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There are plenty of good reasons to get your butt in gear at the gym. But as bikini season creeps closer, it’s likely you’re stressing over just one: slim-to-bare it. If transforming your backside in time has got your panties in a bunch, it’s no wonder. Given the size of it (your gluteal complex, that is), finding exercises to isolate it seems nearly impossible.
With that in mind, we’ve sought the help of some of the top fanny bearers in the industry. IFBB Pro League bikini stars Justine Munro, Nicole Nagrani, and Amanda Latona have all revealed the secrets and the workouts that help them get their backsides in tip-top shape. By following their advice, you can too.
Exercises that extend the hip (move your leg backward) will better target your glutes. Glute extensions on the Butt Blaster or cable kickbacks will minimize the recruitment of nearby muscles, allowing you to isolate the glutes. Lunges, squats, and stepups are some of the best compound moves for glutes. “Lunges build up your glutes, giving them a ‘lift,’” says Nagrani. “The key is to stretch deep so you activate more of the muscle.” Aim to include at least two of each type of movement and vary the exercises every workout.
If you’re new to exercise or haven’t worked out for 2–3 months, start by incorporating glute-specific moves in your legs workout once per week. If you’ve been training consistently for a few months, incorporate glute-specific moves in your leg workout and add another training day to your weekly routine that focuses only on glutes. Alternate a heavy workout (10–12 reps) with a light workout (15–20 reps).
A good 30-minute dose of cardio four or five times per week will give your booty a boost—but use the machines that will kick your glutes the hardest. A recent study conducted at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital (Lincoln, NE) found that those who performed cardio on a treadmill, elliptical, or stair stepper got more cheek action than those who used a recumbent bike. Shake up your glutes even more by increasing the incline on the treadmill; shifting your hips back so your tush sticks out on the elliptical; and letting go of the rails on the stair stepper to force your heels down.
You have to cut calories to lose weight, but still stoke your body with enough carbs to fuel your training and protein to build muscle. For long-lasting energy and just the right mixture of protein, carbs and fats to serve your goals, aim for a calorie ratio of roughly 30%, 60% and 10%, respectively. Latona, 2010 Sacramento Pro bikini champ, suggests you stock up on lean proteins such as chicken and fish, ditch the sugars for slower-digesting carbs and more fibrous greens, and get your healthy fats from sources like almonds.
To get your out-of-control booty to go down, you have to chow down. Eating more foods, in a sensible way, will help you burn more calories. “Lots of clean food is key to losing fat and creating a shapely looking butt,” says Munro. “A round booty is made of muscles, and those muscles still need fuel.” For your body to receive all the nutrients it needs from food to maintain health, you need to consume a minimum of 1,600 calories per day.
There are three muscles referred to as the “gluteus.” Of the three, the gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial, and it’s one of the strongest muscles in the body. Starting at the crest of the pelvic bone, it runs down to the rear of the thigh. This thick, wide muscle gives the buttocks their shape. The gluteus maximus functions mainly to extend the hip (i.e., moving the thigh backward). The smaller gluteus medius and gluteus minimus originate at the same spot but attach to the side of the thigh. Their function, in conjunction with a band of connective tissue called the iliotibial band, is crucial to outward (away from the midline of the body) thigh support during movements such as walking and stepping sideways. The medius and the minimus keep the pelvis from tipping away from the weight-bearing leg and help maintain correct knee tracking in exercises like the seesaw lunge so you can maximize the work of the other muscles involved. Exercises that work the gluteus include lunges, squats, leg presses, Butt Blaster machine, hip extensions, leg abductions, and deadlifts.
1. Unilateral leg press
Tip: “Keep your knee in line with your foot; don’t let the weight force it outward.”
2. Pop squat
Tip: “Don’t land flatfooted. Land with your toes touching down first, then arches, then heels, so you keep your momentum going. If your knees hurt while doing this exercise, try standing in one place, then squat down and pulse up and down for the prescribed number of reps.”
3. Butt blaster
Tip: “Tense your glutes and hamstrings to get the full effect of each press.”
4. Unilateral stiff leg deadlift
Tip: “Make sure your back is slightly arched and chest is up throughout the entire movement.”
5. Jump lunge
6. Good morning
1. Be focused: “I concentrate on the muscle because it prevents other muscles such as my quads and lower back from taking over.”
2. Mix it up: “I constantly alter my workouts; I change things up every time I go to the gym. If I do this workout on Monday, I won’t do it on Friday—I’ll change my sets and reps on all the different exercises.”
3. Go heavy: “I use moderate to heavy weight to add size, being careful not to go too heavy—I don’t want the focus to be taken off the muscle being worked.”
4. Don’t skip meals: “I never skip meals. I make sure I eat 5-6 meals spread out over the course of the day.”
5. Warm up: “I always warm up before training. I start with 10 minutes of cardio, usually on the bike, and then stretch for five minutes.”
1. Smith machine unilateral squat
Tip: “Keep your chest high and shoulders back throughout the movement. You don’t want to allow your back to round forward.”
2. Dumbbell pull-through
Tip: “Focus on squeezing your glutes and your hamstrings as you pull the weight back up.”
3. Dumbbell sumo squat
Tip: “If your knees pass over your toes, your stance isn’t wide enough; step out a few more inches.”
4. Bench step-up
5. Standing leg press on assisted pullup machine
Tip: “Make sure you push down through your heel, and forcefully contract your quad out.
6. Unilateral leg press
Tip: “Don’t let your hips rise up off the pad as the weight comes down. If they do, you’re bringing the weight down too low.”
1. Use variety: “I change things up every time I train my glutes to keep things fresh. One workout I might do drop sets, the next maybe a different rep range—I’ll stick with five sets of each different exercise, usually pairing them as supersets.”
2. Watch form: “I use good form on all exercises; I keep my back straight, head and chest up to ensure I am hitting the targeted muscle properly.”
3. Lunge: “I use lunges a lot in my training because they work my glutes the hardest to add size. I sometimes use them in my cardio routine, lunging instead of walking while I’m on the treadmill.”
4. Eat clean: “I always eat clean foods. I eat lots of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs to ensure my muscles are being fed with healthy nutrients.”
1. Leg press
Tip: Keep your feet flat on the platform, but focus on pressing with your heels for more glute emphasis.”
2. Walking lunge
Tip: “Make sure you step far enough forward so that you engage your entire glute.”
3. Reverse lunge
Tip: “Don’t let your front knee bend more than 90° or move past the front of your toes.”
4. Butt blaster
Tip: “Tense your glutes and hamstrings to get the full effect of each press.”
5. Bench stepup
Tip: “As you step up, extend your back leg out behind you and squeeze your glutes.”
6. Cable kickback
1. Go heavy: “I use heavy weight to add size, and I always keep my rep range between 12 and 15 for all three sets.”
2. Do plyo: “I use plyometrics to increase the intensity of my workouts. I’ll do plyo drills, such as jump squats, for a maximum of 30 seconds between sets of exercises.”
3. Step it up: “I do my cardio on a stepper-type of machine after my weight training. If I use the gauntlet one day, then I’ll use the stair-stepper the next. If I add in a third workout, I’ll replace my cardio with the stair-stepper in between sets.”
4. Drink H20: “I always drink lots of water because it flushes toxins from the body and helps boost my metabolism.”
5. Skip sugar: “I never eat sugar; I pair my protein with slower-digesting carb sources such as brown rice, yams, and fibrous green veggies.”