Exercise Q&A: How to Tone Your Butt
Celebrity trainer Vincent Maggio answers questions about slimming and shaping your tush.
Q. When I lose weight, my butt doesn't decrease in length—it gets flatter and sags. What exercises would give it a lift?
A. When women diet and do cardio without strength training, they will almost always lose muscle along with fat. That is why instead of getting shorter, your butt gets flatter and the shape disappears. I am assuming you are not involved in any strength-based workout—or, if you are, the exercises are not targeting the glute complex. Strength training, particularly for the lower body, is critical for maintaining the hardness, shape, and mass of your buttock muscles. The best resistance exercises for the glute complex are the hardest ones: variations of squats, step-ups on a bench using weights, lunges done through a full range of motion, and different dead-lifts. Even leg presses on machines will help.
Q. Is it better to eat before exercising so you burn off the calories you've just taken in? Does eating afterwards slow your metabolism?
A. It's best to eat before and after! Always have a light, nutrient-dense meal an hour or two pre-workout so you have sufficient energy to train. If the intensity is not there, you are not maximizing your fat-burning and muscle-building efforts. More intensity leads to greater fat loss. A post-workout meal is equally important since glycogen replenishment and muscle repair are chief concerns. Studies actually show that if you have the right foods after working out, your metabolism speeds up. Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein with no fat is the best way to accomplish this. A wonderful book that discusses this in more detail is Dr. Susan Kleiner's Power Eating. I've had the most successful results following her eating plans and I know you will, too, if you give it a try!
Q. I've always heard that squats and lunges are great for your butt. However, when I do them, I only feel it in my thighs. Am I doing something wrong?
A. Failure to use proper exercise techniques is one primary reason most people don't achieve the results they are striving for. I will bet my life savings that your problem stems from not using a full range of motion. This is absolutely vital in to achieve mastery of the derriere. I see 99 percent of people doing these two exercises half- or quarter-way. Consult an exercise manual or hire a qualified expert to demonstrate the proper technique. And please start out slowly since the new added range of motion will take time to get used to.
Q. I do a lot of squats and am looking to get even more from them. Are one-legged squats beneficial? How much impact does holding weights have? And does it matter if you have the weights in your hands, on your shoulders, or on your ankles?
A. This is an excellent question because it ties in the two most important factors for developing muscle: progressive overload and planned variation. If you want to increase muscle tone in your glutes—or elsewhere—you have to constantly push your body to grow stronger. Gradually lifting heavier weights is the easiest way to accomplish this. So yes, holding weights during squats will challenge your legs. Placing a weight on your shoulders will help develop core muscles, since your trunk has to work harder at stabilization. The one-legged squats you speak of tie into the second concept of planned variation. If your want to develop a toned and muscular body, not only do you have to challenge yourself to get stronger, you also have to vary the exercises you do—this prevents stagnation and adaptation. I like to change my routine about every six workouts. One-legged squats are an excellent way to do so, as they are a great unilateral exercise that will provide fresh stimulation to your body!
Q. Do tush-toning exercises also improve one's upper thigh muscles, or whatever it takes to stand up from a squat while skiing?
A. Even if you are active during the day and participate in a wide variety of cardiovascular exercises, they may not transfer over to your sport—in this case skiing. There is no substitute for strength-building exercises when developing overall leg fitness. You need to incorporate leg presses, squats, dead lifts, step-ups, and lunge variations to build your core and lower body strength. Plus, if you want to be able to get up from a squat position, you must train appropriately. The squat would be your best bet exercise. This is based on the Law of Exercise Specificity, which simply refers to the similarity between a training activity and the actual task for which one is training. So to answer your question, yes, these exercises would all help you in the beginning, but soon you'd need to add resistance to them—in the form of weights—to further increase your leg strength. And focus exclusively on the squat for quickest and best results.
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