When taking up exercise, one thing most women share is a common desire to get themselves a nicely shaped and toned looking bum. Of course, cardio helps, but nothing comes close to resistance training – that’s right, women should lift weights too! In this two-part series, we give you a rundown of some of the most modern and effective exercises you can use to get shaping your bum.
Debunking the Myth
Before we get stuck in, I want to discuss one of the most common misconceptions within fitness culture, and that is that women should avoid weightlifting, as this will only make them look “butch” and “bulky”. This, however, is a far cry from the truth. The fact is, unless subjected to anabolic steroids, women cannot produce testosterone, a male sex hormone which plays an integral role in the muscle building process. Although some women may be able to lift heavier than some men, by comparison, they are limited in their capacity to build muscle naturally.
Weightlifting offers an array of benefits for both the physique and mind-set. This includes:
- Weightlifting will grant you a tight, toned and cellulite-free body.
- Toned muscles will give you confidence and strength for daily activities.
- Unlike regular cardio, weightlifting can spike your metabolism for up to 5 hours. So, not only will you be burning calories during your workout, but you will also be burning calories for hours after.
When you do eventually weight train, lift heavy! Lifting a light weight for higher repetitions will not do nothing but increase your muscular endurance. Instead, find a weight that you can lift, so that you achieve temporary muscle failure by the 8th, 10th, or 12th repetition (depending on the exercise). In other words, you should no longer be able to lift that weight during that set. Aim for at least 3 sets.
So, without further ado, here are the first 5 exercises:
Incline Backwards Walk (Warm Up)
5 minutes // 15% Incline // 2.5kmph
Warming up can be a bit tedious, but if you fancy doing something different to activate your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves properly, try walking backwards on a treadmill. To do this, set the incline to 15%. Then, holding on to the side-rails, carefully turn in the opposite direction and walk. It will take about 30-60 seconds to find your rhythm but once you have, the movement itself should become fairly easy.
Bridge with Single-Leg Extensions
Beginner // 12 reps // 3 sets
The bridge is a simple exercise that can be performed anywhere. It helps to improve your core stability by activating your hamstrings, abs, lower back and of course, the glutes. Adding a single-leg extension increases the difficulty of the exercise, and therefore forces these muscles to work harder.
Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees pointed upwards. Your heels should be about a foot away from your bum. Keeping your arms flat on the ground, push your hips upwards in a slow and controlled movement, while focusing on contracting up your mid-section and glutes.
When performing the leg extension, the knees should remain side by side throughout. Imagine a door hinge mechanism, your knees are the hinge attached to the door frame – they cannot move, only your lower leg below the knee joint (the door) can swing out. This encourages not only good technique but also greater strengthening and stability at the hip.
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
Beginner // 12 reps // 3 sets
This exercise is great – definitely my pick of the bunch! Most hamstring/glute exercises involve an upwards followed by a downwards movement. However, when we consider the hamstring muscle exerts across two joints – the hip and the knee, this exercise is the ideal way to work through two planes of movement and get the best results possible at the top and middle of the hamstrings, which gives the a bum great shape!
Nordic Hamstring Curl
Advanced // 8-12 reps // 3 sets
This is a slightly more challenging exercise for the more conditioned gym-goer. It requires you to use an immovable object as an anchor (the lat pulldown machine works well). We have performed this one using the ‘quick rebound’ technique, by which you straighten your legs lowering yourself down and then have a BOSU ball to aid your return to the upright position. The physical demand of this movement means that you may find yourself doing lower reps during your sets. Furthermore, it’s ideal that you focus on lowering your body as slowly as possible during the eccentric phase to maximise the tension on your hamstrings and glutes.
Close Stance Sled Leg Press
Beginner // 10 reps // 3 sets
This exercise is simple enough as most people are familiar with the leg press machine in their gyms. Although there are various leg press machines available at the gym, we have found the sled leg press to be most effective for this exercise.
Take notice of my feet’s positioning; the purpose of keeping a narrow stance with the feet neutral is to increase the workload on the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
Single-Leg Squat on a Bench
Advanced // 10 reps // 3 sets (per leg)
Developing your balance, core stability and control in movement, this exercise is also very tough but will get great results! Standing carefully on a bench, move onto one leg and let the other leg hang over the side of the bench. With control, squat to the greatest depth you can, ensuring that you have enough in the tank to return to starting position. It is important to ensure you are pushing through the heels, transferring your weight from the balls of your feet – leaning too far onto your toes during a squatting action will increase the likelihood of a knee injury!
If you are unable to perform a substantial amount of reps, continue increasing your leg strength with other exercises and then re-attempt.