With a tip of the ski cap to the Winter Olympic Games, I'm awarding gold medals to a trio of exercises that can help you tighten and tone your butt.
Before going into workout details, however, I need to dispel a few myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic.
First, it's important to understand that you can't spot reduce body fat. There is no way to dictate what are of your body you lose fat from. Fat is burned globally from all areas of the body, and how this plays out is largely dictated by genetics.
The bottom line: You can do butt exercises until the Summer Games come round in 2012 but it won't help to zap the fat that's stretching and dimpling your derriere.
Here's another myth: All too often, women rely solely on aerobics in an attempt to get their rear in gear. Big mistake.
Sure, performing regimented cardio will help to expedite fat loss. But it won't do much to help lift, shape, and firm the glute muscles. The reason? Aerobic exercise doesn't overload the muscle.
In order for a muscle to develop, you need to challenge it beyond its present capacity. Since cardio is an endurance-based activity that can be performed for extended periods, the body has no impetus to adapt by getting stronger. The only way to foster this kind of adaptation is with strength training.
In order to optimize results, you need to assess your goals.
If your butt is flat and you're looking to build it up, perform fewer reps (8 to 10) and use heavier weights. If you're happy with the size of your glutes and are simply looking to tone up the region, go with higher reps (15 to 20) and correspondingly lighter weights.
Regardless of what rep range you employ, however, make sure that the weight is sufficient to cause you to struggle on the last few reps. Remember, if you don't challenge your muscles, you won't see results!
When it comes to what exercises to perform, variety is key.
The butt is actually comprised of three distinct muscles (the gluteus maximus, the medius and the minimus); each group plays a different role in human movement. To effectively develop all of these muscles you need to work the area from various angles.
The combination of exercises I prescribe accomplishes this task (you can see animated demonstrations of these moves at http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/resources/descriptions/descriptions.htm). I'd recommend performing them as a giant set, where you perform the target amount of reps the first exercise, then move on to the second and third exercises without resting. After completing all three exercises, rest for about 30 seconds and repeat the entire set.
Training in this fashion will create a distinct metabolic environment, simultaneously toning your muscles while burning fat.
Finally, always allow at least two days rest between workouts. Realize that intense training breaks down your muscles. It's during the recovery period where the muscles repair and ultimately develop. This process takes approximately 48 hours.
Shortchange recovery and you'll shortchange results.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp two dumbbells and let them hang in front of your body. Keeping your knees straight, slowly bend forward at the waist and lower and lower the dumbbells down until they touch your toes. Slowly rise upward until you reach the starting position.
Begin by lying on your left side. Bend your left leg at a 90-degree angle and bring your left foot to rest underneath your right knee. Keeping your right leg straight, slowly raise it as high as possible. Contract your glutes and then slowly return along the same path back to the start position. After finishing the desired number of repetitions, repeat the process on your left. For added intensity, attach leg weights to your ankles.
Begin by grasping two dumbbells and allow them to hang down by your sides. Take a long stride forward with your right leg and raise your left heel so that your left foot is on its toes. Keeping your shoulders back and chin up, slowly lower your body by flexing your knees and hip, continuing your descent until your left knee is almost in contact with floor. Make sure that your right knee does not go past your toes. Reverse direction by forcibly extending the right hip and knee until you return to the start position. After performing the desired number of reps, repeat the process on your left.
Brad Schoenfeld is one of America's leading fitness experts. He's the best-selling author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect, 28-Day Body Shapeover and his newest book, Women's Home Workout Bible. Schoenfeld is certified as a strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and as a personal trainer by both the American Council on Exercise and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. He's also been named "master trainer" by the International Association of Fitness Professionals. Check out his website at www.lookgreatnaked.com