Strengthening and firming the butt and thighs can be challenging for most working moms, full-time college students and those who have recovered from an illness or an injury. However, you can still get the results you want with exercise routines that can help you burn more fat and build more muscles in less time. The routine you do depends on your goals, the sport or activity you play and your fitness level.
Butt and Thigh Basics
Instead of isolating your thighs and buttocks, work both muscle groups with other leg and hip muscles with three basic exercises: The squat, the step-up and the lunge. These are the basic movement patterns and foot positions that are common in most field and court sports, says physical therapist Gray Cook. The squat involves lowering your body from a standing position with your feet about hip-distance apart. A deeper squat will engage more muscle activity in your buttocks, while a partial squat, in which your thighs do not reach a position parallel with the floor, engages your thighs more. With the step-up, you move from a lower standing position to a higher one, similar to climbing stairs. In a lunge, you move from a standing position to a lower position by stepping forward with one foot and bending both legs. Once you're familiar with these exercises, hold a free weight in one or both hands to increase resistance and intensity.
No Cardio Needed
Traditional cardiovascular exercises, such as running and cycling, aren't always necessary to tone your butt and thighs and to improve your cardiovascular endurance. Incorporate lower-body, strength exercises with circuit training to juice up metabolism and heart rate -- performing a series of exercises with minimal rest in between. The exercise intensity is usually low or moderate to simulate steady-pace aerobics. A study performed at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania had eight women perform a session of circuit training and traditional treadmill exercise on two different days. The metabolic rate and oxygen consumption level were higher after the circuit training session than after the treadmill exercise session. A circuit training workout might include squats, step-ups, lunges, jumping rope, kettlebell swings and deadlifts -- with no rest between exercises. Rest for one to two minutes before repeating the circuit one or two more times.
Torch Fat with Interval Training
If circuit training is too mellow for you, give interval training a shot. This has you perform a bout of high-intensity exercise followed immediately by a period of lower-intensity exercise. A 12-week study published in the June 2012 issue of "Journal of Obesity" showed that young, overweight men who performed high-intensity interval training throughout the study had a 17 percent reduction of abdominal body fat and gained 0.4 kilogram of lean mass in their legs. You may incorporate aerobic exercises with lower-body strength and power exercises with this method. For example, perform 15 to 20 seconds of squats or heavy kettlebell swings followed by two minutes of jumping rope or jogging. After resting for two to three minutes, the cycle is repeated two to four times.
You Get What You Trained
Select exercises that can improve your favorite sports or activity skill while toning your butt and thighs. This is based on the principle "specific adaptation to imposed demands": Your body gets better and adapts specifically to what you train it to do. Working on the leg extension machine will get your thigh muscles stronger, but it won't help you much when kicking a soccer ball or when sprinting because your body position is different. Therefore, if you are a runner or play any sports in a standing position, train your butt and thighs in a similar position.