Kick Butt Workout For an Effective Leg Day

A minimal-equipment circuit to specifically target your glutes and hamstrings

There are many ways to target your lower body and at times it can feel overwhelming. To help with your next leg workout, I thought I would walk you through mine and give you one of my favourite lower-body circuits to try towards the end of your workout.

I like to start my workout with variations of glute-activation exercises. I then move into different circuit combinations of squats, reverse lunges and bridges. Once my legs are warmed up, and through the main part of my leg workout, I start to target my glutes and hamstrings with a circuit that works through three to four exercises first on one leg and then the other.

I like to structure my circuit this way so that going through the exercises, each exercise (if placed in the right order) fatigues the muscles in a different way and progressively brings the focus to the back of your legs and glutes. Who doesn’t want that? Besides the aesthetics, stronger hamstrings and glutes will help you become a better athlete no matter what your sport of choice is.

The key to success and results with a lower-body workout is to not overcomplicate the movements and keep your workout simple and consistent while providing yourself enough variety that you don’t get bored. This workout will hopefully inspire you with four new exercises that you should consistently include in your lower body workouts.



Perform each exercise back-to-back on the same leg with minimal rest between. When all exercises are completed, repeat this circuit on the other leg.

Have a dumbbell and a band, both of medium resistance, ready for the second and third exercises respectively.

Do two sets of the following exercises:

1 Bulgarian split squats
10-15 reps

The Bulgarian split squat is a squat variation in which one leg is elevated on a surface while the other leg performs a squat, bearing most of the load. Because of this split position, this single-leg unilateral exercise targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings like no other leg exercise.

  • Stand roughly two feet in front of a sturdy bench or chair, core engaged, shoulders back, chest and eyes pointing straight ahead.
  • Place your right foot on the bench behind you.
  • Align your front leg directly in front of your hip and make sure it’s placed forward enough so that when you bend into the exercise your front knee tracks over your ankle (hold onto the wall if you need help to stabilize). 
  • Your back foot is there to help you stay balanced—the engagement and movement of the exercise are focused on the front leg.
  • Engage your core with your chest high and eyes looking straight ahead and bend your left knee. This allows your right knee and ankle to naturally bend as you move through the downward phase of the exercise without taking the load onto your back leg.
  • Keep the load balanced evenly across your front foot as you lower. Lower until your left quadriceps is roughly parallel to the ground and focus on stabilizing.
  • Press back to standing by pushing through your left foot using the power in your left quad and glute.
  • Once all the reps are completed, keep this leg in front and move to the next exercise.

2 Rear foot elevated Single Leg Rear Deadlift
8-12 reps

The single-leg deadlift is a great exercise for improving your balance and stability while focusing on your glutes and hamstrings.

  • Keeping the same leg in front, take the dumbbell into the opposite hand. Keep your core engaged, your shoulders back, and your chest up.
  • Keep your front knee soft (do not lock it), engage your core and keep your eyes focused forward as you hinge at your hips until your torso is almost parallel to the ground.
  • Briefly pause at the bottom, then squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and raise your torso back to the starting position.
  • Repeat until you complete the prescribed number of repetitions and then move onto the next exercise.

3 Banded donkey kicks
10-15 reps

Adding a resistance band to regular donkey kicks is a great way to make the exercise more challenging and increase the muscle tone in your glutes.

  • Start on all fours on the bench or the floor.
  • Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  • Place a resistance band around the arches of your feet and kneel on the floor or a bench.
    * Be sure that the resistance is not so heavy that you cannot complete the full range of motion.
  • While kneeling, keep your core tight, shoulders down your back, your gaze on the floor and your back still and stable. 
  • Start kicking up with the leg that was just in front for the first two exercises
  • Keep your leg at 90 degrees as you push against the resistance with your heel.
  • Pause at the top of the motion and make sure you feel your glute activating.
  • Lower your leg back to the starting position.
  • Complete all the repetitions and then move on to the fourth exercise.

4 Rainbows
10-15 reps

The rainbow is an incredible way to work your glutes from all angles. The bonus of this exercise is you have to stabilize a lot so it also works your core.

  • Start on all fours on the bench or the floor.
  • Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  • Keep your core tight, your shoulders down your back, and your gaze on the floor.
  • Extend the same leg you were kicking up in the last exercise, straight behind you.
  • Move that leg as far out to the side as you comfortably can and let it drop almost to the floor.
  • Engaging the glutes, lead with your heel as you lift the leg up and over to the opposite side in an arch motion, squeezing your glute at the top.
  • Repeat all the reps and then go back to exercise number one and repeat the circuit on the other leg. 

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Photography by Jeremy Wong and Amanda Palmer

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