Who doesn't want a firm and toned butt? Julie Michaelson shares a simple workout she uses to build muscle and tone her glutes.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Single Muscle Group
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration6 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

One of my coaches once told me that my genetic gift is my legs. I am lucky that I am blessed with long, naturally lean legs. However, they once attached themselves to the typical “white girl butt”…flat. They were also “skinny” once the body fat was stripped away. I used to buy into the belief that training heavy would make me bulky, so I did light weights or bodyweight exercises whenever I trained legs. When I decided that I wanted to transform my physique into that of a figure competitor, I was told repeatedly that I’d have to grow my legs and start lifting HEAVY.

I have since become a huge fan of heavy leg training and high volume to achieve lean muscle growth. I like a keep-it-simple approach, basic, compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at a time. Effective. Efficient. In my opinion, the foundational exercises of a solid leg routine include: the squat, straight-leg deadlift and leg press. I build my leg training around those foundational exercises, focusing on strict form, high volume and heavy weight. I always cringe when I see women on the abductor and adductor machines doing light weight and high reps. I feel compelled to enlighten them and lead them to the squat rack, but I resist the temptation.

I’m also not a big fan of machines for any kind of training, but especially for legs. I think that barbells and dumbbells can provide an extremely effective, efficient and challenging leg workout. However, I still make use of the leg extension or leg curl machine from time to time.

Nutrition Tips

I like to eat higher carbs on the days I train legs. I will typically increase my starchy carbs by 50-75 grams and always follow the workout with a protein shake made with Whey Protein and 2 tablespoons of Gatorade powder. During contest prep, this usually changes with less carbs before the workout and I’ll substitute BCAAs in the post-workout shake for the Gatorade.

My female clients love this workout and always happily complain that they can’t sit down for a few days afterwards. The following leg workout is one that, if done right, you only want to perform once a week, giving your body ample recovery time before hammering the legs hard again the next week.

The Workout

Workout Notes

  • Squats - I typically do back squats (I do not use a Smith machine and don’t recommend it if you can use a squat rack or dumbbells) but there are several variations you can substitute to change things up.
  • Squat and Leg Curl Supersets - Rest 60 seconds between each squat and leg curl superset. For example, perform 10 reps of squats immediately followed by 10 reps on leg curls. Rest 60 seconds, then perform this superset again. By the time you finish your 20 sets of squats and leg curls your legs should be pretty fried. I like to finish off the workout with 10 last sets of lighter weight exercises to finish off the legs.

Keep the rest periods short and the weight as heavy as you can go without sacrificing form. I like to keep rest intervals at 60 seconds-2 minutes max!

The Butt Builder
The Butt Builder
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat (Superset with Leg Curls) 10 10
Leg Curls 10 10
Reverse Barbell Lunges 4 8 to 10
Dumbbell Step Ups 3 12
Leg Extensions 3 Failure

Have any questions about this workout? Ask in the comments below and one of the team from M&S will get back to you.

Posted on: Mon, 06/03/2024 - 13:20

Hello I just did this workout today and while I did enjoy it and think it is a great leg workout, by the title I thought it was going to focus on glutes. I am looking more so to grow my glutes and I do CrossFit 3x a week and I have really leaned out. I am more so looking to grow my glutes again. Can you suggest at a workout that focuses on that? Thank you.

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Posted on: Mon, 06/10/2024 - 06:50
Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2024 - 10:57

I am in week 3 of the 12 week workout for women. I would like to substitute your glute workout for one of the leg days. My legs are too short for the leg extension machine at my gym. Can you recommend a substitute?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 03/23/2024 - 17:06

Hello, Babs! Thank you for reading M&S!

I think it would be okay to make a swap. What kind of equipment does your gym have that you could work with? I don't want to make a suggestion that you can't do. Let me know, and I will provide some options.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2024 - 20:23

Then yes, this workout would be a good swap. You didn't need me after all. :)

Posted on: Sat, 03/23/2024 - 18:22

My gym is a brand new Y with lots of equipment. There are cables, Smith machines, racks with everything, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and some fancy machines that are mostly too big for me (I am 4’11”). I can use the leg presses and recently figured out how to use the leg extension machine for glute kickbacks. Does that help?
Thanks for getting back to me.

Tasha King
Posted on: Mon, 02/19/2024 - 16:17

If I am more intermediate, than beginner, will I still be able to get results using this routine?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 02/24/2024 - 07:25

Hi Tasha, you can still get results on this one. Just push yourself on each movement, and the results will come.

Thank you for reading M&S!

Tasha King
Posted on: Mon, 02/19/2024 - 16:11

Can I do this twice a week or would that be overworking the muscles? TIA!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 02/24/2024 - 07:26

You can do it twice a week, but I suggest giving it at least three days between workouts. Twice a week is the max I would suggest for this.

