How can I slim my thighs and tone my bum?

Jane mugshot for JQAI 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.

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