It’s crazy how much times have changed since I was born. What was once a “curse” for women is now a blessing for those born with it and something other women strive to have - yes ladies, I’m talking about a booty. Remember all those commercials back in the day when the wife would ask her husband if her jeans made her butt look big? She was hoping he’d say “no”, of course, but in 2017 the answer most millennial women are looking for is a resounding “yes” (any boys reading, take notes!). We buy outfits based on how they make our booties look, we pose a certain way in front of the camera to accentuate our hips, and we even base our workouts off of how to make our glutes get to be Kim Kardashian status. I, personally, was not blessed with a beautiful round backside and have had to work hard at it to even get it to be the size it is now (which is nothing to write home about, but nonetheless, it’s finally existent).
So, in honor of my fellow millennial babes all striving towards the same goal, here’s the 411 on how to construct your own leg days in order to make the most out of your time in the gym and hopefully result in some #bootygains.
Wakey wakey. First and foremost, if your glutes are not awake, they aren’t going to do nearly as much work as they should be during the workout, resulting in your surrounding muscles (aka quads, hamstrings, low back) doing majority of the work. That’s cool and all, but if you’re strictly trying to build a butt, you won’t get very far. How do we wake up the glutes? By activating them. Listed below are tons of exercises that will help to activate the glutes and prepare the body for work. This includes dynamic stretching which will loosen up your body so that you can get deeper in your squats, lower in your lunges, etc. without the risk of straining or pulling any muscles. Most of the exercises I mention can be found with a simple search in google if you’re unsure of what any of them mean. Check out the list below and follow the exercise count and rep range at the beginning of your next lower body workout!
Mini Band Exercises (Choose 4-6 of these) 10-15 reps each
- Monster Walks
- Side Steps
- Side Shuffles
- Banded Donkey Kicks
- Banded Clamshells
- Banded Kickbacks
- Banded Abductions
Glute Bridges (Choose 2-3 of these) 10-15 reps each
- Double Leg Glute Bridge
- Single Leg Glute Bridge
- Froggy Glute Bridge
- Elevated Feet Glute Bridge (1 or 2 legs)
- Elevated Shoulders Glute Bridge (1 or 2 legs)
Body Weight/ Dynamic Exercises (Choose 4-6 of these) 10-15 reps each
- Plank Glute Kicks
Time to LIFT! After your glutes have awoken from their slumber, it’s time to get to work. Below, I have listed a proper workout structure the order that will allow optimal output so that you can still develop your fast twitch muscle fibers with power exercises, lift heavy enough for hypertrophy (booty gains) on your compound lifts, have enough strength and control to isolate one side at a time and still be able to lift a moderate weight, and finally burn out the lower body with light weight to bodyweight only exercises for developing muscular endurance. You by no means have to follow this strict order all the time, though. Circuit style with 1 power, 1 compound, 1 unilateral, and 1 body weight/banded exercise is great too!
**I tried to mainly list exercises that work the glutes without building the quads too much, so please realize this is not an exhaustive list and there are many other great lower body exercises that can help to build your glutes**
- Power Exercises - i.e. Box Jumps, Jump Squats, Frog Jumps, Speed Skaters 4x5-10
- Compound Exercises - Heavy Weight, Lower reps i.e. Barbell Hip Thrusts, Barbell Back Squats (try a low bar position on your back for more glute work), Sumo Deadlifts, RDL’s, Barbell Glute Bridges 3-5x 8-12
- TIP: Squeeze glutes for one full second at top of all movements!!!!
- TIP #2: For all exercises listed besides Sumo Deadlifts, try placing a mini band right above the knees to practice knee stabilization and really work the gluteus medius (outer part of the glutes)
- Weighted Unilateral Exercises - Moderate to Lighter Weight, Higher Reps i.e. Bulgarian Split Squats (this is a client and personal favorite!!!), Lateral Step Ups, Lunges, Modified Pistol Squat to Bench, Cable Glute Kickbacks, Cable Abductions, 1-leg RDL, 3-5x 12-25
- Body Weight/Banded Exercises - High Rep i.e. Body Weight Banded Squats, Banded Clamshells, Banded Side Steps, Static Curtsy Lunges 4-5x 15-30
“Ya, no, don’t put me down for cardio.” Now that you’ve got the lifting part down, I do want to lightly touch on one last thing: the type, duration, and frequency of your cardio routines matter! Cardio is great for your heart, and can assist in speeding up weight loss, but it isn’t always awesome for the glutes if you’re trying to grow those babies. Below, I’ve highlighted what different types of cardio will most likely do for you in regards to your goal. Notice I did not say either type of cardio was “wrong” or “bad,” I simply am pointing out what tends to happen when an individual frequents a specific type of cardio versus another.
Less Steady State Running (bye bye glutes)
- There is nothing wrong with running at the same pace for 3+ miles. It clears your mind, is an awesome form of exercise our ancestors have been practicing since the beginning of time, builds up your calves and quadriceps, and people can certainly see health and weight loss results with running. However, running for longer periods of time can not only lead to excess wear and tear on your joints, but can cause muscle atrophy (AKA your butt will shrink!!).
More Sprints (Bonus points if you run up an incline)
- Sprints are quick, and boy are they effective. 10 minutes and you’re worn out. Sprints can be performed for as little as 10-20 seconds at an all out pace and you get to rest for up to 1-2 minutes between rounds. Sprints recruit fast twitch muscle fibers and help to develop your posterior chain much more than jogging could.
I usually recommend for clients that are dedicated to exercising 5-7 days a week, to perform 3 HIIT workouts a week on nonconsecutive days with 2 LISS workouts spaced in between. For your LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) days, try either walking up an incline, cycling up hills and taking it out of the saddle, or using the stairmaster to continually activate the glutes while working on aerobic endurance. You can totally indoor cycle, climb up the stairmaster, or sprint up inclines on your HIIT days too, just make sure to have periods of high intensity and then periods of recovery (peaks and valleys).
I hope this has helped you navigate your way through the gym more confidently on leg day. If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out on my Insta (link below). Now go build that booty!
Insiring a happy, active, healthy life.