As much as we can deny it, most women over 50 Do care how they look from behind. There’s a reason, after all, that Spanx shapewear is ubiquitous and its founder, Sara Blakely, is a billionaire. There are degrees, of course, in our concern: Some of us want to feel good in our jeans, while others want to put up with it all at the beach. Whatever field you are in, the important thing is that your legs and buttocks, the muscles around your hips, are strong. They provide power for all your workouts. When they’re weak, you run the risk of other muscles taking over, which can cause you to suffer from back and knee pain.
The moves below target your butt (from a variety of angles) and legs. Increase the intensity by replacing rest periods with jumping jacks, jumping rope, or even sprints on a treadmill or around the block. It will give you a head start on sculpting and slimming to boot.
What to do: Perform each movement in order for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. (A couple of the Clam Shell and Crossover Kick moves will require you to switch sides and repeat before resting.) Repeat the circuit once; twice if there is time.
Gear: You will need a pair of 10- to 20-pound dumbbells.
Start: Warm up for five minutes first. Add cardio at the end or even between sets to extend your workout time or to add intensity, respectively.
Stiff-legged Dead Lift
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Bend forward from the hips about 90 degrees, keeping your back straight and the weights close to your legs almost brushing them as you lower them to the floor. Try to keep your knees as straight as possible. Push yourself up to the starting position, squeezing your glutes tightly as you stand up, and repeat. (For more of a challenge, balance on one leg at a time.)
Squat to raise the leg
Stand with feet hip-width apart and elbows bent at your sides (hold a dumbbell in each hand if you want an extra challenge). The toes point slightly outward. Squat, bending the knees about 90 degrees; put your hips back as if you were to pat them on a stool behind you. Stand up and shift your weight onto your left leg as you lift your right leg and both arms out to the side. Return to the squat and repeat on the other side. Continue, alternating sides.
Shell of clams
Lie on your left side with your back against a wall (it only prevents you from cheating). He rests his head on his left hand and bend his knees 90 degrees in front of you so only his feet and back are against the wall. Keeping the inside edges of the feet together, he lifts the right knee away from the left as far as possible without tipping the hips back (this isolates the gluteus medius). He lowers his leg and repeat. Do 30 seconds on one side, then switch and repeat to complete one set. For more of a challenge, he places a resistance band around his lower thighs, just above his knee.
Cross kick with dumbbells
Get on all fours and tuck a dumbbell behind your left knee (bend your knee slightly to lock the weight in place). He draws in the navel, engaging the abs, as you lift the left leg straight up, foot flexed, until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Lower leg to right, crossing left knee to outside of right leg. Lift it up again and lower it next to your right leg (starting position), then repeat. Do 30 seconds on the left side, then repeat on the right to complete one set.
Complete the circuit with a cardio burst: Start as in Squat to Leg Raise (#2), without dumbbells. Lower yourself into a squat, then forcefully jump straight up, taking in the air and raising your arms above your head (don’t lift one leg out to the side). If it’s too intense, stand on your toes each time instead of taking in the air.
It’s super common to have weak gluteal muscles, especially the gluteus medius. Check it with this simple test: Standing in front of a mirror, lift one leg out in front of you, bent at the knee, to hip height (tree pose, as you do in yoga, will help you spot this, too). Hold here for 30 seconds as you check hip placement – they should be even; a tape measure placed across the top of the pelvis and resting over the anterior hip bones would be parallel to the floor.
If you start to lunge on the standing leg (the hip of the lifted leg drops) or you find yourself pulling the hip back up on the side of the lifted leg, your gluteus medius on the standing leg may be weak. Repeat on the other side to compare. Balancing moves and poses, like the one on the left, can help strengthen these hip muscles.
A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, Get in Shape 2022.
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