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Need a Tight and Toned Butt?

So many women are not satisfied with the strength or shape of their glutes. If this describes you, you can be sure that you are not alone. The glutes are large muscles that give shape and structure to the buttocks. Therefore, improvements in muscle tone and shape cannot occur without engaging the glutes at least in moderately intense activity. One-legged movements that activate the main muscles of the hip are therefore a prerequisite for claiming beautiful glutes. One-legged squats are very intense and activate the gluteal muscles of the working leg. However, this can be too intense if you haven’t developed a base for your hip muscles. So, if you haven’t invested in serious hip training, it’s better to start climbing stairs, machine leg presses, and lunges with dumbbells for additional resistance for several months before moving on to the more intense one-leg squats described here. If you already have a base of strength, this fairly intense exercise can be added to your workout routine. However, there are still a few precautions that you should be aware of before starting the exercise and these are discussed.

The glutes

The buttocks or buttocks protrusion is located on both sides and in the back of the hip bones. The gluteus maximus is the most important hip extensor and the thickest muscle of all hip muscles. It contains the strongest and largest muscle fibers in the body. The fibers of the gluteus maximus adhere to the bones of the hip, sacrum, and along the lumbar region of the hip and lower back structures. This muscle eventually attaches posteriorly to the thighbone of the thigh in a section called the gluteal line or gluteal tuberosity. It also has an attachment on the iliotibial ligament of the facia lata, which is usually a tough band of connective tissue that runs from the hip over the lateral side of the thigh to the knee. The gluteus maximus appears to be well anchored here and therefore tends to be active when other muscles of the thigh are active.

This is the main extensor muscle of the hip joint. This means that when the thigh is fixed (such as when your lower legs are firmly on the floor) and the hip joint can move freely, this muscle can stretch your lower back. Since it adheres to the hip bones and crosses the hip joint, it can support the extension functions of the lower back (e.g. muscles of the erector spinee). The gluteus maximus is active when the movement between the pelvis and femur exceeds 15 degrees of extension, so shallow squats or short steps on a stair climber won’t do the job.

The gluteus medius is a very important fan-shaped muscle that lies only deep within the gluteus maximus. Its fibers run between the ileum bone of the hip and the back of the femur bone of the thigh. It abducts the femur at the hip joint by moving the femur laterally away from the midline of the body. The median glute plays an important role in maintaining balance while walking. This is especially important as we get older, as weakness in this muscle increases the likelihood of falling accidents in the elderly. It is also important for sports that require changing posture quickly without losing balance (e.g. martial arts, inline skating).

The third and smallest muscle in this group is the gluteus minimus. It sticks to the outer surface of the ileum bone of the hip, just deep to the gluteus medius. It adheres to the back and middle surfaces of the femur. Similar to the gluteus medius, this muscle acts in such a way that it abducts the femur at the pelvis.

One-legged squats

Exercises that are activated Large muscle groups are never easy and this is the case with one-legged squats. Hence, you should be ready to make a good effort, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you feel upset after a single sentence.

1. Position a bench lengthways behind you. The bench should also sit behind a solid vertical bar or, if available, the handles of a parallel dive station. You will be holding the bar or bar with one or both hands to support your body and to prevent you from falling forward or backward. Parallel (dip) bars are ideal because you can stabilize your upper body even further by holding the bars with both hands.

2. The first time you exercise your right leg, bend your left knee (non-working leg) about 90 degrees and place the top of your left foot on the bench. In this position, the hip joint of the non-working leg is extended (so the heel of the left leg is behind your buttocks). This leg position is designed to help maintain balance and make this a one-legged exercise.

3. Your toes on the work leg (right) should be angled slightly outward, not straight ahead. This angle creates a more direct line of pull of the patellar tendon over the patella (kneecap) than if the knees were collapsed, and slightly reduces the stress from the front of the hip joint.

4. Shift your body weight onto your right leg and slowly lower your body by bending your right knee. Keep your eyes and head straight and try to keep your back straight as your body descends. Continue lowering your buttocks toward the floor until your knee is about 90 degrees or until your buttocks are just touching the bench.

