Your butt is the biggest and most important muscle you have, but your glutes can get a case of the lazies, forgetting to "activate" or "turn on" sufficiently during everyday tasks or workouts, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Bret Contreras, coauthor of Strong Curves: A Woman's Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. There's a textbook term for this phenomenon—gluteal amnesia—and it could be dragging you (and your fitness goals) down. After all, your rear assists in every type of motion: running, jumping, lifting, you name it.
Making a few simple adjustments to your strength-training routine can score you a better backside burn, ASAP.
During a hip extension (lifting and lengthening your leg), consciously squeezing your glutes can increase their activation by about an extra 12 percent, suggests research in the Journal of Athletic Training.
Drop It Low
Deep squats—where your hips dip below your knees—can almost double your glutes' contribution as you return to a standing position, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
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"If you tilt your torso forward to a 30- to 45-degree angle during a lunge, you'll feel a hotter burn in your glutes," says Contreras. The angle throws more stress onto your booty.
Get a Leg Up
Compared with double-leg exercises (like deadlifts), single-limb versions (like one-leg squats) can activate your gluteus medius and gluteus maximus by an extra 33 percent and 21 percent, respectively, according to a study in Physical Therapy in Sport.
For more on how to fire up your buns, pick up the October 2015 issue of Women's Health, on newsstands now.