Hi Hayley -

I recently lost some weight, which am very pleased with and have needed to do for a long time. Unfortunately, I also lost most of my bum, which used to be curvy and awesome and is now kind of flat. What exercises can I do the bulk up the muscle as much as possible without bulking up my thighs? I know that spot training for reduction doesn't work, but can you spot train with the aim of bulking up just one area?



One of the reasons we over develop muscles in our body while feeling as though the muscles we want to tone or strengthen remain weak and non-existent is because our bodies do not know how to properly recruit the muscles we are wanting to engage. Since most of our daily activities require us to use our anterior muscles (the muscles on the front of our bodies) they become overactive and tight and then when we try to use our posterior muscles (the muscles on the back of the body such as our glutes) our bodies do not know how to do this anymore and we compensate by finding a way to keep using our stronger muscles. (There is a lot more science behind this but I won’t get into that here.)

The first step in recreating balance is learning how to use your muscles again, so when you are doing basic exercises such as squats, lunges and step ups, you are building the strength of your glutes and hamstrings. Unfortunately there is no way to not strengthen the quads as you do these movements because all of the muscles work together, but if you are doing the movements properly then you can be sure that you will start to gain shape of your glutes again.

So here is how you want to approach these movements.

First, and most importantly, you want to maintain a neutral spine, meaning your abs are staying engaged throughout the entire movement which prevents your back from arching. As you begin to lower your hips towards the floor, imagine you are sitting back into a chair and if you need to you can even place a chair behind you to sit onto which will help you do this correctly. Also, focus on the weight placement in your feet as you should feel your body weight through your heels, the outside of your foot and then into your big toe while keeping a high arch. Practice squatting without shoes so you can really get an understanding of doing them properly. Your knees, throughout the movement, should be in line with your toes, never extending over them or buckling to the midline of your body. 

Start doing lunges in front of a mirror and pay attention to what is happening with your hips. Your feet should not be wider than hip width apart and the weight displacement on your front foot should be the same as it is in a squat. Your back foot is then up on the ball with the heel staying raised as you lower your back knee towards the floor. As you are dropping down make sure your hips are staying square because most people have the tendency of allowing the hip of the back leg to drop, and keep your body upright. If you cannot keep your hips level or stay tall through your upper body, then hold onto something to help, as a level pelvis is the only way that you are really going to target the glutes on the front leg. That glute is what should be powering you back up to your starting position.

Step ups
Just like lunges, you MUST keep a level pelvis as you are stepping up onto your riser, so start by practicing this movement in front of a mirror. Work on not powering through the back leg that is on the ground but rather the foot that is positioned on the bench and drive up through full extension. On the way down, try to continue to keep your pelvis level, finding strength in the glutes.

You may also want to add in those leg lifts that Jane Fonda made so famous back in the day. When doing these movements while on all fours or on your side, you must make sure your hips and your pelvis are staying still. This takes mega core strength. Do not worry right away about lifting your legs high, but really focus on using the backs of your legs to do the lifting, or when on the side find the abductors (your outer thighs). A cue I like to give my clients when doing these movements is imagining a pencil right in the glute/hamstring fold and trying and squeeze that pencil as their leg is lifting.

Adding in multiple sets of all of these exercises should help you find that butt that you are missing.

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Attached- Karlie Kloss leaving the gym yesterday in New York.