Posted on: Fri, 11/03/2023 - 01:05

Hi, i am performing this at home with my multigym and dumbells, but i do not have a machine to do the leg curls. I tried a dumbell between my feet with 10kg, but i feel the weight is not enought. If i put more weight in, i can not lift it at the first time. Any suggestion?. Thanks in advance!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/15/2023 - 18:20

What kind of equipment do you have, Mariela? Let me know everything you have, including bands, weighted balls, etc. I will see if I can come up with suggestions.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 11/28/2023 - 18:55

I can't share the link here because it would be outside of the site, but look up banded leg curls on YouTube. Those would be a great option to swap with. You can do them either single leg or both at the same time. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Fri, 11/17/2023 - 14:19

Hi Roger, thank you very much for your help. Here you are the list of elements i have: 3 pound dumbbell x2, 8 pound dumbbell x 2. 5 rubber resistance bands, from x-light to x-heavy. 1 25kg resistance band (long one), 1 fabric xx-heavy resistance band. 16 kg kettlebell, 15 kg dumbbells.
(changeable discs). Decathlon HG compact
multigym, and steady bike. And 2 foam bricks. I think i did not forget anything to mention, thabks again for helping me on my journey!. Cheers, Mariela

Posted on: Thu, 06/15/2023 - 17:03

How much weight should you use for this workout?

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Posted on: Fri, 06/16/2023 - 07:25

Whatever you can do without sacrificing form. It should feel challenging, but not impossible. The number is going to be up to you because I have no idea how strong you are.

noelle mccathern
Posted on: Sat, 09/24/2022 - 11:47

How do I incorporate this routine into the 5 day 10 week MS womens routine I am currently doing. It is a Mon-Fri routine

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 09/25/2022 - 20:03

Replace the glute workout in that program with this one if you like.

Posted on: Wed, 04/20/2022 - 17:28

I work out at home and need a work out plan for building strength using dumbbells. Which work outs do you recommend on your website?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 04/28/2022 - 21:25

Are they adjustable dumbbells or fixed, Cat? You can do this one with heavy weights on the lower rep ranges. You can even go as low as five or six reps per set if you want to get stronger.


Ndufestus praise
Posted on: Fri, 07/15/2022 - 14:19

Pls how do I balance my workout with my chores
And school

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 07/23/2022 - 19:58

Hey Ndufestus. Give me a rundown of your schedule, and I'll see where I can plug the workout in.

Samantha Cris
Posted on: Thu, 06/02/2016 - 10:05

I think this workout will help me to firm my bubble butt .

Posted on: Sat, 11/08/2014 - 22:19

Hi I'm just starting to work out, I don't need to lose weight(90-93lbs and 5ft) I just need to shape my body. It needs to be sweet and simple!
Thank you!

Posted on: Tue, 08/12/2014 - 15:53

I want to know and inform my self a little more on how to loose weight as well as loose body fat. I'm a 4'10 feet tall not so tall lol my weight is 140 and my BMI is 34% which is bad real bad. I've been going to the gym for about 2 months already but I'm still new to the fitness world especially when it comes to learning how to get results and get to my goal I would love to loose about 30 pounds before this yr is over please any advise and support will be appreciated I wanna better my self and have a healthy life style.

Posted on: Tue, 05/13/2014 - 18:24

Hi julie i was wondering because i have muscler legs but i samt them smaller. So should i lift heavy when i take legs To get them smaller? I am 158 cm

Posted on: Tue, 04/22/2014 - 12:06

Hi im 26 yrs old 5'3 n weigh only 94 ive lost alot of weight in the past few months and im trying to gain in back but no matter what i do i cant put back on the weight what do you recommend i do to not lose anymore weight but to gain in especially in my flat butt also how lonv will it take to acheive a weight gain of around 7-10 pounds? Please help me i hate looking so thin

Posted on: Sat, 02/15/2014 - 11:03

Hi I need help with a workout schedule & meal plan please

Posted on: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 15:08

What if you have bad knees? When I do squats, my knee clicks and swells badly for about two days. What's a good alternative to squats?

Posted on: Wed, 02/05/2014 - 16:59

I am excited to get started! I only have dumbbells. Which dumbbell exercises should I substitute for the leg curls and leg extensions?

Anna Kar
Posted on: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 23:44

Hi Trainer Julie,
I'm 18 years old and weigh 92 lbs. Although people say I look healthy, I really want to gain some weight and build curves. Do you think this program would be appropriate for me, or am I too young? I ask because in a previous comment someone mentioned they were 15-18 and you told them to use light weights instead.

Posted on: Mon, 12/16/2013 - 15:50

How exactly would I do the Squats workout with dumbells.. Ive been struggling. Help please!

Amber Scheel
Posted on: Sun, 11/10/2013 - 16:34

I'm just starting and I don't even know where to begin.....
I'm 30 yr old healthy female, 135lbs, and about 21% +/- body fat......
I don't care so much about the weight as I want to drop my body fat % to about 14%, tone current muscle, and build more muscle. Please I'm begging for someone to please please help me get down to business. I do not have a gym membership and right now can't afford it so all my workouts need to be done at home & I don't have any weights at home either. Like I said I'm totally new at this I don't know what exercises to do and what sort of diet I should be doing (high protien low carb or vise versa or...???).
Please help me????

