Wednesday, October 30, 2013

5 Simple Moves for a Butt that Pops in Yoga Pants

Ahh fall. The season of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice anything... and yoga pants.

It's considered to be more socially acceptable to be wearing your gym gear in your everyday life. Who among us hasn't rocked an oversize sweater with yoga pants tucked into boots? Blame Pinterest if you must...but there's tons of cute ways to rock yoga pants or other leggings while out and about.

Yoga pants, one of the universe's most flattering pants, can sometimes use a little bit of help. You can dress it up all you want (yes, I'm talking about your butt), but some paint and trim isn't going to help if the house underneath is sagging a little.

Now presenting, 5 simple moves for a butt that pops in yoga pants.

Move #1: the squat
I talk about squatting all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Squats are that important. They hit your quads, they hit your hamstrings, and they definitely hit your glutes. One key to glute activation when squatting is to think "butt!" when you're coming up! Sounds hokey, but I swear it works.

Start from standing and push your butt back as you sink down. Think of trying to sit on something but not actually sitting on it because it's filthy, maybe you're hovering over a cactus while someone takes a hilarious posed photo. I use that example because it's humorous, not because I've done that exact thing to Lance... ever... especially not while we were hiking in Arizona... I digress.

Once your bottom is below your knees, i.e. once your femurs have gone below parallel with the floor, it's time to think "butt!" and come back up. Really squeeze your glutes on the way up so you rise with your chest lifted. You don't want to rock forward and use that momentum to get yourself up. Feel the burn baby!

Start with bodyweight squats. When those start to become difficult, move to goblet squats, then barbell squats. If you're really into them, you can try single-leg squats. Any way you slice it, squats are a staple and you should be utilizing them.

Move #2: the lunge
Lunging, or split-squatting, is another awesome move for your butt. Everyone's lunge stance is going to be a little different. Use a mirror, seriously... don't guess, and figure out yours. Your stance, i.e. how far apart your feet are, depends on the length of your legs. Your feet should be wide enough apart (front to back, not side to side) that your legs both form 90º angles at the knee when you're in the bottom of your lunge. This can take some practice.

Step forward, or backward if that's your preference, and sink down into your lunge. Make sure both toes are pointing forward and don't let that front knee track in front of the front toes. It's easy to let yourself glide forward when sinking down, but that puts undue stress on your knees... not great. Push off of whatever was your moving foot (the one that stepped forward or backward) and come back to standing, using your glutes to power yourself back up. The trick to activating your glutes in lunges is to drive your heels into the ground when coming back up.

Once you've mastered bodyweight lunges, try holding a pair of dumbbells or plates, you can also use a barbell but balancing a bar on your back while lunging can be a little tricky.

Move #3: the glute bridge
Ah, the glute bridge. Easily one of the most likely exercises to make accidental eye contact in the gym that much more awkward. If you can stand to do these in public, adding weight with a barbell is an awesome way to get an oxymoronic rock solid bubble butt.

If you can't bring yourself to do these on the weight floor, I don't blame you. It took me a year to progress that far. Until that time, I'd drag a mat into an empty group exercise classroom, the awkward eighth of a hallway over by the emergency exit doors, once to the locker room. If you can't find an abandoned space in your gym, do them at home! Just don't skip them, they're one of the few exercises that isolates your booty as the main muscle group working.

To start, lay on your back with your knees bent at about 90 degrees. Keeping your shoulders on the ground, squeeze your butt and elevate your pubic bone up toward the ceiling. Pause for a moment and then lower. Your behind should be on fire by rep 5, booyah!

Move #4: the kickback
Kickbacks can be performed in a number of different ways; bodyweight, with a machine, on the ground, standing... My favorite version is the bodyweight version done on a mat.

The kickback is a great exercise that targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. To start, get on all fours on a mat. Lift one leg an inch or two off the ground and then contract your glute (whatever side you're working) and pull that leg up and back until your femur is past parallel with the ground. Pause for a second and then lower back to the starting position.

This is another exercise that is intense with no added weight.

Move #5: the stiff-leg deadlift
This exercise has so many variations, but perhaps the most effective is the single-leg romanian (stiff-leg) deadlift. By isolating each leg & glute, you involve more of the smaller stabilizer muscles in each muscle group (legs, glutes).

Begin in a standing position, elevate one foot (the side you won't be working) an inch or two off the ground. Slowly lower your chest toward the ground while keeping your chest, torso, and floating leg in a straight line. You should pivot around your standing leg at the hip. Make sure to keep your standing leg straight but don't lock your knee. Tap the ground with your opposite fingertips (opposite of your standing leg) and slowly return to the starting position.

This one can be tricky in terms of balance. I notice that I'm more apt to fall over if I do these at the end of my workouts, so I try to do them early on. If the bodyweight version of this becomes too easy, set a dumbbell in front of you and pick it up when your fingertips are tapping the ground, return to standing with the dumbbell in your hand.

Ta-da, 5 simple moves for a butt that pops in yoga pants! I consider these moves to be indispensable in my quest for a more poppin' booty. It's always a work in progress, right?

Which of these 5 simple moves will you incorporate into your exercise routine?
What are some of your favorite butt exercises that I missed? I'm always looking for more!

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