For most women, the lower body is where all those little indulgences--a heaping bowl of pasta here, an extra slice of cheesecake there--come home to rest. That's because thousands of years ago, we needed fat storage to survive droughts and long winters. Women with more lower body fat had the evolutionary advantage, which was passed down through the generations. Now that we have food at every corner, we no longer need this reserve. But our bodies have not caught up with the times.
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To counter these fat-gathering spots, cut back on super-size portions and snacks and try these simple strengthening exercises to shed excess fat and firm your lower-body muscles. Do two sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side two or three times a week, leaving a day of rest between workouts.
Read on for 5 must-do lower body moves.
Standing with your feet together and arms by your sides, shift your weight onto your right foot. Rest the toe of your left foot next to your right foot for balance.
Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips and knees, and slowly sit back onto your right leg, raising your arms straight in front of you as you lower (hold onto the back of a chair for balance, if you need to).
Stop when your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, and hold for a second. Then press into your right foot through the heel and stand back up.
Avoid knee pain with easy, effective moves
Come down on all fours, knees under hips, shoulders over the wrists. Keep your back flat and head down in line with your back.
With your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your left leg up and back so the sole of your left foot is facing the ceiling. Without dropping the knee down, cross it over the calf of your right leg. Keep your buttocks tight at all times. Do not let your right hip jut out to the right as you do the move. Try to keep the hips evenly balanced.
Return to the starting position. Do one set, then repeat with the other leg. (You can add 1-pound ankle weights to make this exercise more difficult.)
More quick fixes for a firmer butt
Stand, knees slightly bent, with your left hand on a wall or chair for balance. Extend your right leg out straight out to the right, keeping the knee soft and flexing the foot.
Lift as far as you can without moving your upper body. Pause for a second, then return to the starting position. Complete a set, then repeat with the opposite leg.
Need an upper body challenge? Try these moves
Lie on your left side with your legs stacked on top of each other, feet flexed. Prop yourself up on your left elbow, hand supporting the head. Rest the fingertips of your right hand in front of your abs for balance.
Raise your right leg about 12 inches, then slowly raise your left leg to meet it. Hold for 2 seconds, then lower each leg separately. Repeat.
Target your ab fat with these moves
Standing with your feet together, hold 5-8 pound dumbbells down at your sides with palms facing in toward your thighs.
Take one big step forward with your right leg. Plant your right foot, then slowly lower your left knee toward the floor, hovering it off the floor. Your right knee should be at a 90-degree angle, and your back straight.
Press into your right foot, and push yourself back to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.
Tone your arms in just 10 minutes