Exercise can't work miracles; it can't make you 5 inches taller or change the width of your hip bones. But it can help you lose weight and build muscle. Although your leg and butt size is largely determined by genetics, losing total body fat can help your legs slim down, and doing muscle-building butt exercises can help you augment the size of your cheeks. Just don't expect magic; set realistic goals and you'll be pleased with your results.
Can You Spot Reduce?
Body fat is bulkier than muscle; pound for pound, fat takes up a lot more space. If you have excess body fat, shedding it will slim your legs. But you can't lose fat from just your legs; you'll lose weight from all over — face, arms, tummy and legs.
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To lose fat, you have to get your body in a caloric deficit. In this state your body is burning more calories than you take in each day. There are three ways you can create this deficit:
Eat Fewer Calories
Your diet is the most important facet of fat loss. It's nearly impossible to lose fat if you don't eat a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. Limit or avoid highly processed food and sweetened beverages and eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains and lean protein plus moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and healthy plant-based fats.
Do More Cardio
Cardiovascular exercises, such as biking and swimming, burn calories, which puts you further in a deficit when combined with a healthy diet. You can burn 250 to 500 calories cycling for 30 minutes, depending on your speed and how much you weigh.
Add Strength Training
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Your body burns calories building and maintaining muscle, so the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body is at burning fat. You also need to build muscle in your glutes — the muscles of your butt — to increase their size. And muscle tone in your legs will make them look sleek and sexy when the fat comes off.
Read more: Bodyweight Butt Exercises
Bigger Butt, Smaller Thighs
If you enjoy cardio workouts, there are several types that help torch calories and build your glutes.
Incline walking/running: Walking uphill is a great way to burn calories to slim down your legs and build a firmer bigger butt. You can use a treadmill or find some long hills to walk in your neighborhood.
Sprints: Do sprints on a bike, treadmill or elliptical machine. Just alternate short bursts of intense activity with equal periods of recovery.
Stair running/walking: Just like incline walking, climbing stairs burns calories and builds your glute muscles at the same time. Use a stair machine at the gym or climb flights in your office or apartment building (as long as it's safe).
Best Butt-Building Exercises
Glute isolation exercises should be part of a total-body strength training routine. Building muscle all over your body will help you burn more fat. You'll also be healthier and look better naked. A couple of days a week, include these butt-building exercises in your lower-body routine to add size and strength to your rear:
1. Squats and Squat Variations
This is, hands down, one of the best butt-building exercises around. Squats also work the thighs and calves for great-looking legs. To get the most bang for your workout buck, take a wide stance — wider than hip distance — and squat to at least parallel but ideally below parallel. Getting below parallel takes time to build flexibility and mobility. Once you've mastered a traditional squat, you can try sumo squats, single-leg squats and side squats.
2. Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts are another great glute builder. According to a 2015 study published by Journal of Applied Biomechanics, hip thrusts activate the gluteus maximus even more than a back squat.
If you could choose only one exercise to do for your entire lower-body workout, the dead lift would be your best bet. It's one of the best glute activators, but it's a technical move that requires practice. Work on your form before adding a lot of weight and make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement to really get them firing.
Read more: 17 Exercises to Shape and Tone Your Booty
- Harvard Health Publishing: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Muscle for Life: The Best Butt Exercises for Building Head-Turning Glutes
- Journal of Applied Biomechanics: A Comparison of Gluteus Maximus, Biceps Femoris, and Vastus Lateralis Electromyographic Activity in the Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust Exercises