Firm your booty and shape your legs for summer with these five movements that aren’t squats.
What do Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé all have in common? Other than being superstars, they are all also included on a list of the “20 Best Celebrity Rumps.” And if you want to get noticed for your aesthetic appearance in the back like they are, then the squat is one of the best movements you can do to help strengthen and tone your rear. However, if done improperly, the squat can cause major discomfort and injury in the lower back and knee areas. Not to worry, because there are plenty of other movements you can do to strengthen the gluteal complex.
Background on your backside
The gluteal complex, or butt, includes the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and other hip extensors. The hip is an important part of this entire area. In fact, hip mobility is essential for many daily activities, such as bending down to pick a young child up from the floor, walking up stairs or simply getting up from a seated position. The primary role of the hip is to extend the hip when walking or running, as well as provide dynamic stability when standing on a single leg. It’s important to note that a lack of proper hip strength could lead to a sore low back, so doing exercises for your glutes will not only help you improve the way you look but could help reduce the risk of back injury.
Another great side benefit of focusing on your lower body is that you can quickly increase your lean muscle mass, which elevates your resting metabolism—meaning you’ll be burning more calories even when you’re not working out.
Moves you can do instead of the squat
The squat is an excellent movement for enhancing both athletic performance and aesthetic appearance. However, when done incorrectly, it could cause discomfort in the low back or knees. If you are interested in strengthening your hips and developing an appealing backside, but want to reduce the risk of injury, here are five training moves besides squats that can help you achieve lower-body results.
Bridges use the hip extensor muscles in a position that is safe for both the back and knees.
- Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and about 12 to 16 inches away from your tailbone.
- Push your heels into the floor as you squeeze your glutes and lift the top of your hips up toward the ceiling.
- To increase the level of difficulty you can place a weight across the front of the hips (the ASIS of the pelvis).
- For best results do two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps (or until fatigue) resting for 45 seconds between sets.
Hip hinge (aka Romanian deadlift)
This is a safe move that focuses on the glutes, hamstrings and adductors—making it great not only for your rear-end, but also for your upper and inner thighs.
- Keep your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, spine straight and hold a weight with both hands in front of your thighs.
- Push your hips back and keep your spine long as you lower the weight toward the floor, pause at the bottom before pushing your feet into the ground and hips forward to return to a full, upright position.
- During this movement, your lumbar spine (low-back) should remain stable and stiff and the movement should come directly from your hips.
- When learning this movement place your hand on your low-back as a reminder to NOT let it bend.
- It is recommended to learn to do this movement with your body weight first before adding resistance.
- Do two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps. Rest for 45 seconds in between sets.
Walking or running up stairs or simply doing step-ups on a box is a great way to use all of the muscles responsible for extending and creating dynamic stability of the hip during upright movements.
- Use a box that is the same height or slightly lower than your knee. Place your right foot up on the step, and push your foot into the box to step up. While at the top, lift your left knee into the air. (This creates additional movement of the right hip, which is essential for using the entire muscle.)
- Lower the left leg, and repeat all reps on one side before switching legs.
- Do 10 to 12 reps on one leg before switching to the next. Repeat for two to four sets. To increase intensity and build muscle quicker hold dumbbells in your hands.
Squatting or lunging can be painful to the knee joint when the knee bends more than the hip or ankle during the movement. Stepping backwards removes the risk of too much forward motion from the knee by placing most of the movement into the hip.
- Start with both feet hip-width apart. Step back with your right foot and slowly lower your right knee toward the ground while leaning forward slightly. (Maintain a stable spine during this forward lean.)
- To return to standing, press your left foot into the ground and pull yourself back to standing with your left leg. (For extra emphasis on the inner thigh muscles, think about sliding your left knee back.)
- Perform 10 to 12 reps on one leg before switching to the next leg; do two to three sets resting 30 to 45 seconds between sets.
- To increase the level of difficulty, hold dumbbells in your hands or a medicine ball in front of your chest.
The benefit of doing lateral or side lunges is that you not only use your hip extensors, but you also involve the quadricep muscles, which help to create shape of your outer thigh.
- Start with both feet parallel. Step directly to your right while keeping your left foot pressed into the ground.
- As your right foot hits the ground, push your right hip back toward the wall behind you while reaching for your right foot with your left hand. (This reaching motion increases the range-of-motion in your hip, placing extra emphasis on your glutes.)
- Return to standing by pushing your right foot into the ground and pulling with the inner thigh muscles of your left leg.
- Complete 10 to 12 reps on one leg before switching legs. Do two to four sets while resting 30 to 45 seconds between sets.
- To increase intensity, hold one dumbbell (vertically) or a medicine ball in front of your chest.
Whether for athletic performance or aesthetic appearance, if you want a lower body-focused workout to address your backside without having to do squats, then select three of the above training moves. After a good warm-up, do three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps for each movement, resting approximately 30 to 45 seconds between sets.
For best results, do all reps on one leg before switching to the next. If you look closely, only one of the above movements requires the use of an additional piece of equipment, providing you with options for an excellent body-weight workout you can do from home when you can’t make it to the gym.
Photo credit: iprogressman, Thinkstock