Lunges and squats are often referred to as the masters of lower body exercises. In addition to your legs, these functional, compound exercises also work your buttocks. However, poor form, a muscle imbalance, the consistent overload on your knees, and the repetitive motion, can make these exercises wreak havoc on your knees. Not to fear, you can still strengthen and shape your glutes with do-able, effective exercise that are easy on your knees.
Squeeze Your Tush
Butt squeezes don’t require fancy equipment, and are discreet, so they can be done pretty much anywhere, whether you’re watching TV, or waiting in line at the grocery store. Simply squeeze your butt cheeks together, and hold the isometric contraction for 10 seconds. Do eight to 12 reps, two to three times a day. For variety, contract your butt while you walk; step forward with your right foot, and after your heel lands, squeeze your right butt cheek. Release the tension just before your toe lifts off the floor, and immediately repeat the exercise on your other side.
Mimic a Bridge
The bridge exercise effectively works your glutes, while also engaging your legs and calves. During this exercise you’re lying face up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart, flat on the floor. After engaging your abs, raise your hips, lifting your butt and lower back off the floor. When your body is aligned from your knees to your shoulders, squeeze your buttocks for two seconds, and then slowly return to the starting point. Finish at least eight repetitions and two sets.
Extend Your Hips
Hip extensions can work your glutes without hurting your knees. One option is to use a low-cable pulley with a cuff attachment that you secure around one ankle. While standing on a 5-inch platform, you extend your hip, pulling your leg about 15 degrees back against the selected resistance. Contract your glutes, and return to the starting point. Another way to do hip extensions is by lying face down on a bench with your hips hanging over the edge. Raise one or both legs until they’re parallel to the floor, hold the tension in your buttocks for two seconds, and return to the starting point. Perform up to three sets of eight to 12 hip extensions.
Act Like a Clamshell
The clam exercise helps shape your buttocks while you’re lying on your side. Your thighs should be at a 90-degree angle to your torso, and your knees should be bent about 120 degrees, so your feet are almost below your buttocks. To activate your glutes, raise your top knee about 4 inches, while keeping your feet on top of each other. Imagine that your legs are a clamshell that’s opening and closing. Hold the contraction in your buttocks for two seconds, and return to the starting point. Do this eight to 12 times, and then switch sides. Work your way up to finish two to three sets.