As we age, our muscles tend to lose their effectiveness if not exercised, and certain body parts begin to head due south. One of the biggest culprits is our largest muscle group, the gluteals. AKA: The Butt. If you desire a tight, toned and firm buttocks, it is important to first understand what is going on down there.
The “rear- end” is made up of three gluteal muscles that serve to give shape to the buttocks and provide a powerful means for movement. The gluteus maximus is the largest hip muscle, and is exercised through activities such as running, hopping and jumping, as well as a series of targeted exercises.
Deep to the gluteus maximus is a smaller muscle, the gluteus medius. And even deeper is the gluteus minimus. These smaller muscles are activated by targeted exercises and activities that transfer weight from one leg to the other, such as walking. So what are the best exercises to achieve “buns of steel?”
The American Council on Exercise and a group of scientists at the University of Wisconsin studied 6 men and 6 women, ages 18 to 25, using EMG electrodes to measure and determine what exercises most effectively work the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and the hamstrings. Here is what they found:
The #1 exercise determined for the gluteus maximus – Quadruped Hip Extensions.
How it’s done:
Using ankle weights (or a light dumbbell behind the knee), get on all fours, (on your hands and knees). Make sure your abs are tight while lifting one leg up. Keeping your knee at a 90-degree angle throughout the movement, continue lifting the leg until the bottom of the foot faces the ceiling, and the hip, thigh and knee are all in alignment and parallel to the floor.
Your neck should be aligned with your back, and your back should not arch.
Perform all reps on one side, before switching to the other.
The #1 exercise determined for the gluteus medius – Lunges.
How it’s done:
Stand in a straight leg split stance, so that when you bend your knees, your front knee is directly over the center of the foot, at a 90-degree angle.
Holding weights in each hand, bend the knees and lower the back knee toward the floor, keeping the front heel down. Maintain a straight torso and tight abs as you press into the heel (not the toe) throughout the movement.
Step Ups. This exercise really targets your glutes and hamstrings. The height of a standard weight bench is sufficient to get the benefit of the 90 degree motion needed to achieve a tight butt, while doing step ups.
How it’s done:
Holding dumbbells, simply step up on the bench with one foot. Concentrate on pressing your body weight through the heel (not the toe), onto the bench, until you are standing on the bench on one foot only. Slowly step back down and back up on the same side for all your reps, before switching to the other foot.
Squats. This is an exercise for the glutes, hips and thighs, activating the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.
How it’s done:
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and place an exercise ball behind your lower back and against a wall.
Bend the knees and lower into a squat, so that your knees are line with the center of your feet (just behind your toes). Press into the heels as you lower and lift to starting position.
One-legged Squats. Targets the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
How it ‘s done:
My favorite way of doing this exercise is to stand on a weight training bench positioned under the bench press bar. Place both hands on the bench press bar for stability. Lift your left leg up and bend the right knee into a squat, keeping the knee behind the toe. Push into the heel to come up and repeat all reps on the same leg before switching sides.
In addition to these excellent butt toning exercises, other glute-tightening activities include hiking, biking and running. The key to getting maximum results however, is to hit the hills! Hill workouts (whether hiking or biking), further promotes the activation of muscle fibers throughout the glutes and hamstrings. And of course, we all know there are so many benefits that come from cardiovascular activity.
One final secret trick to a tight tushy:
Whether you are walking, hiking or just standing around. Keep that tush tight. By squeezing your glutes and activating those muscles throughout the day, you are tightening and toning. If you sit at a desk all day, squeeze. It works!
Happy tush toning!
Vitamin “D” Fitness