In lifting, like in life, first impressions often don't pan out. For example, IFBB bikini pro Jamie Collins and I were fortunate enough to recently work out at City Athletic Club in Las Vegas. At first glance, it was everything you might expect in a Vegas club: dim lights gave it a cool, relaxed, club-like atmosphere; lots of cardio equipment and separate exercise rooms fully equipped with bikes, stair masters, ellipticals, and similar machines.
Head upstairs to the weight room, though, and you realize City is not just another poufy exercise salon. In fact, I realized I'd never seen so many serious weightlifters in one gym before. Compared to the commercialized gyms I typically use, this place was intense, and it was up to us to live up to the challenge.
Jamie and I decided to start our leg day by heading downstairs to warm up with a bit of cardio. She jumped onto the treadmill. I, on the other hand, headed straight for the Stairmaster. I knew my glutes had to be prepared if I was going to train with an IFBB bikini pro!
Here's what we did.
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Lying Leg Curl
Once we were warmed up, we moved on to lying leg curls, focusing on controlling the eccentric and powering through the concentric muscle movements.
By focusing less on how much steel she was moving and more on form, Jamie generates more force to each muscle group. More force means more muscle breakdown which, in turn, leaves more room for muscle growth. Her approach was refreshing to me and supported the idea that, while you should always challenge yourself, you can also get the most from your lifts by tuning in to the mind-muscle connection.
We did this exercise using the lying leg curl machine, which targets the outer hamstring muscles. To get the most from the machine, position yourself comfortably on the machine, with your legs fully outstretched and the lower pad positioned between your ankle and lower calf. Keep your hips down as you curl the weight up, pause for a second at the top of the movement, then slowly release the weight so you can focus on the negative portion of the movement.
Triset: Sumo Squat, Sumo Deadlift, and Kettlebell Swing
We then moved on to Jamie's specialty—a "Glute Queen Giant Set"—that included sumo squats, sumo deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. In her daily training life, she focuses on shaping the glutes and working them until it's hard to walk out of the gym. Since I usually go heavier, I figured that doing these three simple movements with less weight would be a walk in the park. It turned out to be a pain in the rear instead. Literally.
The sumo squats put more emphasis on your inner thighs, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Proper sumo squat form is to position your feet wider than shoulders, with your toes just slightly pointed outward. As you begin to squat, you want to keep your chest upright, your core engaged and tight, and your back straight—not rounded. Start by sitting into the squat. As you make your way up, bring your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to complete the rep.
Sumo deadlifts are very similar. Once again, place your feet wider than shoulders; toes pointed slightly outward. Keep your chest upright, your core tight, and your back flat. As you go through the exercise, maintain tension and stretch on your hamstrings and glutes—not on your lower back.
Kettlebell swings were a great way to end the trifecta. They provide an overall body workout targeting not only the hips, glutes, and hamstrings, but also the lats, abs, shoulders, and pecs. So pretty much everything! Your body will also engage smaller muscles to control and stabilize the weight you're moving.
However, there's no upside to going too heavy on any of these moves. Choose a weight that makes you feel like you could still do two or three more reps at the end, but that you can control for every one of the reps you do.
Seated Hamstring Curl
Once we finished the triset, it was time for the seated hamstring curl, which places more emphasis on the inner side of the hamstring. Make sure your back is flush against the back pad with no room between your lower back and the pad. Position your body so that your knee bends right at the edge of the seat. The upper pad should be just above the knee, securely locking your quads in place so they don't move around.
Position the lower part of the machine—the part you're curling—between your lower calf and upper ankle. Do a curl, then allow your legs to fully extend without the weight touching the stack, then move on to your next rep.
We're all creatures of habit, I guess, so I decided to go a bit heavier and bang the reps out, while Jamie continued to focus on the positive and negative movements. Even so, we both brought our A games to the table and pushed each other as the weight grew heavier.
Jamie introduced me to a new abductor style that targets the upper glutes. She suggested leaning forward during the movement and boy, let me tell you, I felt it big time. My hips are a bit weaker than other joints due to my years of running track and field. That made the exercise a bit uncomfortable at first. Once I backed off the weight and really focused on that mind-muscle connection, though, it felt a lot better.
Reverse Hack Squat
I chose one of my strongest exercises for last: the reverse hack squat, where you're facing the pad. Since Jamie and I were targeting glutes and hamstrings during this workout, we chose a wider placement for this exercise.
When you start these reps, make sure your core is tight, your target muscles are fully engaged, and you're sitting down into the squat while sticking your glutes out—way out. As you lower your body, don't let your knees go far over your toes. Letting this happen, especially with a weighted squat, can wear away at your joint health and cause issues in the future. Lifting is a long-term game, so you do not want that to happen.
Limping Home in Las Vegas
Somehow Jamie and I managed to push through our final leg day reps, crawl our way down the stairs, and make it out of the gym alive—barely!
The great thing about my Vegas workout with Jamie was that we each brought something new to the table for each other. We learned about our weaknesses, and different exercises and tips to turn them into strengths.
If it's a killer hamstring and glute workout you're after, I highly recommend giving this one a try. Find yourself a training partner, be open to new tricks, and have at it. You won't be disappointed.