Lower Body Blast: Workout to Burn Fat, Tone Hips and Thighs
By Mia and Ritch Finnegan
Are you one of the many women who are not satisfied with the way your hips and thighs look? If you answered yes, you’re not alone! You’ve tried yo-yo dieting, starving, cellophane wraps and thigh creams, but to no avail. Why? Because independently they don’t work! To burn fat from your hips and thighs you need to burn fat all over your body. Incinerating fat all over your body takes a triple threat: 1) portion-controlled meals; 2) cardiovascular work; and 3) resistance training. Many women have one goal in mind – losing fat on their hips and thighs – not realizing that it’s just part of the overall problem. Are you ready to change and are you ready to do what it takes?
The Fat-Loss Triangle
Most of the time, a person is ready to start exercising, but not ready to make the nutritional changes necessary to see results. You can’t exercise fat away without a balanced effort that addresses the other sides of the fat-loss triangle. The three sides are being nutrition, cardio, resistance training. Keep in mind that the excess junk in your trunk is surplus fat storage. To burn the fat from these tanks, we need to first burn the fuel (glycogen) in the main tanks, which are the muscles. This is done through daily activity, cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Most importantly, we must not over fuel our bodies or we will always be swimming upstream. So, let’s start with the most powerful fat-loss tool in your arsenal – nutrition!
Thinking you’re going to leg lift or squat your way to thinner hips and thighs is a pipe dream. Success with your fat-loss goals depends 80 percent on your nutrition adherence. It may sound redundant, but applying nutritional knowledge is king. Over the years, how many articles and/or infomercials have you seen that promise you toned hips and thighs with just a few exercises and no mention of nutrition? We know how many, because it’s our job to sort the truth from the lies and misleading information. Assuming you haven’t been brainwashed by false promises and that your nutrition is where it needs to be, let us touch briefly on the other sides of the triad.
Be Heart Smart
Because cardiovascular exercise helps burn fat and a lot of calories too, it should be an important ingredient of your strategy (45-60 minutes daily). Aerobic (with oxygen) exercises, such as biking, running, stair climbing, treadmill walking and elliptical training are all good sources. Find which one you like best and stick with it. It may take your body some time to release the stored fat from the area you want, so remember that the first place you put on fat is usually the last place to come off! Moving on to the third component in our triangle offense and the main focus of this post – resistance training.
Weight and See
Increasing lean body mass (muscle) not only increases metabolism, but also helps to burn fat and calories when you’re doing absolutely nothing. Now don’t run scared because we used the word “increase.” Lean muscle tissue burns fat! Generally, women can naturally gain 5 to 7 pounds of muscle in a year; that is, without chemical enhancements. There is the exception of the woman who is predisposed to carry more muscle and put on muscle more easily (mesomorph), but that’s a whole other story. Nevertheless, the exercises in this program will be the same for everyone, but the weights necessary to help shape and tone your hips and thighs will be based on your overall fitness level and ability.
Predisposed to Adipose? (Blame it on Mom and Dad)
Knowing your genetic predisposition for fat plays and important role when it comes to setting goals. Take a look at your family tree. If mom and grandma carried fat in the hips and thighs, you may carry it too. We always recommend that you work within the framework of your genetics. To do this, hire a qualified personal trainer to help make a personalized plan and help put you on track when you’re just getting started.
Overnight Success Is a MYTH
Change is never easy. It takes patience and persistence to make your dream/goal become a reality. Understanding your readiness to make a change and being aware of your reluctance to change can cut down on frustration while trying to reach your goals. Remember that the road to your success is not a straight line; there will be periodic assessments to your progress and constant setbacks in your plan. Be flexible and roll with the punches. Behavior change is rarely a single step; in fact research shows it takes a series of small steps to change a behavior permanently.
You’re enlightened, poised and ready for the battle of the bulge, so what are you waiting for? Charge!
Beginner: One to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for the first three weeks. Once your fitness level has increased, you can elevate to the next level. Be sure you’re being consistent; sporadic workouts may cause injury.
Intermediate-Advanced: Two to three sets of 12-15 repetitions.
Use a weight that feels comfortable and doesn’t put too much strain on your tendons and ligaments.
*Complement this workout with 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular work three to five days per week.
Hip and Thigh Exercises
Lying (prone) Leg Curl (hamstrings)
Lie on your stomach with your knee in line with the axis of the machine and pad one inch above your heels. While pushing your hips into the pad, curl the weight until full contraction of the hamstring muscle. Your knees may rise slightly off the pad for a more full contraction.
