When you lose weight and fat, your whole body starts to shrink, and that typically includes your butt. But if you're strategic when it comes to exercise, you can lose that unwanted weight and keep a round booty.
Specifically, doing the right type of strength training alongside high-intensity workouts can help you lose weight without losing your bottom. Max Gomez, ACE-certified fitness trainer and owner of AMP'D Fitness in New Jersey, weighs in on what you should do to strengthen those glutes while getting your body to shed the extra pounds.
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1. Create a Calorie Deficit
In order to get the scale moving in the right direction, you need to create a calorie deficit. This means you need to burn more energy than you take in. The bigger the deficit, the more you'll lose, but you should aim for gradual and steady weight loss to stay healthy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You'll need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, if you cut approximately 500 to 1,000 calories from your daily diet (or burn some of it from physical activity), you can safely lose the recommended 1 to 2 pounds a week.
In order to cut calories, you first need to understand how many calories you're eating to maintain your current weight. If you're not sure, you can start with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans' Estimated Calorie Needs chart to get a general idea. And you may also want to use a calorie counter app to help you get more specific.
2. Build Your Glutes
As you lose weight, you can replace some of the lost volume in your booty by building up your glute muscles. Because muscle is denser than fat, per The Social & Health Research Center, your new butt will have a more lifted, perkier appearance.
And having more muscle will boost your metabolism, making it easier for you to not only shed fat, but also keep it off. According to the National Council on Strength and Fitness, muscle tissue at rest burns approximately 6 calories daily per pound, while fat burns only 2 to 3 calories daily per pound.
As part of a total-body strength-training program, you should work your glutes at least two days per week, as recommended by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Here's a list of some of the most effective exercises that target the glutes, according to Gomez and a March 2020 article in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine:
Gomez suggests you do 3 sets of each exercise for 6 to 8 reps with a weight that feels heavy but manageable for several weeks. Then, switch to holding a lighter weight and doing more reps, such as 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
You can experiment with even higher rep counts, but you really shouldn't go higher than 20 reps per set, Gomez says. As you get stronger, you should increase the weight you're working with.
He doesn't recommend doing all of these glute exercises in the same workout. Rather, choose two or three per session and mix them in with moves that target other parts of your body, like your arms and back.
And remember to always modify your intensity based on how you're feeling. "The most important thing you can do is listen to your body," Gomez says.
3. Do High-Intensity Cardio to Shed Fat
Believe it or not, when it comes to losing fat but keeping your bum, not all cardio is created equal. Jumping on the treadmill for an hour a day will definitely burn calories and help you lose weight, but it may also give you a pancake butt.
"Cardio-only workouts are a losing battle and will not help you build the booty," Gomez says.
A better option is shorter, higher-intensity workouts like sprints, stair climbing, spinning, kickboxing and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, which all build muscle.
If you're not in the know, HIIT workouts are bouts of intense activity (performed at 80 to 95 percent of your max heart rate) followed by brief recovery periods, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. These workouts take every amount of energy you have, but the payoff is worth it.
Preserving and building muscle definition are just a couple of the benefits of HIIT, so you don't have to worry about losing your butt while losing weight. Research shows this type of training can also help shed body fat, improve cardio fitness (VO2 max) and improve blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol profiles.
Not convinced on how awesome HIIT workouts are? A June 2017 article in Obesity Reviews found that short-term HIIT workouts can lead to a fair amount of body composition improvements without even losing weight, despite minimal time commitment.
Gomez suggests doing a HIIT workout for no more than 20 to 30 minutes to get the most benefit. Any longer than that, and you'll up your risk for injury and exhaustion.
4. Remember, You Can’t Spot Reduce
It's a total bummer that you can't target particular areas of your body for weight loss. You lose fat proportionally and gradually all over your body, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). "Fat comes off the same way it goes on," Gomez says.
Thanks to genetics, your body type or shape may play a role in how much fat you lose from your rear, according to the International Sports Sciences Association. For instance, if you have a tendency to store fat around your hips and butt, you'll likely keep some of your rear. If you store fat more in your belly, you may have to work harder to plump up your butt.
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- Max Gomez, ACE-certified fitness trainer
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines: "Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- The Social & Health Research Center: "Fat versus Muscle?"
- National Council on Strength and Fitness: "A Pound of Muscle Burns 30-50 Kcal/Day, Really..."
- Journal of Sports Science & Medicine: "Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review"
- Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition
- American College of Sports Medicine: "High-Intensity Interval Training"
- Obesity Reviews: "The Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training Vs. Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training on Body Composition in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- International Sports Sciences Association: "Are Perfect Glutes in Your DNA or Your Workout Routine?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"