So, you want a nice butt? Join the club…
Back when I was in high school, a shapely butt was not cool. All the popular girls had petite, diminutive derrières…mine was, well, just different (the term “bubble butt” comes to mind). It was my nemesis and I was really good at hiding it, too, under long shirts, voluminous skirts and baggy pants…
Nowadays, though, EVERYONE wants the perfect butt – round, shapely and firm. They want to fill out their jeans in all the right places, sport the latest yoga pants with confidence and, truth be told, feel amazingly beautiful completely naked.
I know I do.
Having a great ass (aka glutes) is not merely a case of good genes. It requires effort.
Here’s what works for me.
Barbell Back Squats
This is my foundation exercise. When done properly, it targets your glutes and hamstrings, both muscles help create shape and lift. On the other hand, improper form places too much emphasis on your quads (i.e. similar to a front squat). The back squat also works your lower back and abdominal muscles to further define the curve at the top of your butt. It’s the perfect go-to compound body exercise.
If you want to see results, though, you must challenge your muscles by utilizing weights that are heavy enough to feel slightly uncomfortable, yet are equally executable with good form. I stick with the “old school” 6-12 reps rule: if I can lift a weight more than 12x per set, then it’s time to go heavier.
I like to stand with my feet shoulder length apart; barbell resting on shoulders (top of the traps); with a comfortable grip mirroring my stance. I also use a weight belt to protect my lower spine. I sit into the squat, pushing my hips back with my chest up, lowering down until my quads are parallel to the floor. After a slight pause, I push directly up through my heels – not my toes – fully engaging my glutes, hamstrings and quads.
5 sets / 6-12 reps per set
A couple things to keep in mind: 1) You can sit deeper into the squat, but from my experience with bad knees, this is not a good option. As long as you keep your form correct, you will target your glutes completely without placing too much emphasis on your quads; 2) If you want to stay safe and still get an effective workout, lift a weight that challenges you; seek a spotter, if possible, when first starting and/or increasing your weight; 3) It’s not a competition – do what’s right for your body, not what you see “everyone else” doing; I cannot stress this enough…focus on your training needs and tune out anything else that may distract you or cause you to overtrain or worse, injury yourself.
As a runner and weightlifter, I find this exercise incredibly effective; more so than regular deadlifts. Again, I’m looking to strengthen my muscles and a create a long lean physique. SLDLs target the whole backside of your leg from the calves, hamstrings and upwards to the glutes. It’s also fantastic for improving balance by engaging core muscles for stability. For any athlete looking to increase power and speed, this should be your go-to A-Game move. For beginners, start with low weights and/or no weights. SLDLs can be performed with a kettle bell, dumbbells or a barbell.
To begin, stand with feet shoulder length apart. Hold dumbbells in a comfortable, relaxed manner at the sides of your body. Starting with the left leg planted (knee slightly bent), bend your torso from the hip while lifting your right let upwards – straight and not flexed. This is a swivel-type move, so the emphasis is on the legs to power the movement, whereas the arms act as counterweights. Bend slowly until your leg and upper body is parallel to the floor – do not curve your back. Tilt back up, utilizing the hamstrings and glutes to execute the move. Repeat 6-12 reps and then switch to the right leg. Repeat. Here’s a good picture demo.
5 sets / 6-12 reps per set (per leg)
A few things to keep in mind: 1) Do not use your arms to lift the weight; focus your entire power below the belt; 2) Perform this move slowly to be safe, focus on correct form and avoid injury, especially to your hamstrings; 3) If you’re having trouble balancing, try a wider grip barbell (weight appropriate). Be patient. It’ll come to you with practice!
Weighted Glute Bridges
There’s several different ways to perform a glute bridge. Today I’ll talk about my favorite way (variations on this move will be discussed in a future article). This exercise completely targets the glutes and does a really nice job a building lower back strength and shapely quads. As with SLDLs, though, it must be done slowly and with proper form, otherwise you risk serious injury to your back.
Let’s get started.
Grab a bench, a barbell and a squat rack (smith machine works also). Align your bench parallel to your barbell at a distance equal to that of your shoulders and pelvis – hip area. Rack the barbell just high enough for you to slip under the bar while your back remains parallel to the floor. Slowly lift the barbell up off the rack, rolling it onto your pelvis. With you feet planted shoulder length apart and back straight, dip your hips towards to floor in a fluid but controlled manner until you are in a V sit position. Maintain heels flat and thrust upwards through your glutes until you return back parallel to the floor. Repeat.
5 sets / 6-12 reps per set
Very important: 1) This is a power move that requires intense focus on your glutes and lower back – do not perform overly heavy weights if you are not able to do so in a controlled manner with proper form; 2) If the barbell puts uncomfortable pressure on your hip bones (ladies, that’s us), then invest in a barbell pad like this one – also great for squats; 3) Err on the side of correct form vs higher weights, until you get comfortable with this exercise. It is imperative you train a lower weights to perfect your form and avoid seriously injuring your back – done properly, it is effective even with body weight alone.
These are the only three leg exercises I perform now. Look at my results…they obviously work. My point is this: you don’t have to spend hours in a gym to achieve the perfect butt. You do, however, have to suffer a little and these three exercises are brutal (in a nice way). And, ladies, don’t shy away from lifting heavier. As discussed in my article LADIES! LIFTING WEIGHTS DOESN’T MAKE YOU BULKY…A BAD DIET DOES!, you can build lean, beautiful, feminine muscles without bulking, you just need to align your diet with your training. I also run and this further strengthens and develops my leg muscles in a way that compliments my physique and has improved my power and speed.
Leg training is something a lot of people avoid, but I absolutely love it! Bottom line – you want to look good in your favorite jeans? Forget the spandex and shape enhancers…get your ass to the gym and do it right!
And, yes, you will look damn good naked. 😉