Kristi O’Connell Grows Her Glutes and Hamstrings With These 6 Exercises

The glutes and hamstrings are powerhouses of the lower body. Strong glutes propel forward movement and stabilize the pelvis. Powerful hamstrings boost athletic performance, lower injury risk, and enhance overall functionality. (1)

It can be challenging to effectively strengthen the posterior chain, which includes the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and erector spinae. On Jan. 28, 2024, seven-time CrossFit Games athlete Kristi O’Connell published a video on her YouTube channel, sharing her six go-to exercises to fortify the glutes and hamstrings. Check it out below:

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1. Banded Hip Extension

O’Connell banded hip extensions in her warm-up routine before squats or other heavy posterior chain exercises.

Setup: Anchor the band to a squat rack pole 10 to 12 inches above the floor. Step inside the band, place it over the hip crease, and step forward to create tension.

Position: Drop to a tall kneeling position with knees slightly wider than shoulder-width.

Execution: Maintain a neutral spine as you hinge at the hips, allowing the band to pull you back. Then, extend your hips forward by squeezing your glutes.

“When our glutes and hamstrings are working properly, our back is going to do less work,” said O’Connell. “So when doing this drill, make sure you don’t feel your back kicking on but feel just the glute working.”

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat recruits stabilizing muscles while allowing the glutes to train in a more lengthened position.

Setup: Stand two to four feet away from a bench and place your rear foot on it (laces down).

Position: Ensure a vertical shin on the front leg when you lower your body, keeping the front foot planted on the ground.

Execution: Lower your hips toward the ground, focusing on moving back and down. Push through the front foot to return to the starting position.

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3. Dumbbell Sumo Squat

Emphasizing the importance of maintaining tension in the target muscles, O’Connell avoided full extension at the top of the sumo squats to keep the glutes and hamstrings engaged.

Setup: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width, holding a dumbbell vertically between your legs with both hands.

Position: Squat while keeping your chest up and back straight.

Execution: Lower into the squat until your hamstrings and glutes are at least parallel to the floor. Then, return to the starting position, stopping short of full extension.

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4. Deficit Lunge

Similar to the Bulgarian split squat, the deficit lunge introduces elevation to achieve a deep glute and hamstring stretch.

Setup: Stand on an elevated surface (about four inches high; a 45-pound bumper plate should be sufficient) with dumbbells at your sides.

Execution: Step back into a lunge, lowering until the front thigh is parallel to the ground, ensuring a vertical shin. Push through the front leg to return to the starting position.

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5. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

O’Connell demonstrated two variations of the single-led Romanian deadlifts:

Version One (Staggered Stance)

Setup: Place most of your weight on your front leg, with the back leg slightly behind for balance. This is also known as a B-stance or kickstand RDL.

Execution: Hinge at the hips, keeping a slight bend in the front knee. Lower the weight toward the ground, maintaining a straight back, then drive through the heel to return to the starting position.

Version Two (Foot on Wall)

Setup: This setup is similar to Version One, but place your non-working foot against a wall for balance.

Execution: Perform the hinge, focusing on stretching the hamstring of the working leg. Squeeze the glute, and focus on shortening the hamstring to return to the starting position.

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6. Traditional RDL

Conventional RDLs are a staple in O’Connell’s workouts.

Setup: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in front of your thighs.

Position: Start with a slight knee bend and maintain it throughout the exercise.

Execution: Hinge at the hips to lower the weights, keeping a neutral spine. Focus on achieving a deep hamstring stretch at the bottom before squeezing the glutes to return to the upright position.

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Accessory and Compound Movements

This is how O’Connell segments and employs the above six exercises in her training regimen:

Primers: Use exercises like banded kickbacks, hip extensions, and hamstring curls to activate and prime the muscles and develop a mind-muscle connection before a workout.

Primary Compound Movements: Includes exercises that target multiple muscle groups, such as heavy Bulgarian split squats or deficit lunges.

Accessory Work: Finish the workout with high-volume, lighter-weight exercises to further fatigue the muscles beyond the primary movements.

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Widodo, A. F., Tien, C. W., Chen, C. W., & Lai, S. C. (2022). Isotonic and Isometric Exercise Interventions Improve the Hamstring Muscles’ Strength and Flexibility: A Narrative Review. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 10(5), 811.

Featured image: @kristieramo on Instagram

The post Kristi O’Connell Grows Her Glutes and Hamstrings With These 6 Exercises appeared first on BarBend.


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