As spring approaches, many of us are becoming more concerned with our so-called "beach bodies."
While being conscious of your shape and figure can be a great way to engage in a healthier lifestyle, being too aware of your physicality may become detrimental. In a world where it is easy to compare yourself to people through social media and other outlets, it is critical to remember that every body is beautiful and that a workout while targeting a certain aesthetic goal should still remain focused on overall health and wellness.
Reminder; you should always start your workout by stretching and rolling out for at least 10 minutes.
Here are my key tips and tricks to gaining lower body muscle:
1. If you want to purchase supplements, then BCAAs are the way to go to build and keep muscle.
2. Ankle weights are easy to find at Walmart or Target.
3. Resistance bands are a great tool to incorporate; I got mine from Amazon.
4. Make sure you eat a lot of protein (Greek yogurt, protein shakes, lean chicken breast, unsalted nuts, etc.) If you don’t get enough calories and protein, then you won’t be able to truly build muscle and retain it.
5. If you have a more difficult time building lower body muscle or gaining weight, then maybe consider creatine, but be aware that it is a dehydrator.
6. Limit your cardio (but do not stop altogether, it is good for your heart). If you want to build muscle and create curves, good cardio to include are the stairs (try doing two at a time if you can and try additional safe alternative moves).
7. Squeeze your booty at the top of a squat and during the hip thrusts, etc. to get most gains. It relates to the mind to muscle connection in which you think about where you want to build and the muscles being targeted during each exercise.
You should begin with glute activation exercises so your more weighted work will be effective.
The best glute activation workouts are:
1. Jumping Squats: I usually do 40 of these.
2. Hip Thrusts: I usually do these with a resistance band and do 50 without weight and then do one more set with a 25 pound dumbbell or higher.
3. Side Lying Clams: I use my resistance band for these and do 50 per side, I put the band on my upper thighs.
4. Donkey Kick Backs: I use leg weights for these. I do 50 per leg.
5. Fire Hydrants: use the ankle weights if you have them. I do four sets of 12 per leg.
6. Crab Walk: placing the band above your ankles and staying low until burn out.
7. Crossover Step-Up: I use 30 lbs. and do four sets of 12 per leg.
More exercises to do with machines or otherwise:
1. Squats: Many variations are good, but start with basics and be sure to get your FORM down before adding weight. I use dumbbells to do mine if I don’t want to do it with the barbell and if I use dumbbells, I use two 35 lbs. weights and try to do six sets of 12. You can add a pulse motion at the bottom to make it harder and gradually build from a lower weight over time.
2. Lunges: These also can be done with many variations. Jump squats are great, but I usually do a bouncing squat with 25 or 30 lbs. 30 times per leg. Then I do walking lunges with weight and this will depend on how much space you have for reps.
3. Leg press: I do high weight (full body weight or higher) leg press six sets of 8 or 12 depending on the weight and then do single leg presses at 25 lbs. Make sure you don’t completely straighten your legs when doing these because that is how you get injured.
4. Abduction Machines: You should do both variations and see what weight is most comfortable with four sets of 12.
5. Dead Lifts: Again, make sure you get form down. I do my same pattern of four sets of 12, so adjust the weight whether using dumbbells or a barbell to what feels right for you.
Finally, I burn out and try to do 10-20 minutes on the StairMaster, taking two steps at time in fat burn mode.
You can do the above workout or variations of it two to three times a week and focus on upper body and cardio on your other gym days. It is all about balance, safety and self-love no matter where you are in your fitness journey.