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Butt lifter

Unless you were born with one, no amount of exercise will give you a rear view like Jennifer Lopez's. But training your butt muscles can make them leaner, tighter and firmer, says John Platero, founder of Los Angeles-based Future Fit, a company that trains and certifies personal trainers. Besides looking great in a pair of 501s, strong glutes are a big plus in sports involving running and jumping, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer and kickboxing.

Despite conventional wisdom, improving your rear view involves strengthening not one but three important muscle groups. In addition to your gluteus maximus (the largest and outermost muscle), you need to work your hamstrings (the backs of your thighs) and your erector spinae (which support the lower back), too. "The muscles of the posterior chain work together as a team," says Platero. "Your glutes will look and perform better if you have powerful hamstrings and a strong lower back -- and a weakness in the chain could cause an injury."

Platero has picked his top moves for nailing three associated muscle groups. For these, Platero likes the lean look created by doing more reps with lighter weights. The glutes are strong, he says, so they can handle extra reps. And instead of getting big, they'll get tighter and take up less space.

The first exercise, the Smith machine squat, homes in on the glutes by letting you resist the bar of the machine. Next, the machine hip extension works the gluteus maximus and hamstrings. The last exercise, the double-leg hip extension, takes the back and the other targeted muscle groups to fatigue. Do these moves in the order shown two to three times a week.

Muscle Mechanics

The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three buttocks muscles (the gluteus medius and minimus are underneath and on the side of your hip). It originates on the outer edge of your pelvis, the bony structure at the base of your spine, and lower part of your spine. It attaches to the rear thighbone. The gluteus maximus extends your hip, lifts your leg behind you and rotates your thighbones outward. The hamstrings located on the rear of your thigh, work with the gluteus maximus during hip extension and are also responsible for flexing your knees.

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