
(BANDS OR TUBING) Tie a band or tubing into a circle and place it around both feet at your instep. Do exercise as described.