Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” was released in 1992, but its pop culture relevance might be higher now in the era of Kim Kardashian, whose bountiful rear end has inspired many women to try getting a bigger butt of their own. That has led to the increase in popularity of the Brazilian Butt Lift, a surgical procedure that involves liposuction of the fat from the midsection and shifting it to the gluteal area.

Sound gross? It certainly isn’t pretty. The fat is essentially filtered, and the “good” fat is deposited in the butt for a curvier appearance. But fat is, well, fat, and gravity eventually wins the battle every single time.

Muscle, however, doesn’t lose to gravity. Want a better, firmer butt than anything you could get from plastic surgery? Try an exercise we’ll call the American Butt Lift.

It’s more commonly known as the hip thrust. From a sit-up position, squeeze the glutes and raise them quickly off of the ground and into a bridge. Repeat. Add weights to your waist as needed. That’s it.

“The hip thrust is the best glute exercise in existence,” says Bret Contreras, a fitness expert who specializes in the glutes. “It activates more glute fibers than any other exercise. It works the hips and thighs in proper proportion so it doesn’t lead to overdeveloped thighs in the long run. And since it’s very easy on the joints, it can be performed very frequently. In fact, for optimal results, it can be performed in every single training session.”

Another surefire exercise is the hip extension. When you sit up from a chair, you’re extending your hips. The glutes are strongest when they are at or near full extension. So simply mimic the act of sitting down and up from a chair –- without the chair. Athletes refer to this as the squat.

“Exercises that hone in on hip extension,” Contreras says, “are in fact better for glute shaping while still elevating the metabolism to the same degree.”

When you’re proficient with your own bodyweight in hip extension movements –- something that doesn’t take long with consistent effort –- there’s virtually no limit to how much external resistance you can add.

And ladies, no matter what some “celebrity” trainers may lead you to believe, simply touching heavy weights doesn’t make you “bulky.”

“I explain this to women and then tell them that if they’re worried about getting too big, then there would be a point between now and then where everything looked ‘just right,’” Contreras says. “I tell them that as soon as we reach this point in time, we can stop training hard and just coast along. This seems to satisfy most women, but of course it rarely happens because through proper strength training as time goes on, women tend to keep looking better and better.”

It’s also important to not forget the hip flexors, located in the front of the hips. Prolonged periods of sitting –- hip flexion –- can shorten the hip flexors and cause an anterior pelvic tilt, a condition that causes the spine to curve inward more than normal. Stretching the hip flexors can open the hips back up, which will maximize the effectiveness of hip extension exercises.

Some models actually favor an exercise that simulates anterior pelvic tilt, according to Contreras, because it gives the illusion of a bigger butt. But he recommends against it, citing the risk of back pain and injury and just sticking with the thrusts and extensions.

With good form and hard work, you can have a bikini booty by summer that needs no exaggeration. And no surgery.

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Swimmer Tyler Clary competes in many of the same races as Olympians Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and as the American record-holder in the 400-yard individual medley, he is a strong medal contender for the 2012 Summer Games in London. But what Clary does outside of the pool would surprise many and perhaps even worry a few.

Clary took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu four months ago to diversify his training.

“It’s fun and different from swimming but still applicable,” said Clary, the 2009 NCAA swimmer of the year at the University of Michigan. “My core has never been stronger, and I’m a lot calmer under fire. So it’s improving my mental state. It forces me to focus on small details because it’s like nothing I’ve done before. And that transfers to the water.”

Twice a week for about 90 minutes, Clary, who won a silver medal in the 200-meter backstroke at the world championships in December, heads to a Jiu-Jitsu gym in Fullerton, Calif. to train. His training is “tap based” so if he feels his body is at risk, he taps out. His instructors and teammates all understand his swimming goals and respect what he’s trying to accomplish in the pool.

“I had always been interested in mixed martial arts fighting,” said Clary (pictured in the white). “One night I was on a date and saw a gym and thought I would give it a try.”

Clary’s coach, Jon Urbanchek, was concerned at first. But Clary does not compete in Jiu-Jitu because of the high risk of injury, and after Urbanchek talked to instructors and watched several training sessions, he has loosened the reins on his rising star. And that should keep Clary happy, because it doesn’t sound like he's ready to give it up.

“It has been mentally addicting,” he said. “It’s like playing chess with your body.”

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“GTL”

Three words might pop into your head when you read those three letters together: Gym. Tan. Laundry. That’s thanks to MTV’s hit series “Jersey Shore,” which is now in its third season.

As Jersey Shore’s cast members’ ubiquity soars, “GTL” might change to “GTLS.”

Gym. Tan. Laundry. Supplements.

Everyone wants to look like someone from Jersey Shore, right? (Well, except maybe Snooki. She may be missing the G.) But isn’t every male in America at least subconsciously jealous of the fact that “The Situation” can see his abs?

Supplement companies have long pried on America’s insecurities about its ever-growing waistline, and while the claims they make sound tempting, beware.

There are no federal supplement regulations and very few people spend the time to read and understand the ingredients listed on the label. There’s usually a statement somewhere saying the product’s claims haven’t been evaluated by the FDA.

But hey, it’s your money. So here’s what your favorite Jersey Shore actors are endorsing, along with reasons to buy (or avoid):

The Situation: Mike Sorrentino has become the face of “NOX Edge,” a supplement that promises to “increase the body strength” as well as help you “become the lover of your partner,” among other things.

