Amanda Latona-Kucklo, the Booty Queen herself, said it best: Butts are back. Gone are the days when women were vying to be skinny and small, instead we now strive for those coveted sexy curves coupled with some nice muscle definition. More and more ladies are making their way towards to weight rooms in their local gyms and understand that getting in shape is more inline with lifting heavy weights than doing hours of mindless cardio. Whether you’re a physique competitor or fitness enthusiast, booty building is a staple for any workout plan.
The most important thing to keep in mind when training your lower body in the mind-muscle connection. This is a huge component to progressing with fat loss and muscle gains. You might be thinking that muscle gains is synonymous with bulking, but trust me it’s not, not even a little bit. Bulking up is a whole other method of training and dieting that requires a massive calorie surplus, very specific supplements and nutrient timing. Muscle gains in this case means building all the right curves in all the right places which makes you look fabulous in pretty much any outfit you throw on. The idea behind the mind-muscle connection is that during your workouts you bring your attention to the body part that you are training. More specifically, you focus on the muscle that you are working throughout each rep and each set. A good example of this would be performing a squat, during the concentric or shortening phase o the lift (when you are moving upwards) to really focus on digging your heels into the ground to bring most of the resistance towards your glutes. Same thing during a deadlift; although many consider this to be more of a back exercise it actually really works the legs and the more you engage the legs by bringing your attention to them as you lift, the heavier the load you can work with and the greater muscle you can build. With a deadlift, right at the midpoint of the concentric phase you want to focus on really pulling in those glutes and giving a big squeeze.
This mind-muscle connection isn’t just for weightlifting, but for cardio as well. Think about the elliptical machine. Most people that I see at the gym have a tendency to come up onto the ball of the foot and kind of bounce up as they go through the motion. What they end up doing is taking all of the resistance out and using momentum to move the machine ultimately working a little bit on their calves and quads instead of on their glutes and hamstrings. Same goes for the stepper machine. I can’t tell you how many people I see each day who hold on to the side rails, lock their arms and again come up onto their toes while stepping. Locking the arms removes all the resistance out of the movement and, just like the elliptical, coming up onto the toes will work everything but the hamstrings and glutes. This is fine if your goal is to build up your calves, but for most of us, the glutes and hamstrings are what really need a lot of work. The proper form for both of these cardio workouts is to hold onto the machine (not too tight!) to balance yourself, sit back slightly so the weight is distributed to the back of the legs and push your heels down throughout the motion, no doubt that you’ll really feel the burn. So whether you’re weight training or getting in some intense cardio, if booty building is your goal, get your mind-muscle connection on track.
The next thing to consider on your quest to building great glutes is that the lower body contains some of the largest muscles in your body. What this means is that in order to build curves in this area, you need to lift really heavy. The larger the muscle the heavy the load it can handle. Using myself as an example, I can leg press over 200 pounds for 12 reps, but I can’t curl more than a 25 pound barbell with my biceps for anything over 15 reps. The bigger the muscle, the heavier you gotta lift. Unless you are an athlete or work with a coach, chances are you’re lifting heavy enough. My rule of thumb is that when I get to the last rep of each set I’m swearing to myself or at least saying “ouchie!” when I’m done. Whenever you finish a set, if you feel like you could keep going or if you haven’t broken a sweat, then you are not lifting heavy enough.
Now for the actual exercises. There are countless ways to build a great booty, whether it be from bodyweight training, machines or free weights, the possibilities are plenty. Like I mentioned though, weight training is essential here and cardio alone won’t cut it, even if you include plyometric training like jump squats, burpees or switch lunges, it’s not enough, you have to include some serious strength training in there. For free weights, squats are great and there are tons of variations from foot positions to grip to placement of the weights. Everything from the standard back squat to front squat, then there’s goblet, sumo, deep and narrow squats. Same for deadlifts; there’s stiff-leg, sumo, wide grip and narrow grip. For lunges try walking forward lunges, backward lunges, curtsy-style or Bulgarian with one leg elevated on a bench. And then there’s always to essential barbell hip thrust which will no doubt leave you crawling your way out of the gym with a great pump in your backside. Although a lot of the strength machines may look like some sort of torture contraption, they are actually super effective and pretty straight forward to use. Everything from the abductor machines, to the butt blaster or even using a pullup machine for a leg press down. Not to mention the endless possibilities with cables like glute kickbacks and side leg raises. When building muscle and curve, you’re trying to achieve hypertrophy which is where your existing muscle fibers and cells are triggered to initiate muscle protein synthesis and ultimately muscle growth. In terms of exercise structure, to achieve hypertrophy aim for 3-4 sets or 10-15 reps per exercise and dedicate 2 days of lower body weight training each week to see maximum results (cardio does not count as leg training FYI).
If you don’t have access to equipment or if you workout at home then body weight exercises can still be useful. The usual squats, lunges and hip thrusts are essential here but definitely up the reps to feel the burn and opt for supersets (doing two exercises in a row without rest). Also try out some exercises using very slow movements like squatting down for 4 seconds, pause for 2 and then rise for 4 seconds and squeeze at the top, then at the last rep, squat down a pulse for 30 additional reps. You will definitely be sweating something fierce. There is always a way to get in a great workout and let yourself get the body you’ve always wanted while getting super strong in the process, regardless of your circumstance.
Sound simple enough? Notice I said simple not easy! Progress does take time so like everything else, you won’t see results in one day, but over the span of several weeks coupled with sound nutrition, you’ll start to see some real changes in your physique. No more skinny and puny, just curvy and strong. So get out there, train hard and love your new look.
Start Strong, Finish Strong