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Strong, muscular thighs and buttocks are an integral part of a balanced muscular physique. They also improve performance in sports that require explosive speed and power such as football, ice hockey and basketball. The barbell squat is generally accepted as the most effective exercise for the buttocks and thighs, but it places considerable stress on the back. However, you can work your thighs and buttocks with a variety of exercises such as the leg press and the goblet squat that don't hurt your back.
There are different types of leg press machines. Some have you lying at a 45-degree angle, while you adopt a sitting position on other machines. A similar technique applies to most leg presses. After adjusting the seat, brace your back against the backrest and place your feet flat on the foot platform. Push the platform away and fully engage your quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks by getting your knees and thighs tight to your body as you lower the platform on the negative phase. Place your feet higher on the platform to emphasize your buttocks, and lower on the platform to emphasize your quadriceps.
Body-weight squats performed without a barbell resting across your shoulders work your thighs and buttocks with negligible stress on your back. Simply hold your arms out in front of you, and with your feet hip-width apart, lower yourself into a squat by bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Tighten your abs to stabilize your spine and keep your back straight. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor and push up to your starting position.
Goblet squats enable you to add resistance to body-weight squats without placing undue stress on your lower back. Grasp one end of a dumbbell and hold it tight to your chest as you drop into a controlled squat and straighten up. There is no direct pressure on your spine and you are unlikely to hurt your back.
Lunges with your body weight or holding a pair of dumbbells hanging by your sides target your thighs and butt without hurting your back. To perform lunges, step forward approximately two hip-widths, and bend your knees. With your rear knee almost touching the floor and your front knee in line with your ankle, stop when your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Push up and pull your leg back alongside your rear leg, then step forward with your other leg.
The step up is a deceptive exercise that will leave your thighs and butt burning. Stand behind a box or step that is approximately 25 inches high. Place your right foot on the box, and with your weight on that leg, push down on your heel and straighten your leg until you are standing on the box with your right leg. Bend your right knee and lower your left leg to the floor, then push down on your right heel to straighten your leg again. Do your required number of reps, then repeat with your left leg. For added resistance grasp a dumbbell in each hand. According to the American Council on Exercise, the step up recruits more gluteal muscle fibers than barbell squats. And the bonus is, it doesn't hurt your back.