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Our fitness expert reveals the secret to developing a stronger, more toned glutes.

You're standing in front of your full-length mirror, struggling to squeeze into last year's swimsuit. You peer at yourself. There's no denying it: Either your suit shrank or your behind grew. And, alas, you're sagging and flabby, too. Panic sets in, as you realize that instead of Buns of Steel, your backside story could be called Dead End.

But don't give up yet! It's only October, so you've got about seven months before the next beach season to get your rear in gear -- which is a lot of time, fitness-wise.

So what can you do? Try my four-step butt tune-up plan.

The Butt Fitness Plan

Cultivate patience -- It takes time  and persistence  to trim away fat, build up muscle, and shape your body. And the truth is, you may never have the perfect butt. But you can have one that's firmer and shapelier.

Learn the bun basics -- Your behind is made up of three muscles that make up what's called “the glutes”: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus, and the gluteus medius. The maximus is the largest glute and one of the strongest muscles in the body. It helps you stand upright, walk, and raise and turn your legs. It also gives your bottom its shape. All of the glutes are covered by a layer of subcutaneous fat. But how much fat you carry is dictated by genetics and lifestyle.

Give yourself a reality check -- Look at the body fat distribution of your family members. If most of the women look like pears, there's a pretty good chance you do, too. Your pear shape won't change, but its size will. Your goal is to minimize your butt, not to wish it away completely. And while you won't necessarily develop buns that rival those of a 21-year-old swimsuit model, you can definitely bring more tone and shape to your backside.

Revel in bun pride -- If you were born with (and still have) a great rear end, but just too much of it, then celebrate your J. Lo or Beyonce endowment and do the work to make it as fit and shapely as you can.

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