I’ve been an avid exercise enthusiast for nearly 20 years yet I remain challenged when it comes to finding the most effective ways to control the size of one particular body part: My butt. As a lover of distance running it’s quite difficult, as doing so causes severe deflation of this body part, even though I regularly engage in structured resistance training.

Related Article: The Ultimate Cure for a Saggy Butt

As an exercise physiologist, I’ve worked with hundreds of women who have similar issues. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely one of them. Personally, after many years of denial, I’ve finally come to the realization that I have an extreme pear shape with a big butt—And it’s not going anywhere. I’m also one who has battled obesity and, therefore, will always be vulnerable to weight regain.

In light of these facts, I’ve made the ultimate decision to mentally embrace my butt and naturally thicker frame by dramatically changing up my exercise training program. I’ve given up the 30-plus mile weekly runs for a more balanced approach that incorporates targeted cardio and resistance exercises designed specifically for weight management and maximum gains in butt strength, tone, and size.

This efficient and effective method of training is what I call “cardio sculpting” and here are some of the best ways to do it.

Walk Up or Run Fast

If you’re really trying to cardio sculpt a great butt, walking on flat-ground or long slow runs just aren’t going to cut it, as lower body muscles generally respond better to increased intensities of exercise. Walking up and running fast are both highly effective strategies for inducing a muscle toning effect in your lower half. In fact, uphill walking targets your butt muscles almost exclusively.

If you regularly use a treadmill to walk, the higher your incline, the harder your butt muscles work. However, it’s best that you don’t hold on to the handrails, as this greatly increases the involvement of your butt muscles. Instead of holding on, swing your arms to propel yourself forward and increase your overall calorie burn.

VIDEO: How to Get a Bigger Butt Using a Treadmill

When it comes to running, periodic sprints are by far one of the most efficient and effective strategies for cardio sculpting your butt. In fact, some of the best running workouts are those in which you perform a series of short high-speed sprints followed by periods of active recovery at lower speeds in between.

Step It Up a Notch

Stair climbing is indeed a ‘super exercise’ for tightening and firming your butt, thighs, and legs and absolutely no equipment is required. Whether you have access to 3 stairs or 20, you can get in an excellent muscle building, fat-burning workout in a very short amount of time. In fact, just 20 minutes of walking upstairs burns as much as 200 calories while upping the intensity with jogging burns a whopping 350 calories.

If you prefer to work out in a gym, you can also opt for stair climbing on a stepmill, taking a step aerobics class, or even performing timed step-ups using a step board with risers, as all these options are equally beneficial for cardio sculpting the perfect butt. In addition to stepping it up with structured exercises, make an effort to regularly climb stairs as opposed to taking an elevator whenever it is conveniently possible.

Incorporate Hills Into Cycling

Cycling is one of the most overlooked yet among the best exercises for efficiently burning fat and effectively building up the muscles of your butt. If you prefer the outdoors, crank up your workouts by cycling up hills and mountains or shifting into higher gears for more resistance. You can also incorporate interval training into outdoor cycling workouts by periodically alternating between high resistance and high speed.

For indoor exercise, stationary cycling machines are great because they offer various settings, modes and preprogrammed hill routines that allow you to substantially boost your lower-body effort. Spinning exercise classes are another good way to cycle indoors, especially if you enjoy working out with a group for motivation and support. For cardio sculpting, choose classes that include a well-balanced mix of rolling hills and sprinting.

Related Article: A Fresh Spin on Cycling for Exercise

Totally Embrace Kickboxing

A good kickboxing routine can greatly increase the size and overall definition of your butt, thighs and legs. It also burns a ton of calories in a relatively short period of time. For maximum effectiveness, there are countless kicks that you can experiment with including front, side and back kicks, roundhouse kicks, and hook kicks. In addition, you can greatly boost the intensity of your workout by using a heaving kicking/punching bag.

If you want to double your calorie burn, alternate your kicks with numerous bouts of upper body punches like jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Such exercises are great for toning and tightening your core and upper body muscle groups. If you’re not at all familiar with working out this way, you might want to sign up for a cardio kickboxing class at your local gym for a general overview.

Don’t Neglect Heavy Lifting

You might not have realized that your butt area actually houses more muscle than fat so it’s important to use it so you don’t lose it. Resistance (weight) training is the absolute best way to build a phenomenal backside and doing so with heavy weights is especially beneficial. Heavy lifting also has powerful metabolism boosting effects, which supports the fat burning process that’s necessary for managing your overall body weight.

Related Article: Weight Training 101: What You Need to Know Before You Lift

For cardio sculpting, perform 3-4 sets of lower body exercises using heavier loads that fatigue your muscles within 8-10 repetitions. Focus on compound (multi-joint) exercises like squats, lunges and deadlifts, as these specifically target the muscles of your butt, thighs and legs. In addition, incorporate active rest periods, which can include jumping jacks, jumping rope or even upper body exercises between all lower body sets.

One More Thing…

For maximal results with cardio sculpting, incorporate a well-balanced diet comprised of nutrient-dense foods to adequately fuel your workouts. Such a diet is one that’s rich in high-quality carbohydrates (vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and beans), healthy fats, and plenty of muscle-building protein.

Related Article: A Simple Guide to Eating Sensibly