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The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently published research that determined the most effective gluteal exercises. The study compared specific gluteal exercises to a traditional squat to see which exercises targeted the butt muscles most effectively. This study confirmed that exercises such as lunges, step-ups, leg lifts on hands & knees and machine hip extensions are good alternatives for individuals who may have difficulty performing traditional squats, or who just want to add variety to their program. Below you'll find a description of each exercise, to ensure proper form.
Lunges: Stand with legs slightly apart and a dumbbell in each hand (optional), palms facing in, arms to your sides. Inhale and take a big step forward (2-2.5 feet), keeping upper body as straight as possible. Lunge until the front thigh is parallel to the floor (about a 90-degree bend at the knee) and the back knee approaches the floor. Make sure forward knee does not cross past the line of the toes. Exhale to push up and back, returning to the starting position to complete one rep. Repeat on the same side for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides. Aim for 1-3 sets.
Step-Ups: Begin by standing in front of the step or riser (8-15 inches tall) facing forward. Hold a dumbbell in each hand (optional). Exhale and place right foot in the middle of step and step up as you balance your body for 1-2 seconds on your right leg. Your left leg should be passive behind you. Inhale to step down with your left leg first and continue on down with your right. Repeat on the same side for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides. Aim for 1-3 sets.
Leg Lifts on Hands & Knees: Begin on your hands and knees (quadruped position), with your hands directly underneath the shoulders and knees directly underneath the hips. Keep your abdominals pulled in tight (to help protect your lower back) and your spine in a neutral position. Thinking about hinging from the hip and keeping your knees bent, exhale and lift your right leg up until the thigh is parallel to the floor, foot is flat (parallel to the ceiling) and knee is bent at 90 degrees. Inhale and slowly lower to the starting position to complete one rep. Repeat on the same side for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides. Aim for 1-3 sets. Coach Nicole's Butt-Blasting Workout Video demonstrates several quadruped exercises, including this one.
Machine Hip Extensions:Stand upright and grasp the stabilizing bar of the machine four-way hip extension machine. The resistance pad should be placed behind the knee (or calf) of the exercising leg, while you balance on your opposite leg. Exhale and move your thigh to the rear until your hip is fully extended backward. Hold there for 1-2 seconds. Inhale to return forward to the starting position. Repeat on the same side for 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides. Aim for 1-3 sets.
Action Sparked: A sound strength training program will target all of your major muscle groups, including the glutes. Since most people are short on time, it's good to know which exercises are most effective. Try one of these exercises each time you perform strength training exercises for the lower body, ensuring that you rest that muscle group at least 1-2 days before training it again. For examples of other strength training exercises (including gluteal exercises), check out SparkPeople's Exercise Demos, located in the Fitness Resource Center.
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.
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