5. Rise up by straightening your right knee, but don’t let it block. This will maintain tension in the hamstrings and glutes, and also prepare you for the next downward repetition. Don’t keep your eyes on the floor when you go up or down as this will reduce your stability and you may lose your balance.

6. After about 10 repetitions, take a short break with your right leg. Then position your right leg so that it rests on the bench. Start your squats for the left leg.

7. If you have trouble on the way up, just sit on the bench, put your feet firmly on the floor, and stand up. It’s not worth fighting and losing balance or straining the muscles that are responsible for stabilizing your hip joints.

8. Add more reps as you build muscle strength and endurance. After you’ve done about two sets of 30 repetitions on each leg, you can add some resistance. However, it is much better to put a weighted belt (e.g. 5 pounds of resistance) around your waist as this will evenly distribute the extra resistance that your thighs and hips can press against. A worse approach is to hold a dumbbell in one hand, as you also increase the likelihood that some torque (twisting) will be applied to the hip and spine when squatting, increasing the risk of injury.

More about the muscles

The angle between the torso and thighs determines the relative activation of the gluteal muscles. If your back is kept vertical and perpendicular to the floor during the descent, your quadriceps will play a bigger role and your glutes won’t work as hard. If, on the other hand, the upper body bends slightly forward (but never more than 30 degrees forward), the gluteus maximus is activated more. However, if you bend more, there is an increased risk of injury to your lower back. The gluteus maximus muscle is most active during the standing phase (from the lowest position back to the starting position). The gluteus medius and minimus muscles are particularly active in the upper part of the lift and prevent the thighs from falling out to the side.

Other considerations and precautions

While this is a great glutes and thighs exercise, it is definitely not for everyone. One problem with the exercise is that it causes a significant amount of hip and knee stress, and this is exacerbated in some women who have an acute angle between the hip bones and the thigh bones of the thigh. Without substantial preparation of the support structures, the hip and knee joints can be sore and acutely injured. This won’t be every woman’s experience, but the wider your hips, the more likely you will develop an injury.

You can help minimize this potential injury by keeping a fairly wide posture while crouching. However, if you are not used to regular leg presses and squats or climbing stairs (not walking flat stairs, but climbing several flights of stairs), avoid this exercise until you have a good strength base around your hip joint and strengthening muscles and tendons with it connected to the knee joint. The one-legged squat is an exercise that can potentially be done for two or three months if you are symptom-free (aside from routine and expected muscle discomfort). Then it would be good to stop the exercise for a month and substitute another exercise before returning to it. While this is a great exercise that will help tone and tone beautiful glutes, it has a high risk factor for possible injury. So be very careful and very strict in your practice form.

References:

Beck M., Sledge JB, et al. (2000). The anatomy and function of the gluteus minimus muscle. J Bone Joint Surg Br 82, 358- 363.

Holder-Powell HM and Rutherford OM (2000). Unilateral injury to the musculoskeletal system of the lower extremities: long-term effect on balance. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 81, 265- 268.

Hostler D, Schwirian CI et al. (2001). Skeletal muscle adjustments in young men and women who have been trained by elastic resistance. Eur J Appl Physiol 86, 112-100; 118.

Isear JA, Jr., Erickson JC, and Worrell TW (1997). EMG analysis of the recruitment patterns of muscles of the lower extremities during an unloaded squat. Med Sci Sports Exerc 29,532-539.

Kvist J and Gillquist J (2001). Knee translation in the sagittal plane and electromyographic activity during closed and open kinetic chain exercises in patients and controls with anterior cruciate ligament deficiency. Am J Sports Med 29, 72- 82.

Rahmani A., Viale F. et al. (2001). Strength / speed and strength / speed relationships in squat exercises. Eur J Appl Physiol 84, 227- 232.

Toutoungi DE, Lu TW et al. (2000). Cruciate ligament forces in the human knee during rehabilitation exercises. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon) 15, 176-165; 187.

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