Lower-body workouts are intense for good reason. Those powerful muscles can generate a lot of force, so you need exercises that get them fully engaged and exhausted. But a heavy lifting day doesn’t necessarily translate to a balanced lower body. Classic squats, deadlifts, and lunges can sometimes disproportionately work the quads and hamstrings and leave the glutes undertrained, explains fitness coach Tim Gardner, who counts IFBB bikini pro Janet Layug among his clients. The solution? While he’ll often separate out quads and hamstrings in training, this combined workout does it all. “The routine is structured to pre-exhaust the leg muscles,” says Gardner. “We start out targeting the quads, then transfer to the hamstrings, and back to the quads, adding in some glute isolation. We build up to higher-rep finishing sets, which is ideal for complete toning.” Result: Your glutes get their fair share of exercise so you can build muscle where you need it most. Check out these key lower-body moves demonstrated by Layug.
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Sit on leg-press machine with feet wider than hip-distance apart on platform, toes pointed out slightly and knees at 90 degrees, directly above ankles. Keep your back fully against the seat pad.
Straighten legs, pushing through heels as you press out. Don’t lock out knees at the top of the movement.
Slowly lower to start and repeat. Sets: 4 Reps: 10, 10, 15, 25
Adjust the single-leg machine to fit your height and position yourself so both thighs are against the machine pads, bending forward slightly at waist. Place right knee on pad while keeping left leg straight, bottom of calf a few inches above roll bar.
Curl bar toward hamstring with left leg, keeping upper body still throughout and upper thigh in contact with pad. Hold one count at the top, then straighten leg back to start without allowing weight stack to touch and repeat. Continue for all reps; switch sides and repeat. Sets: 3 Reps: 10, 15, 25
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Kneel on the bench of a butt-blaster machine with forearms and right knee against the pads. Place bottom of left foot against the platform, keeping back flat and spine neutral.
Press left leg upward, driving through your heel and squeezing your left glute at the top of the movement. Keep abs tight and hips squared without shifting weight to one side of your body. Slowly lower back to start and repeat. Sets: 4 Reps: 25
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NARROW & WIDE SMITH MACHINE ½ SQUAT
WORKS: GLUTES, QUADS
Stand with bar of Smith machine across upper back and shoulders, palms forward and feet together. Lower into a deep squat, bringing glutes below knees and keeping feet together.
Push through heels to stand up about halfway, keeping feet together. Lower back to squat and repeat. Sets: 2 Reps: 10, 15
Stand all the way up and bring feet about shoulder-distance apart, toes pointing out. Repeat deep squat, knees over toes.
Pushing through heels, stand about halfway up. Lower back to squat and repeat. Sets: 3 Reps: 10, 15, 25
HOW SHE DOES IT: “I’ve always trained hard on my abs, but lately I’ve focused a lot more on my glutes, trying to get them tighter and more toned. When I’m training for a competition, I’m doing something every single day— it’s important to stay in the flow.”
FAVORITE MOVES: Kickbacks, hip thrusts, and frog hops.
OUT OF THE GYM: “I love to get up and play tennis with my daughter, who is now 7 and is playing in USTA tournaments. It’s really fun, and you can burn a ton of calories!”
DIET PHILOSOPHY: “Nothing processed— no dairy, lots of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.”
CLEAN FOOD FAVES: Roasted brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, or sweet potatoes with some grilled chicken CHEAT TREAT: “I love a good, juicy burger!”
RECOVERY: “Getting a massage once a week helps my muscles recover. I also try to hit the sauna to relieve stress.”
OCCUPATION: “I have a degree in nursing, and I plan to get my nurse practitioner’s license. It’s important for me to stay up-to-date with the latest research.”
FIT PHILOSOPHY: “You have to change the way you think in order to accomplish your goals.”