I try to exercise for half an hour every morning. I have a stepper at home and I do lunges and weights. Should I do these on alternate days or combine them every day? My goal is to lose inches from my thighs and tone up my bottom.
The stepper and the lunges are both good ways to target your thigh and buttock muscles. But for best results you need to be working with good technique and at the right intensity.
I am assuming you have a full-sized powered stepper, rather than a mini foot stepper. While mini steppers have their uses, they are unlikely to give you enough of a challenge for your goals. The stepper is primarily a cardiovascular (heart and lungs)workout machine, and you can safely use it on consecutive days. To get and stay fit you should be doing three to five workouts a week of at least 20 minutes a time.
The bonus of the stepper is that you can also boost your muscle strength and endurance in thighs and buttocks, as the stepping action targets these areas very effectively. The lunges are another great way to target the same muscles.
It is perfectly OK to do your step work and your lunges on the same day. If you decide to do them on alternate days, it might be good to do a short warm-up (on the spot jog or easy level stepping for five minutes) before doing the lunges, to provide deep warming preparation for the muscles.
You do not say what weights work you do, but the rule of thumb here is important: any strength training involving external weights rather than just body weight should not be done two days in a row. Your muscles need the rest day to allow them time to adapt.
Now, an important word about the stepper – probably the most widely mis-used of cardio machines. If you step properly, it gives a tough and effective workout, but few people have the perseverance to build the necessary strength and stamina, so they end up cheating.
The most common cheat is to lean forward on to your arms or hands as you cling on to the bars. This allows you to offload body weight so your leg muscles don’t have to work so hard. It also prevents you working your postural muscles to control your trunk and pelvic position as you step, which is really unhelpful.
The best way to step is to stand upright, arms down by your sides (light touch hand support for balance, or better still no holding on), and get into a slow, deep and even stepping rhythm. Your body posture should stay upright, and crucially, your front hip bones should stay pretty much level throughout. Your bum, seen from behind, should not shift up and down. Don’t expect to perfect this technique in a single session, but as you improve, the quality of leg muscle work will deliver you satisfying results for thighs and bum.