Oh, those wonderful child-bearing hips that mother nature felt so compelled to give us women-folk -- thanks, but no thanks. Unfortunately, specifically toning your hips is not a realistic goal, but decreasing your total body fat and increasing muscle tone throughout your body is. While most cardio is good, there are a few cardio exercises that are best for toning your hips and getting your body into that sexy shape you want.
Running is a very effective cardio exercise that will tone not only your hips but your butt and thighs as well. Running activates all of the gluteal muscles, hamstrings and quads, especially if you run on an incline. If you think you're not a runner, think again. Anyone can become a runner -- it just takes a little commitment and determination. You can run anywhere and the only expense is for a pair of shoes and a good sports bra. If you're new to running, start out slowly to prevent soreness or injury. Aim for a five- to 10-minute run the first time out. If you have to stop and walk, do it and then get back to your run. Gradually increase your time or mileage every week to continually challenge your body. If you find running boring, throw in a sprint workout every now and again to keep it fresh.
Elliptical training uses the same muscles and movement as running but with significantly less impact. This cardio exercise is great if you're recovering from an injury, are pregnant, have joint problems or simply hate the bouncing motion of running. To really work your hips, set the elliptical to a challenging resistance and high incline and, no matter how tired you get, don't lean on the handles. Make your hips and legs work as hard as they can to maximize hip toning. You should train on the elliptical for at least 30 minutes at a time five days per week.
Even though you get to sit on your butt while you cycle, it's still one of the best forms of cardio for toning the area. Have you ever noticed there aren't a lot of chubby cyclists? There's a reason for it -- cycling can be an intense lower-body exercise, if you push yourself. Whether you prefer to ride outside in the fresh air or inside under those flattering gym lights, you can make some amazing gains in the hip region. To really emphasize glute contractions, push through your heel during the downward stroke. The higher the resistance you use, the harder your muscles have to work, resulting in more tone. Hop aboard your two-wheel workout buddy for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week and remember to challenge yourself.
Circuit training may be the best of the best when it comes to toning the hips because it combines heart-pumping cardio with weight-training exercises. The cardio will burn calories while the weight exercises build muscle that leads to a higher metabolism. Circuit training can be done a couple of ways; you can do all strength exercises one after the other or combine cardio moves with strength moves. Cardio can involve jumping rope, stair climbing, running, box jumping, jumping jacks, burpees or anything else you can think of to get your heart rate up. Strength moves should be multijoint exercises that put emphasis on your hips such as squats, lunges, step-ups, good mornings and deadlifts. Pick five to 10 exercises, then perform them one after the other for 30 to 60 seconds each. Repeat the series three to five times. Keep in mind that for this type of exercise to be effective, you need to go as hard as you can while using proper technique.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Third Edition; Thomas Baechle, et al
- ExRx.net: Elliptical Cross Trainer
- Fitness Magazine: The Calorie-Blasting Cycling Workout
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.