Your butt and hamstrings deserve some TLC, and not just because of how they look in a pair of shorts. More lifters and athletes are realizing all the time that these muscles are really where "show" meets "go," and where both meet "I feel as good as I look."
Both are big and strong muscles, but they're much more than that. As physical therapist and strength coach John Rusin explains in the article "3 Simple Secrets to Overcoming Knee Pain," your hamstrings protect and strengthen the knee joint. And both hammies and glutes can fortify your lower back, making you stronger, safer, and just plain tougher.
In short, you need more workouts in your arse-building arsenal. And Bodybuilding.com Signature athletes Julian "The Quad Guy" Smith, powerlifter "Meg Squats" Gallagher, and IFBB men's physique pro Rodney Razor have three to keep in your back pocket.
1. Julian "The Quad Guy" Smith's Old-School Cure for Pancake Butt
Smith's nickname doesn't mean he neglects the other side. On the contrary, you can find him on Instagram pretty much every week calling out for his 1 million followers to tag any friends suffering from "pancake butt." And his signature moves include some glute and hamstring burners that will leave you limping, even without picking up a weight.
But when you have a full gym at your disposal, here's his prescription for bringing up the backside.
- Dumbbell floor leg curl: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps
- Stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift: 6 sets of 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6 reps
- Leg press: 6 sets of 15, 15, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps. Use high and wide foot position.
- Barbell hip thrust: 6 sets of 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6 reps
The last three of those moves are probably somewhat familiar. But the dumbbell leg curl? Not unless you were lifting in the Golden Age—or in Smith's Hillsboro, Oregon, gym Arms Race, which is the next best thing.
You can perform this old-school favorite face down on the gym floor, on a flat bench, or on a decline bench, but however you do it, keep it slow and controlled. Have a training partner put the weight in place, and keep your hips glued to the floor (or bench) throughout each rep.
Don't have a training partner handy? Try one of Smith's other favorite curl variations:
- Any variety of single-leg curl: 4 sets of 12, 12, 10, 10 reps
- Banded floor leg curl: 3 sets of 12 reps
- Machine leg curl: 4 sets of 15, 15, 12, 12 reps
No leg press? Perform another Smith fave (and not just because of the name), the Smith machine floor touch. It's like an extra-wide Smith machine squat, where you see how low you can go and feel your poor glutes get stretched to their limits on every rep. Try it for 4 sets of 12 reps, taking 4 excruciating seconds to go down, 2 seconds paused at the bottom, and 1 second up to the top.
2. "Meg Squats" Gallagher's Minimalist Ham and Glutes Builder
If you're looking for novelty, look somewhere else. Meg is a grinder! She takes the fundamentals, performs them perfectly, and lets heavy weights work their magic.
- Barbell hip thrust: 2 sets of 20 reps
- Barbell back squat: 4 sets of 6 reps, adding weight with each set. Rest 2-5 min.
- Barbell front squat: 4 sets of 6 reps
The first move is right out of Meg's popular Bodybuilding.com BodyFit Elite program Uplifted: Build Muscle and Strength with Meg Squats. Heck, it's the first move on Day 1 of the program. She recommends hip thrusts, as well as cable pull-throughs, as high-rep "primer" moves to turn on the glutes and hamstrings before doing any heavy lifting.
But once you get that glute pump to start you off, it's time to move to the main course—and the ultimate whole-leg builder: back squats. Start with a relatively easy weight, do your reps, then add weight with each successive set. Rest 2-4 minutes between sets in the early going, and as long as 3-5 minutes between the last couple of heavy sets. Meg says she strives to feel the weight on all four "corners" of her feet, not putting too much weight on either her toes or heels.
Then, it's on to front squats for dessert. Wait…aren't they a quad move? Sure, but when they're heavy and deep, they'll also do more for your glute development than just about anything else in the weight room. Stay tight to the bar—and stay tight in general—and control the descent before powering out of the hole.
Have anything left after this? You can hit some leg curls and other accessory work, like Meg lays out in the free workout "Get Uplifted with This Squat Workout From Meg Squats." Or, you can just pat yourself on the butt and hit the showers, because this is a hard-ass workout as is!
3. Rodney Razor's Ham and Glutes Workout
Razor may be an IFBB pro and jacked fitness model, but he doesn't believe in overlong, complicated workouts. His go-to shoulder workout is one you could bust out in less than half an hour, and he's also fond of grabbing a single pair of dumbbells for some full-body training when he's in a time crunch.
But be warned: This exercise duo is harder than it looks! Plug it in at the end of a larger leg or full-body routine, or do it on its own as a quick-and-way-better-than-nothing leg sesh.
- Kettlebell single-leg deadlift: 4 sets of 15-20 reps per leg
- Kettlebell goblet squat: 4 sets of 15-20 reps
Not a pro at single-leg deads? The key is to stay within your limits. For instance, there's no law saying you need to touch the ground between reps. That's really a question of hamstring flexibility and hip mobility, and if you try to cheat either, you'll only succeed in rounding your lower back. Instead, just go down until you feel a decent stretch on the backside of your leg, and don't be afraid to hold onto a support with your free hand. That may sound like a cop-out, but many lifters find it actually helps them perform the move better, and feel it where they should.
Then, it's time to burn it down with the goblets. Yes, like Meg's front squats, you'll feel these in your quads plenty. But if you stretch out the eccentric for 2-4 seconds like Razor recommends, your glutes will cry, too—especially after all those deads.
Think you're too cool for goblet squats? Let's check back in 80 reps and see how you feel. Then add these top hamstring workouts to your program to develop your legs even further.