Hourglass, apple, pear—you’re used to people talking about body types, but what about butt types? Maybe you haven’t thought about it at all, but certainly you’ve noticed not all derrieres are created equal. So, why should your workout be one size fits all? Any trainer will tell you it shouldn’t. The sculpting needs of a heart-shaped bottom differ from those of a square shape. Which is why we called up a few of favourite professional trainers to help devise a plan to tone and sculpt your unique butt shape.
Scroll through to determine your butt type and find the workout plan that’s right for you!
You may already know your butt type, but if not, we suggest recruiting a friend (a good friend) to snap a photo of your lower half in leggings. Don’t be afraid to get the straight-on shot, the side view, and even a 45-degree view. These photos will come in handy not only for determining your shape but also to monitor the changes as you progress with your bum-sculpting plan.
Once you know your shape, scroll down to find the experts’ recommendations.
Square shapes fall a little on the bottom and hold excess volume up top, which can create a muffin top. To lift your bum, Tracey Mallet, the program creator for 24 Hour Fitness responsible for Bootybarre, says you should focus on the gluteus medias—the lateral muscles that sit higher on your booty, closer to your waist. And to really eliminate that muffin top, Xavier Quimbo, co-founder and expert trainer at Speedplay, says you need to add rotation. “When you add rotation to your lunges and legwork, you're working your waist as well, which will help to trim down the love handle area. Two of my favorite exercises are a forward lunge with rotation and a reverse crossover lunge (or a curtsy lunge). Other than hitting your butt, these will target your waist, abs, obliques, and lower back as well,” Quimbo says.
Lunge with rotation: Hold a dumbbell right in front of your chest, do a forward lunge—dropping deep into a 90-degree bend in both legs and keeping your knee aligned with your ankle on the front leg)—and then rotate your trunk and the dumbbell toward your front leg. Do 12 reps on one leg. Then, staying on the same leg, do 12 curtsy lunges.
Curtsy lunge: Cross your left leg behind your right at about a 45-degree angle and lunge, come back to center, and repeat. Once you’ve done 12 reps of each exercise, switch legs.
Side-leg lifts: Lay on your side with your bottom leg bent and your head resting on your ear. Keep your top leg extended and facing forward (as opposed to turning out the leg) with toes pointed, as you lift and lower your leg with control. Don’t let it come down completely and rest on your lower leg at the bottom of the movement. Do 16 reps, and then pulse it a few inches off the ground for another 16 reps. Then, Mallett says you can move on to the next exercise, keeping your working leg the same.
Squat with lateral raise: Stand tall with feet parallel hip-width apart, and then lower into a deep squat, sending your hips back toward the ground behind you. As you return to the top, lift your leg out to the side with a flexed foot. Repeat 16 times on one leg, and then switch to complete both side-leg exercises on the other leg.
“With the round O shape, the goal is just to maintain the shape with a great overall program,” Quimbo says. Both experts agree the best way to create more definition is to get all the muscles involved. “Hitting your glutes from all angles and in different ways will maintain firmness and help you keep the shape you want.”
First up, the lunge matrix. Do a forward lunge with the right foot, move your right foot out into a lateral lunge (your left leg will be straight in this lunge), and then move your right foot back into a reverse lunge. “Try not to reset in between lunges, but move fluidly straight through the lunge matrix,” Quimbo says. Do 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
Next, plié squats in second position. Stand with your feet are a little bit wider than hip-width apart, and externally rotate your legs at the hips so your toes are turned out. Lower into a deep bend in your knees, and then straighten your legs to stand up again. Do 10 to 12 reps. Then, Mallett recommends pulsing up and down at the bottom of your last plié for 10 counts.
Finally, find a countertop or chair for Pilates sidekicks. Stand bent over with a flat back, legs stacked under your hips and one forearm resting on the chair with the shoulder directly over the elbow. Place the opposite hand on your hip. With your foot flexed, lift that leg up to hip height. Then, keeping your leg at the same height, send it back straight behind you. Lower your working leg and repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps. Then, pulse your leg up and down at hip height for 10 counts. Repeat on the other side.
Heart-shaped bottoms are not lacking in the gluteus maximus area. The key is to work the hamstrings and the gluteus medius to lift the area. “The best exercises to perk up the heart shape and round it out a bit are lateral movements that attack the gluteus medius, which sits higher, closer to your waist,” Quimbo says. Mallett suggests some rear leg extensions to target the back of your upper legs—the spot where your leg meets your derriere (aka your hamstrings).
Start with lateral walks using a resistance band, like NeeBooFit’s Resistance Band Loop ($8). Place or tie the band around your calves. Quimbo says you should feel tension in the band when standing with feet hip-width apart. Stand tall, engage your abs, and take a controlled step out to the side with your right leg. Then, take another step with your left foot, bringing your feet back to hip-width apart. Do 10 to 12 steps, and then head back with left leg leading.
Next up, single-leg squats. “You can use a chair here as a reference for depth or for safety and support,” Quimbo says. Balance on your right leg with your left leg lifted off the ground in front you. Keep your arms extended in front of you for counterbalance, and squat deep on your balancing leg, keeping your abs engaged and back straight. But don’t simply lower straight down. “Make sure to initiate the movement by moving your hips back to really get into that butt muscle.” Do 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
Lastly, hold onto that chair and use it for balance with these arabesque and attitude lifts. Stand facing the chair with your legs externally rotated from the hips and feet turned out. Engage your abs and press your shoulders down and back. Place your left forearm on the chair with your opposite hand on your right hip to help stabilize. Keep your left leg slightly bent as you lift the right leg behind your body to just below hip height. Mallett notes that you will have to pitch your body forward slightly to reach that height. Just don’t let go of your form in doing so. Lift your leg up and down with control for 10 to 12 reps. Try not to rest your working leg on the ground at the bottom of the movement. Then, maintain the same position, but bend your working leg into an attitude position (knee lifted with a 45- to 90-degree bend). Do 10 to 12 reps in attitude, and then switch legs.
The experts have spoken: You really need to fire up that gluteus maximus (the posterior glute muscles that give your booty a little more lift and pop) in order to turn that V shape upside down. Quimbo suggests exercises that also focus on hip range of motion (it’s all a part of hitting those glutes) to plump up the saggy outer parts of this shape.
Loaded squats: Stand with your chest up and open, shoulders rolled down and back, core engaged, and feet hip-width apart. Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand as you squat down and up, always coming to a 90-degree bend in the legs. Do 12 reps.
Goblet squats: Open your stance so that your feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold a heavy weight at your chest, as you squat as low as you can (exceeding a 90-degree bend) while keeping your feet flat on the floor. “By going past a 90-degree bend in your knee, you get that extra gluteus maximus activation,” Quimbo says. He also stresses the importance of keeping your posture upright in this movement. Do 12 reps.
Bent-leg pulses: For this exercise, Mallett says you’ll need a small ball, like ProBody Pilates’s Mini Exercise Ball ($11). Stand facing a chair with a ball behind the back of one knee. Pitch your body forward from the hips into a flat back position with your forearms are resting on the chair. With a small bend in your supporting leg, lift your working leg up level with your hips, knee bent to hold the ball in place. Flex your foot, squeeze the ball, and pulse your leg up and down 16 times.
All-fours lateral raises: Get in a tabletop position on all fours, hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips. Maintaining the bend in your leg, lift one knee up to the side to bring your leg level with your hips. With control, lower it down again without setting your knee back on the ground. Do 16 reps, and then repeat both exercises on the other leg.
Opening image: Levis / ASOS
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