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Forget about all those fancy "butt-busting" fitness gadgets. A recent poll of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified fitness professionals found that simple squats and lunges are the best ways to tone and shape the gluteal muscles.
In the May/June1999, issue of ACE Fitness Matters, over 36,000 certified fitness professionals were asked to name the best exercise for achieving a shapely rear end. Most of the respondents said the best overall exercise was squats — with or without weights. Lunges were a close second.
Both exercises require core body balance and strength to isolate lower-body muscle groups. But other favorites were just as basic: walking uphill, jogging, and stair-climbing rounded out the top five.
Richard Cotton, the San Diego, CA-based ACE's chief exercise physiologist, is quick to point out that toning and shaping any muscle group requires incorporating a strong aerobic component into your exercise program.
"Squats and lunges will work to strengthen your gluteals, as well as most of the major muscle groups of the lower body," says Cotton, "but you will only see a change in shape if you are doing fat-burning aerobic exercise and watching your diet, as well. You'll get the strength benefits doing squats and lunges, but there will be no change in appearance without a well-rounded approach.
"Your best bet is walking uphill," he continues. "It's the best combination of aerobic activity to burn fat and anaerobic activity to shape muscles."
Cotton also strongly warns against believing any specific exercise is a sure-fire way to get the body you desire. A number of factors determine body size and shape, including diet, cardiovascular conditioning, and strength training. According to Cotton, however, something none of us control — genetics — is the No. 1 factor in body shape.