A total glute workout improves your bottom line, but time isn't always on your side. Despite your undying commitment to your gym workout, weather conditions, work and family obligations have a way of sneaking in and sabotaging what you assumed was your free time. Your butt gets cranky without its workouts, so keep a set of ankle weights handy in your bedroom and work drawer. You might even end up liking these exercises better than the equipment at your gym.
About Your Butt
Your butt muscles do a whole lot more than stand around looking good. They play a key role in pelvic stability. Weak glutes make you susceptible to a disturbing variety of knee and hip problems. Keeping them strong and functional means targeting all of the muscles in your gluteal region. Your gluteus maximus, the largest butt muscle, performs hip extension, which moves your leg behind your body. Your hip abductors abduct, or move your leg away from your body's center. The very important gluteus medius and piriformis muscles are responsible for hip rotation.
The prone position supports hip extension and abduction. Use either a straight leg or bent knee position for these movements. While any butt workout challenges your ability to maintain correct postural alignment, adding weights increases that challenge. The extra weight makes it all too tempting to lean into one hip or arch your lower back. The prone position provides immediate feedback about your alignment. As you perform the abduction and hip extension exercises, allow both of your hip bones to sink into the floor. Once you embed this alignment in your muscle memory, use it as a point of reference when performing similar movements in standing, kneeling or side-lying positions.
The Hydrant Returns
Everything old eventually becomes new again. Back in the 1960s, women attended all-female gyms called "figure salons." When the exercise " instructress," as she was called, announced "exercise class girls," everyone hoped she would include their favorite -- the fire hydrant. The exercise involves hip extension, abduction or a combination of the two. Of course, back the 1960s, the fear of building muscles made using ankle weights unthinkable. Decades later, the American Council on Exercise published a study that identified the "quadruped hip extension" exercise as showing the highest gluteal muscle activity -- and that was without ankle weights.
Many of the side-lying exercises evolved from a Pilates technique. This position supports hip abduction and extension exercises while providing a comfortable base for performing rotation movements. Engage your gluteus medius muscles and piriformis muscles by performing large and small leg circles. Sports performance coaches and physical therapists like the clam exercise for balancing the butt muscles and preventing knee and back pain. The basic variation of this exercise is performed with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. The heels remain together as the top knee lifts, as if you were opening a clam shell. Since you're not actually lifting your leg, there's little benefit to wearing the weight around your ankle. Loosen the straps and attach it to your thigh, just above your knee.
As long as you're taking your butt workout to the next level, get creative: Integrate strength with balance training by performing these ankle weight exercises while lying prone, with your body draped over a stability ball, or while standing on a balance board. When temperatures rise, aquatic ankle weights provide a cool glute workout in the pool. The water already provides some resistance, but the ankle weights add additional challenge. Exercises such as power walking and jumping jacks will take on a whole new butt-toning dimension.
- Ask the Trainer: Anatomy Information
- Sports Injuy Clinic: Hip Extension Prone
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: Pelvic Stabilization, Lateral Hip and Gluteal Strengthening Program
- American Council on Exercise: Glutes to the Max
- Physical Fitnet: Glute Kickback on Stability Ball With Ankle Weight
- Robertson Training Systems: Proper Clam Shell Performance
- Hip Help: Complete PTs Aquatic Training Program for Hips
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.