Saving Your Butt

Written by Paul Wolf

Use it or lose it. Here's a quick and easy workout to keep your glutes going strong.

We called him the "Glute Man". It was 1981, and real men weren't supposed to build their butts the way they did their pecs or biceps.

This overly bronzed guy would preen in the gym mirror. With one hand on a rail, he would lift his leg behind him like a dancer, all the while checking the buttock in question to see if it was contracting.

We had to mock him.

These days, the quest for buns of steel is an acceptable pursuit. In fact, men are encouraged to build butt muscle in an effort to keep their glutes from heading south.

"I've known of former athletes who have lost their butts, so to speak," says Sam Varner, an Olympic coach and author of Slimmer Younger Stronger. "It is the same thing you see in convalescent hospitals: men with no butts."

Your backside is the most likely casualty of aging if you don't target it directly.

This is because the glutes coordinate with the muscles of the lower back, hips and hamstrings. You can isolate the hamstring muscles, but not the glutes, so it's easy to neglect them entirely.

Here's a butt workout that'll get you back on track:

Take the stairs: This is excellent quadriceps work, as well as butt and hamstring work. With single steps, resistance is very low. Increase the intensity by taking two stairs at a time. Start with a single flight of stairs and work your way up.

The Superman pose: This is a simple yet powerful isometric (static) exercise that is great for the entire back of the body.

Lie on the floor on your stomach with your arms out to the sides and your feet about a foot apart. Lift your arms and legs off the floor so that your body weight rests on the area below the belly button and above the pubic bone. While you do the exercise, intentionally contract your glutes. Not only does that use the muscles more powerfully; it makes the lift easier. Work your way up to holding it for 8 to 10 seconds. Start with one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps.

The backward kick: On your hands and knees, gently kick your right leg backward, resisting the temptation to raise the right hip up along with the leg. Your hips should be square to the floor. Start with one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

The lunge without weights: Put your right foot about three feet in front of your left. Bend your right knee. Keep your upper body straight. Your right shin should remain perpendicular to the floor. When you bend your knee, you will feel it most in your quadriceps. Your hamstrings and buttocks will be working hard from the action in the hip joint. Start with one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

The lunge with weights: This is the same exercise but with dumbbells. No heavy weights needed, just a bit more resistance. Feel the interplay between the other lower body muscles and the butt. Start with one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

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