So you've started going to the gym. You've started weightlifting, maybe? Or maybe you just want to, but have no idea where to start. You don't want to injure yourself by doing improper moves, or lift too heavy and pull something, and really the weights room is just intimidating.
Before we go anywhere with this post, let me just recommend this other article I wrote about Tips for Girls at the Gym.
Now that you've read that, let's move on to today's topic of conversation: butt day.
If you're like me, and manage to fit the gyn in five times a week, you're probably working out your legs three times and your arm/back/abs two times. If you're doing fewer sessions, you still want to be training lower body more than upper body, in my opinion. So if you go three times a week, make two of those days leg day.
This is because your legs have some really big muscles in them. In turn, this has two consequences:
- Your leg muscles can lift a hell of a lot of weight. It is very satisfying squatting your own body weight. Whereas I can still only lift about 10kg in my upper-body days.
- You'll burn more calories by having strong leg muscles, which then means your general metabolism will speed up, and food is your friend.
But because this is a beginner's workout, I wanted to include the workout I did on my very first weightlifting session at the gym. Keep reading for all the info on reps, sets, and weights that you'll need for a full glute-and-hamstring workout.
As a little side note, I rarely train quads in isolation. Firstly, because I am already very quad-dominant, and I personally don't love the well-defined quad look. Secondly, because you use your quads unconsciously in most leg day movements, and I would rather train my really stubborn hamstrings. You girls will know what I mean - that bit just under your butt where fat likes to sit and turn into saddlebags.
The peach booty is in fashion right now, which is such a nice change from the thigh gap trend of years ago, because I could not get my body to do that. But with some training and patience, muscles will grow.
The last thing I will say before moving on to the actual topic of conversation today is that I am not a health professional or a personal trainer. I am just a girl who loves the gym. I get most of my information on form from Youtube or from the personal trainers at my gym (personal trainers are your friends so use them!). I am 20-something and always been on the chubbier side as a kid, but over the past four years or so I have shifted focus on getting stronger and fitter, and I have never looked back.
1. Warm Up
This is an essential part of any workout, but especially important when the muscles you are working are so big. Once warmed up, you will be able to lift heavier, run longer, and recovery time will be shorter.
On leg day, I do a 20 minute walk on the treadmill at about four km/hr followed by a five-minute stint on the Stairmaster at about 70 stairs/minute. I hate cardio, so I will literally do the very least I can get away with for a good workout.
2. Glute Activation
This isn't compulsory, but it does make your workout that much more effective, and it does only take a few minutes. These are ideally body-weight exercises, or exercises that use a resistance band. Resistance bands are really cheap and absolutely your best friend in the gym. By all means, do your workout without them, they just help add a little umph.
So on this particular day I did:
- 10 squats
- 10 side step squats each side
- 10 lunges each leg
By this point you should be all warmed up and ready to pick up a weight.
3. The Workout
Fear not, I will go through every one of these exercises.
Also note that you might want to go lighter if you haven't worked out in a while. But don't be scared, your glutes are big and strong and used to carrying you around all day.
- Box Squats
For box squats, you want to get yourself a bench or box that comes up to knee height. Go ahead and sit on the edge. Get your knees at 90° angle, and stand up.
Quat back down. Slowly. I am a big believer in this move because I can really feel it in my glutes. It helps to focus the mind on the muscle. It is also a great compound movement, as it engages the core and back to get you back up.
Be gentle with yourself. If you haven't squatted before, do it without the weight. You don't want to be collapsing onto the bench and hurting your back with added weight!
Do 3 sets of 12 reps with a 10kg barbell. Give yourself as much rest as you need between sets, but a good indicator is about 30-60 seconds.
- Squat to Curtsey Lunge
This is honestly my favourite move at the moment because it looks super pretty as well as getting your heart rate up and working all of the leg muscles. It also obviously uses your core for balance, as well as your arms if you are holding a barbell or dumbbell!
It is not the easiest move. As a girl who wears heels to work every day, I have quite restricted ankle mobility. I am going to go into that a little later in the squat-deadlift combo, but suffice to say that my squat in this is not very deep.
To really target the glutes, you want to stand with your legs just wider than shoulder-width, with your toes pointed slightly out. Ignore your power-lifting boyfriend and his sumo stance.
Then you want to sit as low as you can. I usually get to about parallel to the floor (so those box squats earlier are a good warm up to this one), stand back up pushing through the glutes, and bring one leg diagonally behind the other. The video below will help. Squat again, and repeat on the other side. That's one rep.
Do 2 sets of 5 reps (so you'll be doing five on each leg) with a 10kg barbell. I remember I'd set myself to do three sets, but these were really hard and I could feel my form starting to suck. They're harder than they look, and you'll be sweaty.
- Hip Thrust
This is probably the best glute-isolated movement. It's great for lifting and rounding that booty, and because both your feet and upper back are resting, you can go heavier! And if, like me, you have tight calves and can't squat low or heavy, this is a great alternative move.
Again, if the 20kg barbell is too heavy for you, drop down to 10kg. Or do it without the weight.
The principle of the hip thrust is similar to that of the pilates bridge. However, there is a difference, in that your shoulders will be resting on a bench. So sit down with your back to a bench, with your feet hip-width apart resting foot-flat on the floor. You will want to rest the barbell just on the crease of your thigh, and push up through the heel and butt to lift that off the floor. Keep the shoulders on the bench. Come back down.
For heavy weights, you will need a little padding so you don't end up with giant bruises, but for this work out I don't think it's necessary.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps with a 20kg barbell.
A Super-set is a set of two exercises done back to back without rest. So usually you would do Set1-rest-Set1-rest-Set1-rest and then move on to set two. In a SuperSet it is more like Set1-Set2-rest-Set1-Set2-rest and so on. These are great to stick on to the end of a workout to really fatigue the muscles and get the best possible workout. By taking away those 30-60 seconds of rest, you're working the muscles constantly.
1. Deadlift to Squat
I cannot seem to find a video for this particular move, and it is not the easiest to explain. For video reference try here.
I always use a plate under my heels for this because otherwise the duck squat is absolutely impossible for my stubborn ankles. This is a three-step movement:
- Hinge at the waist, back straight, and pick up the weight that is on the floor.
- Stand up with the weight, and go into the lowest squat you can. You want your hamstrings to be touching your calves, and your butt to be hovering off the floor/plate.
- Stand back up with the weight, hinge at the waist and put the weight down.
This is a great move to do at the end of a workout, and you don't have to go very heavy at all, because either way it will be getting your heart-rate up.
Do 3 sets of 10 with a 10kg dumbell.
2. Elevated Bridge
This is another beginner move, like the box squat, which can be adapted for advanced by adding weight or doing it single-legged. By this point in my workout I was really quite tired, so I just did the standard, and if it is your first workout I recommend you do the same and don't injure your back.
Do 3 sets of 10 with just your body weight.
4. The Cool-Down
I know that by this point you'll just want to go home, and the idea of getting back on the treadmill is really unappealing. Just do five minutes on 3km/hr. I have a 20-minute walk at this point, so I skip the cool-down and go straight to stretching.
A nice little stretch sequence like this one below is a good and relatively fast way to get your stretch in. I hold each stretch for about one minute before moving on to the next one, but longer is better in this case.
Stretching reduces recovery time, and soreness, and helps to achieve that long lean look we're all looking for in our muscles. Those resistance bands you used during Glute Activation will come in handy here too, if you can't quite reach your toes yet.
I hope this was helpful to all you beginner weightlifting girls out there, I wish you happy lifting!