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Here are five of my favorite exercises to tighten, and tone those cheeks.
1. Kettlebell swings. Kettlebell swings combine strength and cardio training to redefine your backside. In addition to toning your glutes and hip flexors, you'll work your core and cardiovascular system (an all-in-one exercise).
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Place the kettlebell about one foot in front of you. Push your hips backward, with a slight bend in the knee (shins almost vertical) and reach forward, placing both hands on the kettlebell.
From your "hike position" (hips pushed backward, back flat and chest out) hike the kettlebell behind you, with a purpose (don't let go). Drive your hips forward, while contracting your glutes and tucking your tailbone under, to swing the kettlebell (always above the knees) until you are standing at "attention" with your hands about chest height.
Important tips: Always make sure to keep your abs tight (this will keep your lower back protected.) Keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine. Always drive the swing with your hips and not your arms. If the bell ever gets too far out in front of you, never reach for it — just let it drop.
2. Lunges. Lunges are a workout staple that will firm your butt and tone your legs. Start with your feet hip width apart then step forward with one leg. Keeping your abs tight, chest high and spine straight, sink down into the move until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee is almost touching the ground. Concentrate on squeezing your glutes as you push through your front heel back to the starting position. Important tip: don't let your moving knee extend past your toes.
3. Step ups. This is a great exercise for your butt as well as your quads and calves. Step ups also increase your heart rate so you'll get the extra benefit of fat-blasting cardio. Stand with your right foot firmly planted on a step or a bench, your left foot on the floor. Push down through your right heel to straighten and stand on your right leg, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. At the same time, pull your left leg forward and up, knee bent 90 degrees and raised waist-high. Lower your left leg back to the ground, then step your right foot down. Alternate legs to make one rep.
4. Hip extensions. Like lunges, hip extensions can be performed anywhere and without equipment. The key to this movement is positioning your weight so that your butt does the brunt of the work, not your legs. On your hands and knees, you'll focus the main effort in your glutes and lower back without involving your hamstrings. Tighten your core and squeeze your butt to lift one leg toward the ceiling, keeping the 90-degree bend and flexing your foot so you're reaching with your heel as you raise your thigh in line with your spine. Keep the movement slow and controlled to the top and then back down again.
5. One-legged deadlifts. One-legged deadlifts do triple duty, activating your muscles for a highly effective toning session that works your butt, hamstrings and lower back. Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip width apart, knees soft. Keeping your weight firmly on your left leg, lean forward from your hips, reaching the dumbbells toward your left foot and raising your right leg out behind you. Remember to keep your core tight and not round your back. Now stand straight, squeezing your glutes as you come back to start. Do a full series of reps before switching to your right leg for the second half of the set.
Use these five exercises in your training, and watch your "rear assets" really shape up. Have fun.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer. Find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hometeamfitness.