Musenge Chileya
Posted on: Thu, 09/23/2021 - 10:43

Hey,you can achieve whatever you want with your body without a gym membership. If you want to manage weight ensure that you have low carb and high carb days to avoid hormone misfiring. I am not talking about the bad carbs,the good carbs.Utilise protein and protein shakes to especially if you want to build muscle and do not forget to drink water. Trust the process more importantly ❤️

Posted on: Mon, 10/21/2013 - 17:07


I totaled my car a few years ago and injured my knees pretty badly. I have tried doing squats before but my knees always end up hurting after about 7 or 8 reps. Is it still okay for me to do this exercise or should I look for other ways to strengthen / grow my glutes?

Posted on: Fri, 09/20/2013 - 10:52

Hi, Although its called the Butt Builder is this a sufficient routine for lower body leg exercise performed once a week. Also I have been doing it for a month now. How will I up the game on it? My main aim is to improve muscle and tone and lower body fat.

Posted on: Wed, 09/18/2013 - 02:25

My gym hasnt got a leg curling machine. Is there an alternative exercise you can recommend please?

Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 07:27

Hello, I've been hitting the gym for about 4mths now & I've lost about 1lbs. However, my stomach is taking forever to go flat I do the stairmaster 5days a week until I burn 500cals a day.Now it seems like just my legs & hips are slimming down & I look funny being slim with a gut! I would like to be a little bulky in the legs & but area's with a flat stomach . I also do a lot of leg weight's but not seeing any good leg muscle doing leg presses at 100lbs,squats on the V-squat machine with 50lbs,leg curls with 50lbs.Any suggestions??

Posted on: Tue, 08/13/2013 - 00:07

my girlfriend is just now getting into working out im looking for a good post work out drink or shake for her but it must be non dairy she is lactose intolerant. Any suggestions from the experts please?

Posted on: Fri, 07/12/2013 - 07:16

Hi Julie, will this workout help build my calves? as I don't want to lose weight just make my legs a bit bigger with muscle?

Posted on: Thu, 06/20/2013 - 20:36

How many times a week I have to do thise workout to grow my butt and legs

Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2013 - 17:15

Hi Julie,

I did the workout on Friday and loved it! It was super challenging and I used heavy weights for the squats. Sadly, I didn't feel much in my glutes and legs the day after and 48 hours post workout. I started with 35lbs dumbbells and finished the final 3 sets with 40 lbs. I am fairly fit and my form was spot-on, so I'm wondering why I didn't feel it. Increasing the weights could potentially throw off my form. Any suggestions?


Posted on: Sun, 05/19/2013 - 10:10

I have a biggier butt and biggier legs. i want to lift my butt and tone my legs, I had a baby a year ago and trying to get down to my pre baby wieght witch is 140lbs i am now 156lbs need help.
thank you

Posted on: Mon, 05/13/2013 - 04:40

I wanna try this routine. I just want to ask how often in a week do you recommend this be done?

Posted on: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 12:24

what is the meaning of failur?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 16:50

Training to failure means performing repetitions until you aren't able to complete one more with proper form.

Posted on: Sun, 05/19/2013 - 18:13

ttank u sooo much MR/mnjason

Posted on: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 02:46

So this exercise is good for making bigger butt? My legs have muscle but my butt is flat and square shape if this makes sense and trying to get a rounder bigger butt tired of saggy pants

Posted on: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 14:53

Hi, I started two months ago just working out.. I am trying to build slight mass, but mostly firm and tone up. How long till you see results like firmer/ less cellulite legs and glutes? Granted I am 42. Anyother helpful hints.

Posted on: Sat, 03/09/2013 - 08:07

I'm a total gym rat and I'm a huge fan of free weights and body weight. I work out twice a day: cardio in a.m. and lifting in the evening. I happen to love the Smith machine and won't join a gym without one. I'm a very serious lifter (not what I call a "PPW" (pretty pink weight) gal). The Smith machine allows me to 80+ pounds to do squats. This would be a VERY difficult weight for me to hoist over my shoulder / do my squats / and then hoist BACK over my shoulder and gently put the weight down.

Completely agree with you that transforming the body requires H-E-A-V-Y weights. I've done for my shape in 9 months of HEAVY lifting than I have done in 17 (seventeen) years of cardio. You are dead correct on that. I have more muscle than many of the women in my gym and I totally love the pumped up look. I don't care what a scale says and it has allowed me to work out freely - uninhibited - about keeping up with Mrs. Mass Media who says I should be a size 4 an 100 pounds.

I find it easier to just let my body do it's thing and lift heavy and "try" to eat right. Your exercises are all ones I do (heavy of course) and gals need to get off the light weights. I saw two girls (early college) giggling and lifting the 5 pound weights to do curls. I'm 45 and look better than they do. I'm not smaller than they are but I am stronger and my body shows I work out.

Great article.