It happens every year -- that dreaded moment when you have to try on a swimsuit. If you find yourself looking in the mirror over your shoulder and wishing for a firmer backside, it's time to develop an exercise routine that targets your whole body, with a special emphasis on your butt. By alternating cardio workouts with strength training, you'll burn fat on cardio days and build muscle on strength-training days.
Squats and Lunges
They may be slightly excruciating, but squats and lunges are among the best butt-toning exercises. Not only do squats tone your glutes, they tone your hamstrings as well. The move looks like sitting in a chair from a standing position, with your feet hip-width apart. To lunge, step forward with one leg and bend both knees, then straighten your legs as you bring the back foot forward to meet the front. Holding barbells or kettlebells while doing squats and lunges increases resistance, if you're the type who likes a challenge.
If you want to lose weight from your entire body, there's no better way than eating a more healthful diet and learning to love cardio. Exercises that are particularly good for tightening your glutes are jogging, step aerobics and interval training, in which you alternate between bursts of cardio and bursts of strength training. Take it outside by alternating walking, jogging and squats or lunges for 30 to 90 seconds. Do this for 30 to 60 minutes.
Head for the gym and hop on the treadmill to get a full-body, butt-shaping workout. According to "Women's Health" magazine, it's one of the best cardio machines for your derriere. If you're not into running, hop on the elliptical machine to simulate a jog without the stress on your joints. Get the motivation of a group and the benefits of an exercise bike with a spin class. Try using machines as part of your interval training on days when the weather is bad or you feel like watching TV while you work out.
Other Toning Exercises
Old-fashioned, Jane Fonda-style donkey kicks may seem silly, but you don't have to wear a leotard, leg warmers and a headband to reap the benefits. If you're looking for some old-school moves that really work, hit the floor and start kicking. Get on your hands and knees, bend one leg to 90 degrees, and raise it out to the side 10 times, then raise it to the back 10 times. Repeat on both legs. And be sure to do a few butt squeezes, in which you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks together and lift your hips, then lower them slowly. You'll have an '80s aerobics-queen butt in no time.
Neville Smithson did his undergraduate work at Hampshire College and earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. Having had a change of heart about his passions, Smithson is now back in Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a combined MA/PhD physical therapy program.