Make this the year you love your booty.
How pop culture’s fixation with big bottoms helped Noah Lehava embrace her own.
I n the ’90s, waiflike boyish silhouettes were celebrated as the physical ideal. I was in my late teens and consumed with a desire to fit into that mould. I wanted to wear high-waist skinny jeans and look like Kate Moss. But there was a hitch: My voluptuous derrière, exercise-free lifestyle and propensity for devouring simple sugars created certain fashion challenges.
I always felt that a tush like mine had to be tamed, but times have changed. Today, the butt is having a pop-culture moment. Case in point: Jen Selter. This squat-loving fitness guru has become Insta-famous with her steady stream of photos that showcase her perky backside. She even scored a spread in Vanity Fair and an article in The New York Times. The queen of celebrity cheek, however, is Beyoncé. She earned that title during her On the Run tour with Jay-Z when she wore an “assless” bodysuit. Other musical love letters to bodacious behinds came from Nicki Minaj in her “Anaconda” video (and much-censored album cover), not to mention the twerk-off between Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea in their “Booty” video. And then there’s Kim Kardashian. Her post- baby #belfie seems tame in comparison to her oiled-up, break-the-Internet bare-bottom exposé in Paper magazine.
It seems that we have entered the “Ass Age,” so to speak, so I decided it’s time to make mine a priority. First stop: Toronto’s
tony 3,252-square-metre Equinox gym to meet Stephen Salzmann. (My new fitness guru is the gym’s manager and a “Tier 3+” expert— the brand’s top level of trainers in Canada.)
“I want to have a backside like Rihanna,” I reply, when Salzmann asks me what my goal is. “The key to a toned butt is losing weight from head to toe and building lean body mass,” he says. “We’ll replace fat with muscle while maintaining your natural curves. You’re going to have to work harder than you ever have, and you’ll be sore. Often.” I’m ready.
Lesson one: I’ll be working out three hours a week for the next three months, but that doesn’t mean I can dine on macarons. “You can’t out-train a bad diet,” Salzmann gently but firmly reminds me after my first weekly weigh-in. He hands me a menu plan with protein- and veggie-filled suggestions. Refined sugars and processed foods are a no go, and I’m to swap my beloved glass of Malbec for a vodka soda. “Ideally, I encourage my clients to cut out alcohol altogether, but that’s not realistic,” he says. “It’s more about teaching them to make smart decisions that suit their lifestyle.”
The first few sessions are humbling. Turns out my technique is faulty: I lean too far forward when I do squats because the crunches I’ve been doing have caused tension in my hips and reduced their flexibility. I also spend too much time on the treadmill. “If all you’re doing is cardio, you’re not building up your muscles,” Salzmann explains after one particularly punishing glute-busting workout. “You need to build up your muscles by lifting heavy weights and finish each workout with short bursts of cardio to trim away excess fat. That’s the only way to reveal your hardearned results.” We wrap each session with one of these “finishers,” and every single one leaves me feeling queasy.
On the days that I’m not sweating with Salzmann, he tells me to do 20-minute interval sprints: Run as fast as possible until I’m exhausted, rest for one minute and then go at it again full throttle. My best time is 15 minutes. This special kind of torture is called “high-intensity interval training,” which Salzmann says burns between 260 and 325 calories in 20 minutes and also increases my resting metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after working out.
By the time I complete my fifth week of training, I’m deadlifting more than the men around me. My core feels tighter, and my clothes fit better—but the shape of my behind hasn’t changed. “There is no way to pinpoint weight loss in one area—it’s a myth,” Salzmann explains to me. “Lifting your backside isn’t only about squats; it’s about losing weight all over. And that takes time.”
He’s right. Going into the last month, I notice a significant “trunk” change; there is now a sculpted curve to my profile. When my co-workers start complimenting my tiny waist and lifted behind, I decide to toss the shapewear. Those skinny jeans hanging in my closet? They now drape from my hips, in a relaxed boyfriend fit.
Before Salzmann (“B.S.,” as I like to call it), I thought the secret to a pert behind was toiling on the treadmill and doing a 30-day squat challenge a few times a year. Now I know it involves a 360-degree approach: a rotating buffet of kettlebell swings, dead lifts, lunges and barbell hip thrusts, with some nauseating sprint sessions thrown in for good measure.
At my last Equinox workout with Salzmann, we run the numbers. I’ve lost 12 inches and 12.6 pounds of body fat and increased my lean body mass by 3.5 pounds. I’ve slimmed down, but I’ve retained my hourglass silhouette. And now, with smaller thighs and a cinched-in waist, my backside rivals Iggy’s. I feel stronger than ever before, and I can’t go two days without craving a workout. I have good reason to look over my shoulder. n
To learn how to get a sculpted posterior,
visit ellecanada. com/living.