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Circuit Training Routines for Ab, Butt, and Lower-Back Workouts

Circuit training is a great workout to develop strong abs, butt and lower back muscles. (And who doesn't want great abs, a nice tush, and a healthy lower back?) The following list is not anywhere near all-inclusive of ab, butt, and lower-back exercises, but it's a good start.

Setting up Pilates stations to work your core is an excellent circuit-training option. To get the full lowdown, pick up a copy of Pilates For Dummies by Ellie Herman (published by Wiley).

  • Basic crunch: Crunches primarily work the upper region of the abs. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your hands extended out toward your knees, across your chest, above your head, or behind your head so your thumbs are behind your ears — depending on what’s comfortable for you. Don’t lace your fingers together. Hold your elbows out to the sides but rounded slightly in. Tilt your chin slightly, leaving a few inches of space between your chin and your chest. Gently pull your abdominals inward. Curl up and forward so that your head, neck, and shoulder blades lift off the floor. Hold for a moment at the top of the movement and then lower slowly back down. Repeat.

  • Leg raises: Leg raises work primarily the lower portion of the abs. Lie on your back and place your hands, palms down, under the area where your pelvis and lower back meet. (Find a spot where your hands are comfortable.) Pull in your abdominals. Raise your legs (your knees can be slightly bent) about 12 inches off the floor and hold. Lower your legs to just barely above the floor, and then raise them again to 12 inches. Repeat.

  • Hanging abs: Hanging abs work the lower region of the abs. Using a pull-up bar or hanging-ab apparatus (ask about it at your gym), hang from the bar, pull in your abdominals, and then lift your knees toward your chest, tucking the pelvis under and causing your spine to round. Lower your legs slowly back to the hanging position. Repeat.

  • Obliques curls: These curls work the obliques, the sides of your core area midsection. Lie on your right side with your arms crossed in front of you. Bending sideways at your waist, lift your upper body off the ground a few inches. You may need to brace your feet under a bar or sturdy piece of furniture. Repeat. On your second circuit, lie on your left side.

  • Back extension: Back extensions are a great exercise for your lower back. Lie on your stomach, looking down at the floor, arms straight out in front of you, palms down, and legs straight out behind you. Pull your abs in, as if you’re trying to create a small space between your stomach and the floor. Lift your left arm and right leg about one inch off the floor, and stretch out as much as you can. Hold this position for five slow counts and then lower your arm and leg back down. Repeat the same move with your right arm and left leg. Continue alternating sides until you complete the set.

  • Squat: Squats work your butt and upper legs. Either with your hands on your hips or holding dumbbells with your arms down at your sides (you can also hold your arms out in front of your torso or your fists in at your chest to create a counterbalance, or put them in the overhead position to challenge your posture), stand with your feet as wide apart as your hips and place your weight slightly back on your heels. Let your arms hang down at your sides. Pull your abdominals in and stand tall with square shoulders. Sit back and down, as if you’re sitting into a chair. Lower as far as you can without leaning your upper body more than a few inches forward. Don’t lower any farther than the point at which you’re parallel to the floor, and don’t allow your knees to shoot out in front of your toes. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, straighten your legs and stand back up. Don’t lock your knees at the top of the movement.

  • Lunge: Lunges are amazing for your butt, hips and upper legs. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a large step forward, and plant your foot on the ground. Keeping your front knee completely stable and your upper body perfectly vertical, lower your body straight down until your back knee nearly touches the ground. Raise your body straight up and repeat with another step. Keep repeating.

    Don’t allow your torso to lean forward and be sure to evenly distribute your body weight on both legs. Think of your torso as having a pole placed directly down the center, and go up and down, not back and forth. Also keep in mind that the farther you step out, the more emphasis is placed on the butt and hamstrings; the more shallow your step, the more emphasis is placed on the quads. Finally, when you’re in the down position, both knees should form a 90-degree angle, and you should be able to see the tip of your shoe or toes.

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