Sunday, April 11, 2010

Who Needs Lulus? (Or, How to Turn Your Ass from Sag to Sass)

Have you ordered your Lulus yet?

Apparently, they're all the rage among Crossfitters. Why? Because (in addition to being high-quality and high-comfort), Luluemon Athletica's pants are reputed to make even the most mundane female backside a head-turning exhibit at your local gym.

Which is great. I guess. If your backside is boring and you don't mind cheating in order to turn heads.

But who wants a Wizard of Oz butt? I mean, c'mon. Are those admiring looks really satisfying when you know, deep down inside, that your Luluemon tush is, behind the veil, a lemon? Who wants to worry about running into the gym guys at the grocery store, when your non-Lulued backside is waving its true colors behind your unsupportive slacks?

Talk about false advertising.

You want a real sassy ass, you're going to have to work for it. And don't give me that crap about being too old. The only reason we Westerners tend to lose muscle mass with age is that we get lazy. We expect to get soft. And weak. And unhealthy.

You do not have to lose muscle mass with age. At almost 32, I'm falling seriously behind on the bat-wing and saddle-bag curve that's practically required of women who've left their twenties in the dust. (Just try to find a scrap of fat dangling from my triceps. I dare you.) Similarly, Ironman, at 40, is regularly mistaken for a much younger guy. Why? He's lean and cut, and we're not used to seeing that on anyone over 30.

It's as simple as you've always heard, people: Use it, and you won't lose it.

But what if you've already lost muscle mass? Well, shut up griping and start doing something about it. You can build muscle whether you're ninety or nineteen, and whatever lean tissue you add will help keep you lean. The notion that metabolism must slow with age is a myth.

That's the good news. The bad news is that you do actually have to put some effort into achieving the backside of champions. Since it's we females who typically agonize over our butts -- resorting either to baggy sweats or Lulus to conceal or modify them -- this post is especially for women. (Guys who give a rat's ass what yours looks like: the concepts apply to you, too. Just keep away from the Lulus, k? K.)

Without further ado, here are four steps to a sassy ass. Guaranteed or your money back.

1. Diet

Yeah. Sorry girls, but nutrition is the single, biggest factor in leanness. If you want a perky butt, you're going to have to get rid of the layer of fat that conceals the muscles beneath. (We'll talk about developing those muscles in a moment.)

Contrary to popular belief, undamaged dietary fats (not to be mistaken for the frankenfats that are rampant in processed foods) do not make us fat. Sugar makes us fat. All carbohydrate is, as far as the body is concerned, sugar. Some carbs (most notably, vegetables) are worth the tradeoff. Most (especially grains and sweeteners) are not. Clean up your diet ala the Primal Blueprint or Whole 30 Paleo, and watch your bodyfat vanish -- not to mention a host of other health problems.

Still in the does-not-compute phase? Watch the Lustig and Taubes videos for accessible explanations of the science.

2. Squat

Air squats, heavy squats, Tabata thrusters, pistols... Pick your favorite variety, start at whatever level you can, and do them. Lots of them. Work up to heavy squats, because that's where the real money is in terms of gluteal development. You want perky, you gotta squat.

In a typical week, I do several kinds of squats. Thrusters and air squats appear in metcon routines, pistols are a staple of my gymnastics/bodyweight days, and backsquats are my personal favorite among all the heavy, compound lifts.

Do your homework on form. You know all those aerobics instructors who warned never to squat past parallel for fear of wrecking your knees? They were wrong, k? Here's Mark Rippetoe on the subject of squat form. Rippetoe (literally) wrote the book on strength training.

3. Lunge

Ah, lunges. These suckers are my best friend and worst enemy. Done properly, they're hellishly hard...but do them properly, and your glutes will be heavenly hard.

I started out with walking or standing lunges 3-4 times per week -- first without weight, then with dumbbells in each hand, then with the dumbbells plus a backpack stuffed with 35 pounds of sand. (Hey, you use what you got.) 4-6 sets of as many reps as you can do while maintaining good form will do the job. These days, I barbell lunge up to 95 lbs for 5x5s (5 sets of 5 reps each).

As always, do your homework on form. Then work it. At first, you'll notice sore quads. But those will develop, and you'll start to feel the real work in your gluteal muscles. Be warned: heavy lunges can give you a seriously sore seat for a couple days! It's worth it. I have yet to find a better way to sculpt my butt.

4. Sprint

Sprinting is particularly useful for developing a shapely tush because it tones the muscles without adding a lot of bulk. (Depending on individual genetics, most women don't need to worry about excessive bulk anyway.) Rusty of Fitness Black Book discusses sprint form and butt benefits in this article. And we all know that sprinting offers myriad other rewards, not the least of which is the promotion of a hormonal response that leads to the burning of bodyfat for fuel.

There you go. Applied with consistency and commitment, the four steps above will turn your ass from sag to sass. Then you can buy LuLus and really rock 'em -- because you don't need them!


Elizabeth said...

Muhahaha !!!! Cute:)
Primalmom just stopping by to say HI!! - Enjoying your blog !!!

Mike said...

Great informative post for workin' on da glutes, Tamara! Was this inspired by my recent post on the things I hate about CF?

Disappointed there were no "false advertising" LuLu pictures. ;)

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi Primalmam! Thanks for stopping by! :)

LOL Mike -- you'll have to share the angle inspiration with Melissa Urban. But, you do get full credit for the guys' bit. I'd no idea Luluemon had a mens line until you mentioned it.

As for pictures: I tried. Seriously. But it's really hard when you're home alone! Would you settle for riding breeches? This was months ago, though, well before I got my barbell set.

enlightenedhorsemanship said...

Thanks for all the links--I'm loving squats, now I can add the Tabatas.
I'm not ruling out the Lululemons, though. I am over the hill, with 20 years of decrepitude to make up for!

Mike said...

Tamara: Looks like you are totally and 100% completely qualified to offer advice on glute training! No false advertising anywhere to be found, from what I can see. :)

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hey Kim! Glad you're liking the squats -- my personal favorite. Do try the sprints (lots of metabolic benefits in addition to the glute boost), and the lunges too. Enjoy!

LOL Thanks, Mike. Riding breeches are among the most unforgiving garments known to womankind, so I'll consider that a real compliment. :)