Extremely Effective Leg Workout: Glutes/Hamstrings (WARNING I’M STILL IN PAIN TWO DAYS LATER)

december 20, 2015 | by: mercedes | filed under: fitness


It’s oddly satisfying to kick your own ass at the gym. Some days everything just clicks and you’re in the ZONE, and feel worked to your core. And the days after are further proof of how effective your work was.

By way of minor backstory until I get my vlogging game on in the gym, I’ve been lifting regularly for almost two years now, and through a combination of working out with gym bros and watching a TON of fitness videos on YouTube, I have a pretty decent idea of what I’m doing now. Always learning, but happy with my progress. I’m not into lifting heavy (like crossfit/power lifting style) but rather am more focused on sculpting and shaping. Think Nikki Blackketter.

I lift 2-3 days a week, and will do yoga and/or HIIT on a few other days of the week. Or I’ll just walk a lot and call it a day #urbanliving. I focus almost exclusively on working legs, but I’ll throw in upper body exercises sometimes too, though I rarely do an entire gym session devoted entirely to upper body.

So had a KILLER session last Friday and felt the urge to share – I’m in PAIN still, two days later – really sore glutes, and calves especially. But in the best possible way. Here’s what I did (NOTE: I did google image searches for the exercises for a visual reference point, but eventually I intend to record footage of myself and upload it to YouTube):

1. Warm up: I usually do ~10 minutes on the treadmill or stairmaster – nothing crazy, just to get the blood pumping.

2. Stretch: I go through a pretty thorough stretch routine before I get into lifting, especially focused on loosening up my hamstrings and hips – my tightest areas.


3. Walking Weighted Lunges with 10kg kettle bells in each hand (about 22lbs. each): I’ve warmed up with this exercise since I started really getting into lifting and the habit has stuck. I don’t even count them, I just do the perimeter of an empty work out room, or a long aisle somewhere in the gym, back and forth.


4. Walking overhead weighted lunges with one 15lb. dumbbell: I’m working up to a 25lb. plate with these, but I’ve been using a 15lb weight for the last few months. Before that I was using a 10lb or 12lb medicine ball. Baby steps! Holding the weight overhead engages your core more, and obviously your arms. I do the same distance that I did the previous lunges.



5. Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squats: HOLY HELL BE PREPARED TO HATE LIFE WHILE DOING THESE. They’re really, REALLY challenging but work your hamstrings like whoaaaaa. I hold one 22-25 dumbbell at my chest and do 8 reps on one leg, immediately knock out 8 reps on the other leg without rest, THEN rest after both legs – and repeat three times.


6. Donkey kickbacks on cable machine: These are a relatively new addition to my arsenal of leg exercises and they’re AMAZING. I’m obsessed, actually. Cable machine work is great because it keeps tension on the muscle both directions. I usually start around 35lbs with 10 reps on each leg no rest, knock the weight up to 40 and do 8 reps each leg no rest, then 45 lbs. 8 reps each leg no rest, then I did a 4th “heavy” set – 50 lbs. but only 4 reps a leg. Here are two examples of the different placements you can use – either around the entire ankle, or with just the front part of your foot hooked in – I opt for the latter (the second photo) because I find it engages my calves really intensely.
7. Weighted glute raises with barbell SUPERSET with dumbbell deadlifts (a superset just means you combine two exercises into one “set” – so you would do one of each back to back, and that would be set 1, of 3 or 4 sets of the two exercises…why does this sound confusing typing it all out?): I’m new to the glute raises but they seemed effective. I also REALLY felt them in my quads, so I’ll keep that in mind when I’m doing more quad focused days. I used a 35lb. dumbbell across my pelvis (I lay a cushion underneath the weight though, just for comfort), and did 3 sets of 10-12 reps, which I superset with dumbbell deadlifts. I don’t really enjoy traditional deadlifts with the long bar because I find a) I continue to feel them too much in my back, and b) my arms burn out before my legs. I’ve been enjoying doing a sort of modified deadlift with either dumbbells or a kettle bell.  On this day I used 22.5 dumbbells in each hand and did 10 reps in each set as part of the superset.
8. I usually try and end with some kind of ab-focused circuit, or at the very least one ab/core exercise. Today I did a superset of TRX band pikes and weighted plank shoulder rows. So this looked like 10 pikes on the bands, followed immediately by 6 reps on each side of the plank shoulder rows with 12.5 lbs (so that’s a total of 12 reps per set), repeated 3 times.
9. DEAD. I was pretty much at failure after the end of the pikes and plank shoulder rows.
10. I always end with 10 minutes or so of foam rolling. It’s like the reward at the end.
Here’s the routine condensed:

1. Walking weighted lunges with 10kg kettle bells in each hand

2. Walking overhead lunges with one 15 lb. dumbbell

3. Rear-foot-elevated split squats, 22.5 lbs, 8 reps per leg x 3

4. Donkey kickbacks on cable machine, 35-40-45 lbs, 10-8-8 reps each leg, 50 lbs for 4 reps each leg

5. Glute raises, 35 lb. barbell 10-12 reps x 3

Superset with dumbbell deadlifts, 22.5 each hand, 10 reps x 3

6. TRX band pikes, 10 reps x 3

Superset with weighted plank shoulder rows, 12.5 lbs 6 reps each side (12 per set) x 3