Hip Adduction (inner thigh)
Using the adductor machine, position your legs so the inside of your knees rest against the pad. Your lower back should be in contact with the backrest. Your upper back will be in neutral position away from backrest. With your knees, push your legs together slowly. When your legs are closed, pause momentarily, then slowly return and repeat.
Hip Abduction (outer thigh)
With ankle straps on and attached to one leg, stand sideways to the machine with your knees slightly bent. (Use the frame of the machine to support yourself).
Leading with the heel (the one furthest from the machine), kick your leg out to the side. Go only as far as you can; this movement is approximately a 20-30 degree range of motion. Repeat on the opposite side.
With ankle strap on and attached to one leg, stand facing the machine with knees slightly bent. Use the frame of the machine as support, so your torso is at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Kick your leg back as far as you can without arching your back. While exhaling, concentrate on squeezing the buttocks. Repeat on the opposite side.
Glute/Hamstring Squeeze (on low back extension machine, aka hyperextensions)
Position the pad under your upper thigh instead of at your hips. Placing your hands across your chest and maintaining the curve in your lower back, lower your torso so your body is at a 90-degree angle to your legs. Once glutes and hamstrings are completely stretched, slowly rise up until your upper body is parallel to the floor, concentrating on contraction of the glutes by pushing your hips down into the pad.
Reverse Lunges on Block With Knee-Ups
Stand on a six to eight-inch block with your hands on your hips or dumbbells in your hands. Step back into a lunge position, placing just the ball of your foot on the floor. Keep the front knee directly over your foot; don’t let your front knee cross the toe line. Push back up through the starting position and end by bringing the back knee in front of you. The end position will be on one leg with the other knee up. Concentrate on squeezing the gluteus at the end of the range of motion while keeping your chest high.
One-Leg Squat With Ball (against wall)
Assume the squat position with an exercise ball against a wall and centered behind your lower back. With one foot flat on the floor and the other foot raised on the ball of your foot (so as not to put any weight on it), begin by lowering down into a squat position, concentrating on the leg being worked. When you reach 90 degrees, exhale and push back up using only the flat foot; the other leg should not be in contact with the floor any longer. Push back up to start position. Repeat 12-15 times. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Around the World Bridge on Ball (legs and core)
Begin from a supine (face up) bridge position, heels on ball, shoulders on floor, body maintaining a neutral position. Arms are to the side for support. Extending one leg to the ceiling, switch legs and repeat on the other side. Repeat eight to 12 times on each leg.
ADVANCED: You may move raised leg in a counter-clockwise circular movement. Be sure your shoulder blades remain on the floor. To make it more challenging, add an ankle weight to the working leg.
Single or Double Leg Glute Drop on Ball (hamstrings, gluteus maximus and core)
Begin with head and shoulder blades on ball in a supine position (face up). Knees are directly over top of ankles. Start with hips extended. (Body is one line, like a table). Inhale slowly and lower your glutes toward the floor keeping your knees above your ankles. Next, contract the glutes and exhale while lifting your hips up toward the sky and holding for two seconds. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
ADVANCED: You may place a weighted bar or dumbbells across your upper thighs and perform same technique. To make it more challenging, try the same movement on one leg with the other leg extended.
Seated Crossover Stretch
In a seated position, extend your right leg with the left leg bent, but crossed over it with the foot flat on the floor. With your right hand, grab the outside of your left knee and twist your torso to look behind you. Your left hand may rest on the ground behind your buttocks for support and extra stretch. Repeat on the opposite side.
Groin, Low Back and Hip
In a seated position, put the soles of your feet together and clasp the feet with both hands. Gently push your knees to the floor using your elbows as levers. Do not force this stretch; only go as far as you can.
In a standing position, with one hand on the wall, reach back and grasp your ankle just above the foot with your knees next to each other. Gently pull your foot up toward your butt until you feel a mild pulling sensation. Repeat on the opposite side.
In a sitting position, straighten one leg out with the other leg bent and the foot facing other inner thigh. If you have trouble reaching your foot, you may use a rope or towel. Reach forward toward the extended foot until you feel a mild pulling sensation. Repeat on the opposite side.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, cross the right leg over the left. Grab the back of your left knee with both hands and pull your legs toward your chest. You should feel the stretch in your right hip and glute. Switch legs and repeat on the other side. Note: If you can’t reach behind your knee, use a towel or stretching rope to assist you.