As much as we may deny it, most women over 50 do care about how they look from behind. There’s a reason, after all, that Spanx shapewear is ubiquitous and its founder, Sara Blakely, is a billionaire. There are degrees, of course, to our concern: Some of us want to feel good in our jeans, while others want to bear it all at the beach. Whichever camp you’re in, the important thing is that your legs and glutes — the muscles around your hips — are strong. They provide power for all your workouts. When they’re weak, you run the risk of other muscles taking over, which can set you up for back and knee pain.
The moves below target your backside (from a variety of angles) and legs. Boost the intensity by replacing rest periods with jumping jacks, jumping rope, or even sprints on a treadmill or around the block. It will give you a leg up on sculpting and slimming to boot.
- What To Do: Do each move in order for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. (A couple moves — Clam Shell and Crossover Kick — will require you to switch sides and repeat before resting.) Repeat the circuit once; twice if there’s time.
- Gear: You’ll need a pair of 10-to 20-pound dumbbells.
- Get Started: Warm up for five minutes beforehand. Add cardio at the end — or even between sets — to extend your workout time or to add intensity, respectively.
Stiff-Legged Dead Lift
Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, palms facing thighs. Bend forward from the hips about 90 degrees, keeping your back straight and the weights close to your legs — almost skimming them — as you lower them toward the floor. Try to keep your knees as straight as possible. Rise up to the starting position, squeezing your glutes tight as you stand up, and repeat. (For more of a challenge, do this balancing on one leg at a time.)
Squat to Leg Raise
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and elbows bent at your sides (hold a dumbbell in each hand if you want an extra challenge). Toes are pointing out slightly. Squat, bending knees about 90 degrees; sit your hips back as if you were going to tap them on a stool behind you. Rise up and shift your weight to your left leg as you raise your right leg and both arms out to the side. Return to squat and repeat on the other side. Continue, alternating sides.
Lie on your left side with your back against a wall (it just keeps you from cheating). Rest your head on your left hand and bend your knees 90 degrees in front of you so just your feet and back are against the wall. Keeping the inner edges of your feet together, lift your right knee away from the left as far as you can without tipping your hips back (this isolates the gluteus medius). Lower the leg and repeat. Do 30 seconds on one side, then switch and repeat to complete one set. For more of a challenge, place a resistance band around your lower thighs, just above the knee.
Crossover Kick With Dumbbell
Get on all fours and tuck a dumbbell behind your left knee (bend knee slightly to lock weight in place). Draw your belly button in, engaging your abs, as you lift your left leg straight up, foot flexed, until thigh is parallel to the floor. Lower leg to the right, crossing left knee to the outside of right leg. Lift it up again and lower it next to right leg (starting position), then repeat. Do 30 seconds on left side, then repeat on the right to complete one set.
Finish It Off
Complete the circuit with a cardio burst: Start as in Squat to Leg Raise (No. 2), without dumbbells. Lower into a squat then powerfully jump straight up, catching air and raising arms overhead (don’t raise one leg out to side). If that’s too intense, just come up onto the tips of your toes every time instead of catching air.
It’s super common to have weak glute muscles, especially the gluteus medius. Check it with this easy test: Standing in front of a mirror, raise one leg in front of you, knee bent, to hip height (Tree Pose, like you do in yoga, will help you spot this, too). Hold here for 30 seconds as you check your hip positioning: They should be even; a yardstick placed across the top of your pelvis and resting on top of your front hip bones would be parallel to the floor.
If you start to sink into your standing leg (the hip of your raised leg drops) or you notice yourself hiking up the hip on the raised leg side, your gluteus medius on the standing leg may be weak. Repeat on the other side to compare. Balancing moves and poses, like the one at left, can help strengthen these hip muscles.
A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, Get in Shape 2022.