Cellulite sucks. It has a way of completely ruining your favorite pair of cut-offs. When I hit age 30 I noticed how much less I liked wearing shorts than I used to. And bikini shopping was not nearly as fun as it had been in my 20's. Now, to be fair, I don't expect my body to look and behave exactly as it did when I was younger, but I wasn't ready to throw in the towel and just accept cellulite as the new normal. Something had to change.
First things first, the best way to fix a problem is to know exactly what you are trying to fix. While digging into the topic a little more, I found this interesting fact which explains why women's bodies are pre-dispositioned to allow for cellulite versus men's bodies, and it largely comes down to muscle structure.
Men have thicker muscle bands (and more of them) than women do. And men's muscle bands form criss cross pattens which helps to hold the fat in. Women have vertical patterns, which allows the fat to pucker in high fat areas (like your hips and thighs). I know right, lucky us. Blessed with periods, labor, and cellulite.
My mom has cellulite! Does that mean I will have it no matter what? Not necessarily. Genetics, however, do play a strong role in how and where you store fat. If the women in your family commonly store fat in their thighs, hips, and butt, you have a higher likelihood to have cellulite in those areas.
Can I get rid of cellulite? While it is nearly impossible to completely banish cellulite, you can greatly reduce it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or treatment. Diet and exercise are the tried and true methods. Believe me, I looked high and low for a different answer.
The best way to shrink cellulite is to shrink the fat cells. If you are noticing cellulite on the backs of your legs, focus on hamstring exercises to increase muscle mass and decrease fat. If your butt is the area you are concerned about, focus on gluteal exercises.
I prefer cardio to weights. Will that work to reduce cellulite? Cardio exercises will help to decrease the amount of fat stored in the body, but targeted weight training in these stubborn areas is still recommended. For best results, incorporate both.
My personal experience battling cellulite started a little over twelve months ago. I was a cardio queen for years and was dedicated to a steady mix of cardio equipment (elliptical, stair-stepper) and running. I was at a total plateau with my fitness and wasn't noticing any significant results. I was, however, noticing a gradual increase in the amount of cellulite on the backs of my thighs.
I gradually made the shift into weight training and haven't looked back since. I still work in 15-20 minutes of cardio 2-3 times a week, but my larger focus is on training the different muscle groups. I carry more fat in my legs than other parts of the body, so I make sure to work my legs twice each week. Through a mix of hamstring and gluteal workouts, I have better tone and structure than I did at 22.
Here are three of my current favorite hamstring/glute exercises. For more gluteal focused exercises, check out this post.
Lying down hamstring leg curls - Most gyms have a machine for this. If you don't know where yours is located, just ask somebody to direct you. Lay flat on your stomach and place your ankles firmly under the roller pads. You should lay face down (be sure to grab a towel or bring your own) so that you don't strain your neck. Use the handles beneath the bench to help stabilize yourself. Curl your legs up, and slowly return to starting position.
If you are doing this at home, lay face down on a mat and place a dumbbell between your feet. Start with your legs extended and slowly curl until you form a 90 degree angle. Return to starting position and repeat. This works well for lower weight, but when you get to twenty-plus pounds, you will want to use a machine or find an alternative workout.
Do 10 reps. Repeat 3-4 times.
Straight leg deadlifts - Form is critical for not injuring your lower back during dead lifts. Start with a low weight and focus on your technique. Stand with your feet hip width apart and slightly bend your knees. Select your weight using a barbell (or dumbbells) and hold the weight in front of your thighs, palms facing inwards. Start in a standing position and bend at the torso until your back is parallel with the floor (weights should be at your ankles). Shoot your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to return to starting position.
Do 8-10 reps. Repeat 3-4 times.
Hip bridges - This one requires no equipment and can easily be done anywhere. Lay on your back with your hands palms down on the floor. Bend your knees and keep them shoulder width apart. Using mainly your heels (I like to put my toes in the air) thrust your hips upwards to the ceiling while keeping your core right (squeeze the glutes) and hold for 3 seconds. Slowly return to starting position.
This is a great exercise to do as part of a set with another glute or hamstring focused exercise.
Do 10 reps. Repeat 4 times.
Cellulite does not have to be the new normal. Start eating foods lower in fat and higher in protein, and get to work on toning up these areas during the off-season so that when summer rolls around you can break out the old cut-offs.