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Lunges are one of the keys to building a better butt, personal trainers say.
By MSNBC contributor
updated 1/24/2006 7:07:52 AM ET 2006-01-24T12:07:52

What's the best way to firm up your buttocks? And how do you get rid of back fat? Smart Fitness answers your queries. Have an exercise question? To e-mail us, click here . We’ll post select answers in future columns.

Q: I have been trying to tighten my glutes but nothing is working. I would like to get a little lift. Any advice?

A: "The best exercises for really building the mass of the gluteus maximus — which helps to lift it — are squats and lunges," says personal trainer Rob Glick, an Orange County, Calif.-based spokesperson for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association and program director for Crunch gyms.

If you've been doing squats and lunges and not seeing results, Glick advises intensifying your program by adding additional weight (using hand-held dumbbells for lunges, and dumbbells or a barbell for squats) so that the resistance is greater but you're still able to keep good form.

Proper technique for a squat is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then lower your body as if you're sitting back in a chair, keeping your weight over your heels to mid-foot and your knees at no more than a 90-degree angle, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Hold this position briefly and then return to the starting position.

For forward lunges, start in the same position and lunge forward with your right leg, keeping your weight over the back of your right foot. Your spine should be straight, with your shoulders over your hips, ACE notes. Your left (back) leg should be bent at no more than a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position and then repeat with the other side.

Glick recommends doing three sets of 12 to 16 repetitions of both squats and lunges two to three times a week. On a perceived-exertion scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being easy and 10 being very difficult, beginners should aim for a 6 or 7, he says, and start with no weight. When the activity becomes easier, add more weight.

Beyond squats and lunges, Gregory Joujon-Roche, a Los Angeles-based trainer to celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, says Pilates, martial arts and ballet are other great ways to tone your tush.

Of course, an important factor in firming up your backside is losing any excess fat. Your buttocks won't look taut if there's a layer of fat jiggling on top of your glutes.

For burning the fat and helping to give the buttocks a lift, Joujon-Roche, an contributor to The Fit List, recommends elliptical training and outdoor runs on the beach or grass, for some added resistance.

Q: I seem to have accumulated "back fat" this past year. How do I get rid of it?

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A: There's no single exercise you can do to get rid of fat only on your back, or anywhere else. "There's just no spot reducing," Glick notes.

To lose fat on your back, you'll have to burn calories and lose fat all over. In doing so, you should shrink the fat on your back, too.

Since you've been gaining fat over the past year, take a look at your diet and exercise routine. Are you eating more and/or exercising less? If so, something has to change. To lose a pound of fat, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories by eating less and exercising more.

What exercises are best? Whichever ones you like, says Glick.

"The rule of thumb is that if you're enjoying an activity, you'll stick with it," he says, "and the No. 1 thing is adherence."

Smart Fitness appears every other Tuesday.

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