When it comes to lower-body training, a lot of people tend to focus on one thing and one thing only - the glutes! Of course we all want a killer butt, but it’s important not to neglect the hamstrings as they play a vital role in almost every leg exercise and lower-body movement you do.
The hamstrings are a group of muscles which run along the back of your thigh in between your hip and knee and they work alongside the glutes to extend, rotate and abduct the hip. These powerful muscles also play a major role in exercises like squatting, lunging, sprinting, running and even walking, which is why it’s super important to strengthen them as much as possible. Another reason to build your hammies is that although they are powerful muscles, they’re also prone to injuries such as tears and strains. If this happens, it can take anything between weeks, even months to repair!
Now for the good news - you can actually train both the booty and hamstrings together as a lot of exercises work both muscle groups, such as hip thrusts and deadlift variations. Also by training your hamstrings, you can actually help your butt appear more lifted and your legs will look more athletic and well-rounded. All pretty good reasons to train your hamstrings, right?
Structuring Your Workout
One important rule when it comes to training legs is starting with the big compound lifts (deadlifts, squats, hip thrusts, lunges.) Since these movements require several muscles to work, it’s better to do them at the beginning of your workout when you are feeling fresh and strong!
The benefit of these exercises is that they contribute the most to lower body growth. (In other words, if you want strong legs and a bigger butt, then compound lifts are a MUST!) They’re also a great way to get your heart rate up from the get-go so that you burn more calories throughout your workout.
While most of your lower body gains will come from compound exercises, incorporating a variety of accessory and isolation lifts into your workout will actually strengthen your compound lifts too.
With all that being said, we have created the ultimate hamstring and glute focused workout for your next leg day routine!
Top tip: Before you actually start your workout it’s super important to “wake up” your glutes and hamstrings. They need to activate by doing some simple warm-up exercises such as squats, clamshells, bridges, single-leg bridges, kick-backs and band walks. Make sure you do a quick stretch for your hamstrings too as neglecting this step could result in an injury!
1. BARBELL STRAIGHT LEG DEADLIFTS (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
Instructions: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and pick up your barbell using an overhand grip. Push your hips back and lower the barbell towards the ground, keeping it as close to your shins as possible and your back completely straight (this is important to prevent hurting your back.) Your knees should also be slightly bent so that you’re really feeling the stretch in your hamstrings/glutes. Once you feel these muscles stretching, slowly straighten your body. The key thing here is keeping it slow and controlled!
2. BARBELL HIP THRUSTS (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
Look up #gluteworkout on Instagram and you’re guaranteed to see some serious hip thrusting action as it’s now considered by many to be the best glute development exercise out there. It also activates the hamstrings, quadriceps, and abductors, making it the perfect all-round lower body sculpting exercise.
Instructions: Sit on the floor up against some piece of equipment like a bench or a box, making sure it’s lined up with the bottom of your shoulder blades. Bend your knees so that your feet are planted on the ground and roll the barbell onto your hips so that it’s sitting just above the hip bones (use a barbell squat pad if you can to protect your hips.) Lean back and drive your hips up so that your body forms a straight line and squeeze your glutes at the top. Hold this position for 2-3 seconds and slowly lower your hips back down. (Top tip - if you want to fire up those glutes even more then try adding in a hip thrust band, although be warned, you might not be able to sit down after!)
3. DUMBBELL SPLIT SQUATS (3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg)
This is another awesome lower body exercise as it targets not only your hamstrings and glutes, but also your quads and calves.
Instructions: Firstly, stand in front of a bench or box holding 2 dumbbells. Take a step forward with one leg, and lift the other leg so that the front of your other foot is resting against the bench (like an elevated lunge.) Lower down slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, then drive back up with your supporting leg. Once you have completed your reps on one leg, shift to the other leg and repeat. Top tip - make sure you lean forward with your chest when you squat down so that you really feel the burn in your glute!
4. BARBELL GOOD MORNINGS (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
Instructions: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell on your shoulders. Start to hinge forwards, pushing the hips back and keeping your back completely flat (imagine someone has tied a rope around your hips and they’re gently pulling it.) Slightly bend your knees as you lean forwards until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then slowly reverse the movement to stand up straight again.
5. HAMSTRING CURL (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
This is an isolation exercise for the hamstrings, however it also works the glutes! You can do this exercise on the hamstring curl machine if you have access to a gym, or if not, you can simply do it with a dumbbell.
Instructions: If using a machine, set the weighted plates to a weight you feel comfortable with. Lay down on your stomach and hold the handles in front of you and adjust the height of the padded cylinder so that it sits just a few inches below your calf muscles. Curl your legs up without lifting your hips off of the bench, contract and hold for a few seconds, then bring them back to the starting position. Alternatively if you are performing this exercise with a dumbbell, lie either on the floor or a bench on your stomach and place your hands in front of you. (You may need a workout partner or someone to place a dumbbell securely between your feet as it can be difficult to do this on your own.) Curl your legs up, squeezing your glutes and keeping your hamstrings under tension, then bring your legs down to the starting position until your hamstrings are fully stretched.
6. GLUTE BRIDGES (3 sets of 12-15 reps)
A variation of the hip thrust, a glute bridge is the perfect exercise to throw into the end of your workout for a serious booty burnout. It not only works the glutes, but also the hamstrings, lower back, and abs!
Instructions: You can do this exercise body-weight only or with a resistance band, however if you want to turn it up a notch you can use a weighted plate or barbell on your hips (similar to a hip thrust.) Lie flat on your back with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle and arms by your sides. Drive down through your feet and push your hips up until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Make sure you squeeze your glutes and core, holding at the top for a few seconds to really engage them before lowering back down. This is an awesome lower body workout for building strong, muscular legs, however it’s important to remember that working out isn’t enough for muscle building as a lot of this comes down to eating enough calories and protein. You can shop our range of protein here to help you on your way to achieving your growth goals!