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The trick to getting nicely
sculpted thighs and glutes is specifically targeting these muscle groups
-- the quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings (back of the thighs),
and gluteals (butt).
Building these muscles will
increase stamina in most everything you do, including climbing stairs,
getting out of a chair, squatting to pick up a baby off the floor, or
walking the grocery aisles.
Some of the largest in the
body, the upper leg muscles, are made up of quadriceps, hamstrings,
abductors (outer thighs), and adductors (inner thighs) and it is important
that they be worked with some balance, says exercise physiologist and
personal trainer Nicole Gunning.
"You want to develop
these muscles in a balanced way for optimal function," says Gunning.
"Otherwise you end up with things like improper gait, problems with
balance, and trouble with normal daily living activities."
Weak, tight, or imbalanced
muscles are going to manifest in more than just reduced performance. Over
time, these imbalances cause bigger problems.
"Over-attention to any
muscle group is going to cause a compromise in another," says
When one part of the leg is
more developed than the other, it can pull the hips and pelvis out of
alignment, which challenges stability and eventually leads to back, hip,
knee, and ankle pain, she says. The next thing you know, people are
treating back or knee pain, when what they really want to be doing is
balancing muscle development.
Gunning sees many clients with
tight hamstrings, for instance, runners.
"Using these muscles over
and over on hills and different terrain," she says, "and
repetitively contracting the muscle and not stretching can reduce the
range of motion."
Stretching is a huge part of
the equation, says Gunning.
"A lot of people that
have injuries, I believe a big part is that they don't make a conscious
effort to stretch. They'll do two minutes of stretching after 50 minutes
of working out."
That is wrong, says Gunning.
Stretching should be incorporated into any weight training and
cardiovascular program, just the way a healthful, nutritious diet should.
You can't expect to work out but eat Twinkies all day and look good. By
the same token, you shouldn't expect to prevent injury by constantly
contracting a muscle group and never extending it.
Following are a few exercises
for the thighs and gluteals. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just
a few options to develop the muscles of the lower body. Gunning does warn
however, that there is no such thing as spot reduction.
"It's a combination of
working the muscle and changing the diet," she says. "Sometimes
a person can lose weight and train properly and do everything right and
some areas are harder to change."
Gravity, connective tissue,
age, and genetics all play into the shape of our butt and legs, she says.
But don't let that be a roadblock, either.
"You're still going to
tone muscles and feel better and look better."
Beginners should strive to
complete one set of 10-15 and work toward completing two to three sets.