I tend to be a “booty-centric” fitness student and instructor. My classes and own personal workouts have no shortage of lower body exercises! My buns are the area of my body I always felt didn’t quite respond to training like my upper body and abs. No matter how many leg presses I did at the gym or how many miles I ran, I just couldn’t quite tone my glutes and upper thighs the way I wanted to. It was frustrating because I really was working hard and doing what I thought were the right things! My workouts were effective and great for my health, but just didn’t pinpoint the exact muscles I was trying to reach.
All of that changed a year and a half ago. There are two major factors in this workout metamorphosis for me:
1) I had a baby. Suddenly, I didn’t have the luxury of one hour workouts or leisurely jogs. I had 30 minutes to exercise in between naps and nursing and working from home, so those 30 minutes had to COUNT. Before our baby, I would have preferred to spend 45 minutes reading a book on the elliptical. Once I had her, I couldn’t waste precious workout time driving to and from the gym, so I made our house my gym. I learned more about high intensity interval training and Tabata style training, and incorporated these types of exercises into my routine. Enter squat jumps, side lunge jumps, lunge jumps and burpees. I also started doing sprints while pushing the stroller, which I found was much more challenging for me than a steady state jog. I incorporated all of this with my regular Pilates exercises, and the combination was very effective.
2) I finally learned how to do a proper squat for toning the buns. I was leading a Harmony Pilates teacher training course, and one of our students was a personal trainer. Another student asked “what is the best way to tighten your buns?” She replied “Squats and lunges”. If doing weighted squats (meaning with a straight bar or holding weights), she recommended having the feet just slightly wider than hip distance apart and slightly turned out (very slight!). I switched from my close and neutral stance to this one and it made a huge difference in my results. (If you are reading this, thank you Steph Shimkus!)
If you are just beginning to exercise and are learning a few routines for your lower body at home, congratulations! That’s awesome! You can switch between walking and the Pilates routine below to start to build strength and endurance. To advance, start to add some hills to your walking, or alternate between a regular walking pace and a fast walking pace or jog. Take breaks during the Pilates routine below as needed.
For those who have been working out for a while and are ready to take your lower body workouts to the next level, I recommend a combination of cardio action 3-4x/wk and lower body strength training 3x/wk. For the strength training, do a combination of squats, lunges and calf raises 1-2/wk, holding weights for more of a challenge. For the other 1-2 days a week of the strength portion, do the Pilates workout for buns below. It’s really important that you include both weighted, standing exercises and the lengthening and toning exercises of a Pilates routine. It will help balance the shortening that happens from strengthening with the length and fluidity that make muscles happy and keeps them healthy.
For the cardio portions, try adding speed intervals or incline intervals to the routine that already works for you. You can also do your cardio at home by using this Tabata style workout.
All of these strength training routines take no longer than 20 minutes, which means you still have time to include your regular arm and abdominal exercises as well. You don’t want to focus all your energy ONLY on your legs or ONLY on running. Mix it up and challenge yourself.
Here is the Lift Your Buns Pilates Routine to really focus on the lower body. Remember to always keep your belly button pulled into your spine gently for core stabilization and support, and to really listen to the cues for proper form. All exercises are most effective when done correctly, so it’s better to do five repetitions with great form than twenty reps really fast and without thinking. Let me know how it goes! As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine and please stop if you have pain. Enjoy!