How to Tone Around Your Tush
The fat that sits under the bum and on the outer thighs—affectionately named saddlebags—is one of Mother Nature’s subtle reminders of womanhood. These sex-specific fat deposits can begin to appear during adolescence when girls’ fat cell production nearly doubles that of boys. Though upper thigh fat is physiologically advantageous during pregnancy, some women are bothered by the way it looks and feels. Read on for a detailed explanation of saddlebags and how to strengthen your glutes and thigh muscles.
The Dish on Cellulite
Many women experience the top-down effect when it comes to fat loss—meaning fat stores decrease more easily from the upper body than from the thighs and buttocks. Women of a healthy weight tend to stop producing new fat cells once they reach adolescence. Women top out at the number of fat cells they carry pretty early on, but these fat cells can increase in volume. As the cells expand, they press against the outer fat tissue layer. Over time, the outer fat layer increases in size and the texture changes, which gives the skin a bumpy appearance—hello, cellulite.
Cellulite doesn’t discriminate. Fit women have it, bikini models have it, and nearly all women have it. There is no magic cream, oil, or pill to get rid of cellulite. The best way to smooth out your skin and reduce the appearance of saddlebags is through lifestyle changes.
The Skinny on Insulin
Insulin is the hormone released to regulate blood-glucose levels when we consume foods rich in carbohydrates. Ideally, for people who are regularly active, insulin helps to circulate glucose within the muscle tissue, which is made available for energy. But when people are inactive, insulin can push carbs into fat cells rather than muscle, where the energy is then stored as triglycerides, a type of fat.
When this happens, the lower fat layer increases in volume, pushing on the layers of fat cells closest to the skin’s surface. This will increase the appearance of cellulite even more. Getting your diet in check by cutting back on processed carbohydrates (such as packaged snack foods, pasta, and sugary treats) may help diminish the appearance of fat in the thighs. Adding in more veggies, lean proteins, and healthy starches is a great way to slim down saddlebags.
Get Off Your Tush
To put it simply, a healthy diet and regular exercise are key to combating saddlebags. Just like a positive change in food choices can lower insulin levels, so can daily activity. An exercise plan should always be in a routine, but other activities such as housework, gardening, shopping, and walking or biking to work can also help steer insulin into muscle cells. Look for opportunities to get active every day, even if it’s not a scheduled workout routine.
Putting on the Moves
Spot reduction (or the attempt to reduce fat in one specific part of the body) is a common myth. But you can increase muscle strength and size in your thighs and butt to reduce the appearance of fat. Here are two workouts with 10 challenging moves sure to tighten and tone the tush while smoothing out those saddlebags.
Perform each workout 1-2 times per week for 6 weeks.
- Bodyweight squat with band around knees: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Superset with: seated band abduction: 3 sets, 15 reps*
- Feet-elevated glute bridge: 3 sets, 15 reps
- Superset with: walking lunge: 3 sets, 20 total steps
- Plank with hip extension: 2 sets, 10 reps each side
- Alternating curtsy lunge: 3 sets, 10 reps each side
- Super set with: side-lying clamshell with bands: 3 sets, 10 reps each side
- Stability ball leg curl: 3 sets, 10 reps
- Quadruped hip abduction into extension: 3 sets, 8 reps each side
- Hips elevated glute march with bands: 3 sets, 10 reps each side
*A superset is performed when two exercises are performed in a row without stopping.