PERSONAL TRAINER Q&A
By Mia and Rich Finnegan
Q: What’s the best exercise to help build, shape and tone the butt? Are there more than one you would recommend?
A: This is a great question for us because we not only love a nice butt, but we love training butt. If you ask most personal trainers, they’ll probably say “the squat” is A#1 in their book for training glutes, but we disagree. We don’t disagree that the squat is a great compound exercise for the legs and glutes combined, but for targeting the three muscles of the glutes (gluteus maximus, medius and minimus), you need a variety of hip extension and hip abduction-type exercises.
The glutes are one of the largest muscle groups in the body and saying that one exercise is enough to target them would be like saying all you need for quads is leg extensions.
Getting back to the question, our favorite combination of butt exercises is:
1) hip extensions or glute kick-backs;
2) hip abduction or side leg lifts (both done with a low pulley and ankle strap);
3) raised reverse lunges with knee high; and
4) glute/hamstring extensions on hyper extension bench.
No matter what exercises you’re performing, form is key. Figure out the function of the muscle being used and match the form to it. We have a saying with clients – “mind in the muscle.” Concentrate on the muscle being used and you’ll be able to zero in on the contraction. Depending on your genetic code and bone structure, there are many types of bottoms. So, bear in mind that even though you can firm up your backside, you can’t change bone structure.
Q: How do I lose the fat on my hips and thighs? Can I spot reduce?
A: When shorts and bathing suit weather is either approaching and/or upon us, this becomes one of the most frequently asked questions by clients.
When starting out on any fitness and fat-loss journey, one must first look into genetic predisposition of body type, along with muscle and fat distribution. This will give insight into what you’ll be dealing with while trying to achieve your goals. Trying to lose fat from an isolated area, i.e., “spot reducing,” is just about impossible. The only way to lose body fat in general is to eat a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet and do weight training and cardiovascular work, which will cause your body to use fat for fuel – no ifs, and or butts about it.
Another reason why trying to spot reduce fat deposits is so ineffective is that your body is pre-programmed. It draws from fat storage sources it prefers for fuel, not the ones you prefer. In our experience, clients tend to lose weight from head to toe, in that order. You notice the face becoming thinner, then the chest starts to lose size (usually unwanted), then you notice tone starting to develop in the arms and shoulders. The line down the middle of the abs appears, then finally the hips, thighs and butt get some results. (Sound familiar?).
Only consistent, balanced nutrition, cardiovascular work and weight training will give you your desired results; there’s no magic pill for spot reducing! Keep this rule of thumb in mind and it may save you a lot of aggravation.
Another thing you can’t change is bone structure. We come in all shapes and sizes, and we all weren’t meant to be a size 4! What we usually recommend to our clients is to set some realistic goals based their genetic makeup. Sculpting the body is all an illusion. If you’re someone with narrow shoulders and wide hips, we suggest you concentrate on shaping your shoulders so it gives the appearance of your hips being smaller. By no means are we saying you should stop weight training your lower body, but give extra special attention to the area that will change your proportions.