Plus, the product promises to “trigger a great muscle building exercise which is unparalleled.” What that muscle-building exercise is, however, is anyone’s guess. Maybe it prompts people to immediately start doing pull-ups on the nearest doorframe.

There’s also the protein-infused vodka. But let’s be realistic here: If you’re counting on alcohol to help supplement your daily protein intake, you’re in trouble.

Ronnie: Quite simply, this is one of the most awkward commercials ever made.

And if the commercial isn’t enough, the “studies” that Xenadrine touts are even less credible, as the company claims that those who took Xenadrine “lost an average of approximately” eight to 10 times as much as the placebo group.

If Xenadrine is that successful, then why is the company using Ronnie as a spokesperson?

J-Woww: She started doing promotional appearances for Abdominal Cuts -- a supplement containing fish oil and other fatty acids that claims to promote spot reduction of fat in the abs and hips.

There’s just one problem: Spot reduction isn’t possible. The first person to figure out how to truly spot-reduce will be a billionaire overnight. Yes, some of us are predisposed to carry fat in specific areas, and when you lose fat, you’ll probably lose it from your midsection and your hips. But that’s because it’s being lost all over and not just in those areas.

J-Woww also says she followed the suddenly popular 500-calorie-a-day diet supplemented with HCG drops. But that page on her website is no longer active.

Pauly D: Even the DJ has a supplement combination nicknamed after him: “Pauly D Jacked Stack,” which he supposedly only gets at Xtreme Fitness in Rhode Island.

No, that’s not a typo. In the fitness and supplement world, you can’t spell “extreme” with an “e” at the beginning. But you can see incredible results without touching a single Jersey Shore-endorsed supplement.

Trust us on that one.

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If you’ve ever stepped into a commercial gym or attempted to “get in shape” in the discomfort of your own home, then you’ve almost certainly done a crunch. It’s a movement that’s as ingrained in our fitness culture as bench presses and biceps curls.

But what if you learned that crunches are far from the most effective and efficient way to work your abdominal muscles?

This isn’t a revolutionary concept among fitness professionals. It’s been out there for at least a decade. But you’d never know it by watching what people in health clubs do. Sit-ups may be out of fashion, but the basic crunch is alive and well and performed by almost everyone trying to improve his or her appearance.

“People think the crunch is the equivalent of a biceps curl,” says Lou Schuler, co-author of the book "The New Rules of Lifting For Abs." “You pick up a dumbbell, you bend your elbow, and you feel the biceps working. You know exactly what you’re doing, and why. So when you do a crunch, you feel the abdominal muscles shortening, and you think you’re doing the exact same thing. You’re making the muscles bigger and stronger.”

Your abdominal muscles are unlike your biceps and triceps in both structure and function. Their main job is to protect your spine by helping the other core muscles –- those in your back and hips –- keep your lower back and pelvis in a safe, neutral position.

That’s what we mean when we talk about “core stability.” It’s not what your muscles look like when you flex them in a mirror. What matters is how well they can keep your spine in a stable position during increasingly difficult movements.

There isn’t a single crunch or sit-up in The New Rules of Lifting for Abs, the third book in The New Rules of Lifting Series. Instead, Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove base their workout around planks and side planks. (A basic plank is just holding a pushup position on your forearms. For a side plank, just rotate 90 degrees onto one arm and the sides of your feet.)

Schuler and Cosgrove argue that the planks and side planks -- and the many variations they show and describe in their book -- are the best entry-level exercises for your core muscles.

If you’ve never tried them before, you’ll be surprised at how hard they can be.

“It’s not hard to get into a plank position and hold it for a few seconds,” Schuler said. “But when you get to 30, 60, or even 90 seconds, you realize just how little strength and endurance you have in those muscles, no matter how many crunches you’ve done in the past.”

You may ask what the point is. It’s hard, but so what?

Ever heard the phrase, “Lift with your legs, not with your back”? That’s a perfect, if simple, way to reinforce the importance of a neutral spine, or keeping your back flat.

If you can’t -- if your core muscles can’t keep your spine in its natural, slightly arched position when you’re lifting weights or playing sports -- you risk serious injury to the discs in your lower back. The better you are at keeping your back in a neutral position, the lower your risk of injury.

Believe it or not, the humble ab wheel offers one of the best examples of how your abdominal muscles function. If you’ve ever used one, you know how hard it is at first to roll the wheel out and extend your arms away from your body. And you also know how sore your abs will be 36 hours later.

The wheel changes your center of gravity. The farther it goes, the harder your core muscles have to work to keep your back from buckling. It’s the hardest thing you can ask your abdominal muscles to do.

“If that’s the hardest thing for your abs to do, then it’s probably the most important thing they’re designed to do,” Schuler says. So rather than flexing those muscles in your workouts, what you really want to do is force them to extend - to lengthen, rather than shorten -– while keeping your back in a safe position.

But simply keeping your back in a safe position through basic stability movements isn’t enough. You have to be able to carry over that stability into basic movements both in everyday life and in the gym. That’s where the “lift with your legs” principle comes back into play. What’s the point of busting your butt if you’re not going to see any applicable carry over?

“Once you've developed those abilities, you can spend less time in the weight room and you can get more done with less risk of injury,” Schuler says. “So you can make your workouts more efficient and productive, which makes them harder. Which really gets back to that there’s no easy way to do this.”

You hear that, The Perfect Sit-up?

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