People with some of the most buff butts on Instagram have been spotted doing an exercise that doesn’t work better than squats, but sure looks good in videos: It’s a special way to use the gym’s abductor machine — the one where you sit with a cushion positioned against each outer thigh and spread your legs to engage the hips, butt, and outer thighs. For rookies, here it is:
While you can always add extra weight to increase the resistance and amp up the challenge, Instagrammers have been taking the movement a step further by holding onto the outer casing of the weight column (or back of the seat on machines where the weight column is positioned off to one side). They press into their heels, lift their booties out of the seat, and then perform the movement. For those who film their workouts to post on Instagram, this positioning offers an A+ angle that shows off the entire butt — but experts say that’s about the only benefit.
While this progression isn’t overtly dangerous or harmful, according to exercise physiologist and American Council on Exercise (ACE)-certified personal trainer Pete McCall, it’s not particularly useful, despite the myth that it challenges stability to engage the butt muscles better than doing the movement while sitting down: “It creates the perception of working harder, but it’s not really that effective,” he says.
That’s because the abductor machine itself isn’t the be-all-end-all of butt workouts in the first place. “Standing, ground-based hip-extension exercises like lunges, Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell swings, squats, and step-ups are much more effective,” he says. Unlike exercise machines, which are designed to simplify movements for ease of use and thus isolate specific muscles, free-standing moves engage more muscle groups at once. That’s a good thing, since the more muscles you fire up through a single movement, the more efficient your workout will be, whether your goal is to burn calories or to build strength.
If you still feel inspired to try this abductor machine hack on your own (and no one’s saying you should), remember: Going rogue on any machine legally qualifies as misuse, so if you do happen to get hurt, you can’t sue the machine’s manufacturer or your gym, JFYI. Also: “If you have a weak butt or bad knees, this move is absolutely a no-go,” says Bianca Vesco, a certified fitness trainer based in New York City. She recommends beginning with mini-band moves to strengthen your hips, butt, and thighs.
Place it directly above or below the knee, and keep your chest high, butt low, and knees behind the toes as you squat down and and practice taking large steps from side to side.
Alternatively, you can skip the bands and work on mastering side lunges: Take a large step to the side, and bend only the leading knee to lower your butt until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Then, return to standing position, and repeat leading with the opposite leg.