You’re standing in front of your full-length mirror after struggling to squeeze into last year’s swimsuit. As you peer at yourself, there’s no denying it. Either your suit has shrunk or your behind grew. Panic’s setting in. You’re already planning beach time, and your pool’s opening up soon. With shock and horror, you’re now realizing that instead of “Buns of Steel” you have a “Rear End that’s a Dead End.”
You’re sagging, flabby and wobbling as you walk. It’s time to take action.
First, let’s learn a few bun basics. Your behind is made up of three muscles that comprise the glutes: gluteus maximus-the largest glute and one of the strongest muscles in the human body; then, gluteus minimus and medius. It’s the maximus that gives your bottom its shape and is integral to almost every movement we take. The glutes are covered by a layer of subcutaneous fat. How much fat you carry is dictated by genetics as well as lifestyle.
Give yourself a reality check by looking at the body fat distribution of your family members. If most of the women look like pears, there’s a pretty good chance you do too. Your pear shape won’t change, but its size will. Your goal is to minimize your bun, not to wish it away completely. Next up, it’s time for bun pride. If you’ve got a great rear end, but just too much of it, then celebrate your J. Lo or Beyonce endowment and do the work to make your buttocks as fit and shapely as you can.
Now, it’s time to turn your attention to lifestyle. The only way to get your buns in shape is to combine smart nutrition with the right kind of exercise. Here are some tips and tools to help you get started.
Eating for Great Glutes
- Quality: Stick to whole foods. Abandon processed and refined products because they’re not real food, just “food-like” products. I like to call them science fair projects. Most are laced with refined sugars that play havoc with your insulin levels resulting in a never-ending appetite for more junk. Keep it simple. Veggies, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. Eat smart fats that are healthy and satisfying, like avocados and nuts. Don’t forget to combine protein and fiber, like a high protein Greek yogurt with walnuts and blueberries.
- Quantity: Even if you’re eating whole foods, you still have to rein in the calories and control your portions. Steamed, raw and grilled veggies, especially the watery ones, you can feast on. Watery, not densely sugared, fruits are best (apples, oranges, berries, melons). Be careful with the whole grains, especially bread products, rice and pasta. Make sure you read the labels and stick with one serving when you eat. You’ll need 4-6 oz of lean protein at any one sitting.
- Frequency: Eat a balanced meal or snack every 3-4 hours. If you do, you’ll feel satisfied enough to eat less throughout the day, resulting in more rapid and effective weight removal. Make sure to cut off eating after dinner (which should be ideally no later than 8PM). Or, if you’re up and moving around after dinner and are truly hungry, a 100-150 calorie healthy snack is acceptable, like a yogurt or cottage cheese, or an ounce of cheese.
Exercising for Great Glutes
(Please clear any kind of exercise program with your physician and fitness professional, especially if you have any physical disability or restrictions.)
1. Walk: Try to aim to get up and walk as much as you can throughout the day. If you’re walking for fitness, do it briskly so that you can push your glutes to the max and strengthen them. A 150-pound person walking about 4 mph for one hour burns about 400 calories. That’s roughly equivalent to walking 10,000 steps if you’re wearing a pedometer.
2. Run: Not everyone is a runner so don’t worry if you’re not interested in running. It’s just a cardio exercise that’s accessible and great for stress management. Hit the hills and work those glutes, or try some sprints to show your glutes who’s boss. A 150-pound person burns about 475 calories during a 45-minute jog.
3. Ride: Hop on a bike and your lower body will thank you. If you’re sitting on a stationary bike, alternate 3 minutes at 70-80 RPM with 2 minutes at 100-110 RPM for a calorie-burning 30-40 minute workout. Try Spinning classes, or ride outdoors and hit those hills. Increase your resistance and work those glutes. A 150-pound person burns about 335 calories in 30-40 minutes.
4. Kickbox: Hip, thighs and glutes are in for a delightful time as you perform front kicks, roundhouses, side kicks and back kicks in wild and crazy combinations that include punches and will target your abs to make them stronger. A 150-pound woman will burn up to 500 calories with 45 minutes of kickboxing.
5. Hike: Get your hiking shoes on and get ready to rock and roll up and down hills and mountains for a phenomenal glute workout. Wearing a backpack only makes your glutes work harder. Hey, enjoy the scenery while you’re at it. A 150-pound person burns about 400 calories in about an hour of hiking.
Strength Training: Please make sure to visit WebMD’s “The Butt Workout” to get details on each of these exercises.
1. Squats: Squats are your mainstay for building and strengthening your buns. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold weights at shoulder level or at your sides. Bend the knees, and lower into a squat, keeping the knees behind the toes. Imagine that you’re sticking your butt out behind you, but keep the torso upright and contracted. Press into the heels to stand up. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
2. Wall Sit: Stand about 2 feet in front of a wall and lean against it. Slide down until your knees are at about 90-degree angles and hold, keeping the abs contracted, for 20-60 seconds. Come back to start and repeat, holding the squat at different angles to work the lower body in different ways. To add intensity, hold weights or squeeze a ball between the knees.
3. Leg Press: Here you’ll be pushing a weight or resistance away from yourself using your legs. This can be done with gym equipment or bands.
4. Lunges: These exercises come in a variety of forms. The traditional lunge goes forward with weights and a bent knee, or there is the assisted lunge with no weight and you can hold onto a wall or chair. Or, you can try a lunge that requires a much smaller range of motion, lowering your body only part way.
5. Dead Lift: This exercise is not meant for everyone. It targets the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. If you have any problems with these muscles, don’t do a dead lift. This exercise simulates what we do all day long as we bend over and pick things up.
6. Hip Extension: This is one of my favorite exercises to strengthen the glutes. Stand facing a wall, placing both palms on the wall, and with a straight back, simply push one leg out behind you as high as you can go keeping the back and leg straight. Do this 10 times, switching legs each time. Or, you can get on the floor on all fours, and take one leg and simply stretch it straight behind you. Do this 10 times, switching legs each time. If you use ankle weights, you can add more intensity for a real glute challenge.
Read more from the summer swimsuit series:
- Week 1: 8 Tips to Go From Swimsuit Scare to Summer Success
- Week 2: Bun Basics: How to Minimize Your Butt
- Week 3: Say Buh Bye to Marshmallow Arms
- Week 4: Blast Your Belly and Get Your Six-Pack Out of the Cooler!
- Week 5: Bottoms Up! 6 Ways to Tone Your Legs, Thighs and Butt
- Week 6: Your Best Summer Body Cheat Sheet
Ready to get your butt in gear? Join the conversation on the Diet Exchange.