Our expert says:
1. I'm assuming we're talking weight loss here, and definition, as opposed to strength of the glute muscles? The approach would be slightly different. For weight loss, the mistake people make is that they try to target the muscle group, often at the expense of doing the whole body exercise that is actually more effective. That's not to say that focus on a muscle group or area is bad, because you need it, but it's better to do whole body exercise. The exercise is cardio training - like running, walking, cycling, swimming, taebo, aerobics etc. Anything that is cardiovascular gets the heart pumping and energy burning is most effective. It is just a question of how you use these cardio sessions. I would suggest at least 4 days a week of cardio training, each session lasting about 30 to 45 minutes, AT LEAST. You have to build up this duration and then keep at it consistently in order to see change.
The specific exercises for the area in question have a relatively minor role, other than that they are responsible for developing the muscle in the area, which creates the appearance of being toned. That's obviously what you want, but you have to realise that you can't do the toning and specific work first and neglect the cardio - it has to work the other way around, cardio first, toning second. So focus on cardio, then on toning.
Diet is also very crucial, and if it's not 100% it will undermine any exercise benefits. So the best thing is to see a dietician or follow a very good diet plan. Just remember that low kilojoule is not necessarily better - too low causes problems as well, because it causes the body's metabolic rate to drop and that affects your ability to lose weight in the future. So don't try to starve yourself or go overboard, rather eat sensibly, cut out as much fat as you can, and listen to your body.
2. The seated calf raise and standing calf raise do pretty much the complete job - if you do both of these, then you've got the calves pretty much covered, because they target different muscles of the calf group. That pain in your feet suggests you might be using a weight that is too large, and you might reduce it slightly. Also, things like cycling and running help with the calves.
3. The crunch is a good one, but if you're at the gym, then the circuit will usually have a sequence of three or four machines set up that target the abs pretty well. You need to also do "oblique" crunches - where you rotate as you do the crunch, this is particularly effective for the muscles called obliques down the sides. Also, incline sit ups, and also leg raises are effective. But that issue of the fat is the tricky one, alluded to in number 1 above, and it's a matter of doing cardio training and also looking at diet!
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