Since giving birth to my second child in May, I’ve been working to regain tone in my legs and lift in my “apples!” (That’s mum-speak for a perky behind). As a trainer, I strategically combined three of the best-of-the-best butt and thigh exercises into a manageable 10-minute circuit.
In minimal time, I can squeeze this workout in from home between all the mayhem that comes with being a mum—and I have been wowed by the results! I do this circuit, on average, twice a week in conjunction with other full-body workouts. If you do the same, you can expect to see, feel, and measure real results in two months.
What You'll Need
- Bench or step deck. You can use equipment at your gym or invest in one like the Reebok Professional Deck Workout Bench ($170, amazon.com).
- Medium-heavy resistance band with handles. The Single Black Mountain Products Resistance Band ($10, amazon.com) fits the bill.
- Set of dumbbells. I choose to use SoftBells ($50 each, amazon.com) because I appreciate the safety of training with sand while my baby crawls around. They're also easy on my fragile floors.
Exercise 1: Laying Leg Extensions
What’s great about this starting move is that it isolates the quadriceps muscles (fronts of the thighs). With most lower body exercises, the quads assist but the glutes take charge of most of the work, because they are the strongest muscles in the body. Laying leg extensions brace through the core and hips to enable this move to be all about the fronts of the thighs! It was a no-brainer that I would need this move in the circuit to cut the chiselled quad definition I wanted in my thighs.
How to do Laying Leg Extensions:
Fit a resistance band into the grommets of your step deck. (If you don’t have this type of bench, just weave it through the bottom side of a step aerobics bench or weight lifting bench). Place the handles of the tube over your feet, like stirrup pants (hello, 1990!). Lay back and lift your legs straight up in the air, over your hips. Hold your hands behind your hamstrings.
Bend your knees to bring your heels towards your butt. Hold momentarily, then extend the legs back up to starting position. Never change the angle at the hips—only bend and extend at the knees.
Repeat, bending and extending, for 45 seconds. Take 10 seconds to transition to Exercise 2 below.
Exercise 2: Forward Step-Ups
These are in a league of their own for toning your butt. When scientists hooked up EMG sensors to find out how intensely the butt muscles fire in standard butt-toning exercises, forward step-ups took top honours. Add a set of dumbbells in each hand and you have the perfect combination of movement plus resistance to maximize your gluteus maximus.
How to do Forward Step-Ups:
Stand behind a step deck or bench. Hold a set of dumbbells by your sides (or not, if you’d like to make it easier). Plant your right foot on top of the platform. Hold your core muscles tight and keep your spine erect. Gaze straight ahead.
Lift your left knee up to meet your right hip height. Keep your body weight on the right side. Hold momentarily at the top, then lower your left foot back down to the ground.
Repeat, taking your left knee up and down for 45 seconds. Switch legs and plant your left foot on the bench to lift/lower your right knee up and down for 45 more seconds. Take 5 seconds to transition to Exercise 3 below.
Exercise 3: Straddle Jump Squats
This is the power move. The first two were strength-training exercises that give the muscles definition, and this third one blasts fat. Metabolic training—which is especially effective at trimming visceral fat—is all about exercises like this that get your heart pounding. Here’s my take on jumping exercises: If you can land lightly and have no pain in any major joint complexes, do them! However, if landing from a jump causes pain in your knees, hips, or lower back, choose an alternative move and work on rapid rhythm. (I'll show you a perfectly suitable low-impact alternative a bit further down.)
How to do Straddle Jump Squats:
Straddle your feet on either side of a bench. Find your natural turnout and plant your feet at that angle. Sink down through a shallow squat, dropping your hips enough that you feel your thighs start to burn, but not so low that you butt touches the bench. Be sure to track your knees in the same direction as your toes.
Explode up from the floor into a leap that takes your feet from the ground onto the bench. Land softly (toe-to-heel) with your feet close together and your knees and hips bent into a semi-squat (as pictured above). As soon as you have nailed the landing, explode into a jump off the bench, extending your knees and hips in the air, and land in starting position.
Repeat, jumping on and off, for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds.
Plant your feet on the floor, straddling the bench.
Squat, repeatedly, with body weight only for the 30 seconds, taking your butt to the bench then returning to standing. Try to complete as many repetitions as possible during this timeframe while always focusing on quality of movement as your top objective!
Repeat all these moves two more times for a total of three rounds (10 minutes). That's the workout!
This article originally appeared on Prevention US.