The only way to change the shape and tone to a muscle is to exercise it – stress it out – stimulate it. If you don’t use it you will lose it theory! We all know that squats, lunges and leg presses will give us that shape and tone we want for our backside. But wouldn’t it be great to get those same benefits when you do your aerobic workout?
Treadmills, stair steppers, elliptical machines and stationary bikes are great for aerobic conditioning and are highly recommended. But those machines don’t stress our hamstrings and gluteus muscles enough to add shape and tone to our butt muscles. So, if you ever wonder why all those hours on those indoor aerobic machines don't firm your, you're about to learn why.
When you walk, jog or climb stairs you stimulate all the muscles of the lower body. The continual contraction of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus is what moves you down the road. The various exercise machines are designed to simulate running, climbing and biking are great for the aerobic part of the workout. Unfortunately, due to the design of the machine - the equipment eliminates the need for your hamstrings and gluteus muscles to fire. Don't get me wrong, I think they are great for aerobic conditioning, but don't expect to tone up your butt muscles with them!
Look at the basic walking or jogging movement to better understand why those machines don’t help tighten up our rear-end. When you step forward with your lead leg, it is the hip flexor and quadricep muscle that contracts and extends your leg forward. As your front foot hits the ground…what propels you forward is the contraction of your hamstrings and glut muscles. The continual contraction of all the muscles around the thigh makes walking a complete workout for the lower body.
As we compare the same movement with the treadmill you will see that the contraction of the quadriceps to extent the leg forward is the same. The problem for the treadmill is that as your foot hits the ground, instead of having to contract the hamstrings and gluts to propel the body forward. The machine or the belt you are running on will automatically throw your lead leg – back! Because of the mechanical action of the machine, the hamstrings and gluts don’t get stimulated - it's that simple!
The shortcomings of the treadmill and other aerobic machines are a result of the very nature of the apparatus. When you look at a stair stepper you will see that instead of having to contract your hams and gluts to propel your body up the stairs….it is the weight of your "lead" leg that causes the foot pedal to descend. Even though it feels like you are going up a flight of stairs – it’s not the same thing. Like the treadmill you are not stimulating the gluts anywhere close to the level that they need to be in order to stress them.
When it comes to the elliptical machine and stationary bike – they have the same inherent problem. Step forward on the elliptical machine or press down on your bike pedal and without having to contract the hams and gluts the other leg is ready to activate the quadriceps again. Again you are basically omitting the need of the hamstrings and gluts muscles to perform these exercises. I know there are some experienced cyclists who pedal by pulling the pedal around. But it is only the well trained, elite cyclist who rides with "clips" that gets that benefit. They are still not activating or stressing their gluteus muscles.
Look at the legs and butt muscles of a runner, sprinter and that of a cyclist. You will see that those runners who actually train on "mother earth" have well developed quads, hams and gluteus. Cyclists on the other hand have much larger quadriceps in proportion to their hamstrings, because the primary stroking motion is done with the quadriceps.
The indoor aerobic machines have a need and purpose. Just don't log too many hours on those machines and wonder why you haven't tighten up your rear end. If you want to get the proverbial 'two for one' benefit - do your aerobic training on ‘mother earth' and get those aerobic benefits along with a firm rear-end. If you want to add shape and tone to your back side, try interval running, sprint work or doing some real stairs.
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