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Ah, genetics. They determine our eye color, hair color and, more often than not, the appearance of our lower body – for better or for worse.
But we say “Genes be damned!” Whether you need to boost or belittle your rear view, have stubborn stick-like quads, or are looking to carve more detail into your calves, we’ve got a program to tailor-make your lower half in as little as eight weeks.
Plan #1: Booty Boost
Even if you weren’t born with a Beyoncé booty, you can lift and shape your glutes. “Go heavy,” says Jim Smith, CSCS, owner of Diesel Strength and Conditioning in Elmira, New York. “This means using a weight with which you can still manage good form, but one that’s heavy enough that you can only perform the required number of reps and no more.”
How To: Choose a heavy weight and shoot for failure in the allotted number of reps. Rest up to 90 seconds between moves, if needed, to adequately recover.
|Sumo Squat With Calf Raise||3–4||6–8|
|Lateral Weight-Plate Lunge||3–4 per leg||10–12|
|One-Legged Romanian Deadlift||3 per leg||10–12|
|Marching Glutes Bridge||3||12–16|
Booty-boosting cardio: Low-intensity cardio on the stair climber, or hiking in the hills will build muscle and burn fat.
Plan #2: Derriere Downsize
Tons of women complain about having too much junk in the trunk, but you can slim your rear view with a fast-paced, low-rest circuit workout. “Also, make sure your nutrition, cardio and calorie-in versus calorie-out ratios are in order,” says Smith. “This will assist in fat loss, which can drastically change the appearance of your body – and booty!”
How To: Do one set of each exercise with little to no rest between moves. Rest for one minute, then repeat twice. Use little or no weight with high reps to burn mega calories.
|Dumbbell Split Squat||3 per leg||15|
|Sumo Squat With Calf Raise||3||15–20|
Derriere-downsizing cardio: Interval training with a jump rope or on a treadmill creates a high-intensity fat burn.
Plan #3: Quadrophenia
Lots of women have trouble bringing up their quads, but while their general shape will be determined by genetics, their size can be determined by you, according to Smith.
How To: Do the moves in the order suggested, using heavy resistance and shooting for failure by the last rep. Rest up to 90 seconds between sets.
|Dumbbell Split Squat||4 per leg||8–10|
|One-Sided Weight Plate Farmer’s Walk||4||4 25-foot laps|
Quad-kicking cardio: Explosive quad-intensive moves, such as sprints, stair running and plyometrics, can help break down quad muscles, which will then be repaired, becoming stronger and thicker.
Plan #4: The Devil’s in the Details
Though the glutes and quads absorb much of our attention, training the hamstrings, calves and other auxiliary muscles can help streamline your lower half. This improves move-ment patterns, posture and muscle mass, says Smith, leading to better exercise efficiency and fewer imbalances.
How To: Do the moves in order using a moderate weight. Rest no more than a minute between sets.
|One-Sided Weight Plate Farmer’s Walk||3||4 25-foot laps|
|One-Legged Romanian Deadlift||3 per leg||12–15|
|Sumo Squat With Calf Raise||3||15|
|Lateral Weight Plate Lunge||3 per leg||15|
Detail-carving cardio: Cycling, jumping rope or swimming at a moderate pace will work these muscles in different modalities.
Sumo Squat with Calf Raise
Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, leg adductors, gastrocnemius
Set Up: Hold a single dumbbell vertically with both hands as shown. Widen your stance and point your toes outward slightly.
Action: Maintain a vertical torso as you lower into a squat. Extend your legs to return to standing, then press up onto the balls of your feet. Lower your heels and repeat immediately.
Tip: Make sure your knees track over your toes and that they aren’t falling inward.
Lateral Weight-Plate Lunge
Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, minimus and medius, leg adductors, gastrocnemius
Set Up: Hold a weight plate against your chest and stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
Action: Step your right foot far out to the side and, keeping your left leg straight, bend your knee to lunge. Press through your right heel to return to the start, and repeat. When your reps are through, switch sides.
Tip: Make sure your toes are pointing forward at all times; this will better target your glutes and quads.
Target Muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus, anterior deltoids
Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your shoulders.
Action: Squat and touch your elbows to your knees. Next, stand and extend your arms overhead, then lower the weights back to the start.
Tip: Explode from the bottom of the squat for a fluid transition between the leg and arm extension.
Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, leg adductors, cardiovascular system
Set Up: Stand with your feet close together and your arms at your sides.
Action: Squat low and place your fingers on the floor in front of your feet. Jump your legs out behind you, spacing them wide as you land. Immediately hop your feet back towards your hands, then explode into the air, using your arms to gain height. Land softly and repeat.
Tip: Eliminate the jump to reduce the intensity.
One-Sided Weight-Plate Farmer’s Walk
Target Muscles: muscles of the forearm and wrist, gastrocnemius
Set Up: With one hand, hold the edge of a heavy weight plate at your side.
Action: Walk forward for your specified distance. At the end, move the plate to your other hand and walk back to the start. Repeat for the remainder of your set.
Tip: Keep your core tight, and do not bend away from the load when walking.
One-Legged Romanian Deadlift
Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, erector spinae
Set Up: Stand tall and hold a medium dumbbell in your left hand.
Action: Bend your right leg slightly as you hinge forward from your hips, until your left leg and torso come parallel to the floor. Finish your reps, then switch legs.
Tip: Trouble balancing? Hold on to a machine, bench or wall with your free hand.
Dumbbell Split Squat
Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius, quadriceps, hamstrings
Set Up: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and take a wide staggered stance with your left foot in front of the right.
Action: Bend both legs to lower your body towards the floor. Pause when your rear knee is about an inch from the ground, then extend both legs to return to the start. Complete all your reps with your left leg in front, then switch leg positions and repeat.
Tip: Focus on your front leg; really squeeze your glutes and quads as you rise up.
Marching Glutes Bridge
Target Muscles: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, erector spinae, abdominals
Set Up: Lie face up with legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your glutes and raise your hips.
Action: “March” your feet by lifting them off the floor, leading the motion with your knee and alternating sides. Keep your hips lifted throughout the entire set.
Tip: Avoid arching your back by tightening your abdominals to stabilize your core.