If you’re looking to gain lower body strength, this glutes and hamstrings workout is what you need. The glutes and hamstrings work together throughout many lower body exercises. They are the muscles that propel you forward during sprints and drive you upward when you jump.
Whether you are working out with your own bodyweight or with the best adjustable dumbbells, we spoke to a personal trainer for the lowdown on the best glutes and hamstrings workout.
The hamstrings are made up of three separate muscles that run along the backs of your thighs from your hips to your knee and they play a role in pretty much every leg exercise and lower-body movement you carry out.
The gluteal muscles, often called glutes are a group of three muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus) that make up the gluteal region commonly known as the butt.
Strong hamstrings and glutes don’t just make your lower body look great, they also provide stability and strength and may prevent you from injury. Here's how to use a glutes and hamstrings workout to strengthen your lower body.
What are the benefits of working on your glutes and hamstrings?
Personal trainer and nutrition coach Vicki Cumberworth (opens in new tab) says the benefits of working on your glutes and hamstrings are plentiful.
“The glutes and the hamstrings provide support stability and function along with creating power and training performance. Functionally, when the glutes and hamstrings are strong you have a support system for the lower back and stability to the pelvis. The glutes are like your power button! Get them strong and see all aspects of your training propel forward. Aesthetically, a shapely bottom and more defined hamstrings are absolutely something to strive for! When these muscle groups work efficiently you will also get the added bonus of being able to burn fat more easily, as they are big muscle groups.”
Can building lower body muscle prevent injury?
Cumberworth says, “It is essential to focus on the glutes and hamstrings if, for example, you are suffering from recurring back pain. When the glutes and hamstrings are not doing their job the back has to take on all the load, which leads to injury. Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings is usually the answer to a lot of injuries including the knees, hips, pelvis, and back. A common pattern I see is overworking quads (fronts of legs) and weak underworking glutes and hamstrings, leading to knee pain, hip pain, and usually back pain too. When we have a strong set of glutes and functioning hamstrings we are a more solid stable unit to take on everyday life.”
Glutes and hamstrings workout: 5 moves to build strength
Cumberworth has devised a program to give you the best workout for your glutes and hamstrings.
- Starting off a deadlift with a kettlebell or dumbbells before moving onto a barbell always. Focusing on technique first and foremost to then increase the weight as you improve.
- Picking up the weight with your hamstrings, then your glutes, and for your back to do that final piece of the puzzle. A deadlift is a hinge at the hip, not a squat. It's a bending movement to activate hamstrings, your glutes and then your back.
- With a kettlebell in-between your feet, hip width apart, tabletop back position you will lift the kettlebell into your hips, arms straight at all times, squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement.
- Avoid hyperextending your back at the top and squeeze your glutes tight. Ask for 15 repetitions to begin with.
Bulgarian split squats
- Use a bench or a chair if at home.
- Placing just the top on the foot back onto the bench/chair, the opposite leg in front of you. Squatting down into the leg that is on the bench or chair.
- Allowing your body to track forward, driving into the heel of the foot that's on the floor to utilize your hamstrings and glutes.
- Aim for 10 repetitions on each leg, to begin with.
- Lay onto the floor, knees bent, hands by your side.
- Gently lift your hips, squeeze your glutes at the top without hyper-extending your back, and lower back down.
- Aim for 20 repetitions.
Swiss ball leg curls
- Laying flat on the floor. Place your feet on the top of the swiss ball. Gently lift your hips, relaxing the feet and squeezing the glutes (avoiding hyperextension in the back).
- Drive into the heels and draw the ball towards your bottom, using the hamstrings as a force to move the ball and squeezing your bottom at all times.
- Also drawing your tummy in to get the great core benefits, you may struggle with the balance to begin with.
- Aim for 10-20 repetitions, building up as you get better.
- Take care to not use your back with a kettlebell swing. Ensure your feet are hip-width apart.
- Take the kettlebell in-between your legs in a bent position.
- Drive the kettlebell forwards and through using your hamstrings and your bottom as the driving force.
- As a beginner, take the kettlebell to just above eye level, squeezing the glutes at all times, not hyperextending the back at the top of the movement, and getting good momentum.
- Ensure you spend some time activating the right muscles, driving with the glutes and the hamstrings.
Catherine is a freelance journalist writing across titles such as Verywell Health, Healthline, The Daily Telegraph, Refinery29, Elle, and Vogue. She specializes in content covering health, fitness, wellness, and culture.
A once reluctant runner, Catherine has competed in 30 running events in the past five years and looks forward to one day running the London Marathon.