Why These Moves Work
The exercises here won't melt the fat in your hips (you'll need cardio and a healthy diet for that), but they will firm the underlying muscles, which can slim your hips. Most lower-body strengtheners, like squats, don't do the job by themselves because they work primarily your butt and thighs. With these sculptors, you move your legs out to each side (called abduction), recruiting the muscles on the outer hips. Do this workout at the gym or in your living room (for modifications, read on) and you'll be wearing smaller skirts in no time.
Your primary hip abductors are the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Your gluteus medius attaches to your pelvis and the top of your thighbone, and the gluteus minimus lies beneath it. They move your legs away from your body's midline and help keep your pelvis level when you shift your weight to one leg (think walking and running).
At the gym you'll need a low-cable pulley with a cuff attachment and a hip-abductor machine. Warm up with 5 minutes of cardio, then do 2 or 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps of each exercise (beginner/intermediate level). Finish with a stretch: Sit on the floor with right leg extended and left foot on floor on the outside of your right knee. Place right elbow against outside of left knee and twist to the left. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat on other side. Do this workout twice a week.
Trainer's Strategy > The hip abductors are relatively weak muscles that fatigue easily. "If you try to use too much resistance to strengthen them, muscles like your gluteus maximus and quadriceps will pitch in to help, and your outer hips won't work as hard," says Sarah Goldfish, a certified trainer on Long Island, New York, who created this workout. > The bottom line These exercises involve small, targeted movements. Instead of piling on weight, focus on moving slowly through the reps.