The Butt Builder

Women - who doesn't want a firm and toned butt! Julie Michaelson tells you how to train for the perfect back side. Workout includes nutrition advice.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Single Muscle Group
6 weeks
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Dumbbells, Machines
Male & Female
download pdfDownload Workout

Workout Description

Firm ButtOne 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.


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 Dymatize Elite Whey and 2 tablespoons of Gatorade powder. During contest prep, this usually changes with less carbs before the workout and I’ll substitute Xtend 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

125 Comments+ Post Comment

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

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

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Posted 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!

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Posted 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.

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Posted 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

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Posted 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

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

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

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Posted 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?

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Posted 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?

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

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.

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

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

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

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????

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Posted 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?

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Posted 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.

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

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

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Posted 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??

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Posted 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?

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Posted 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?

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

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

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Posted 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?


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Posted 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

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Posted 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?

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

what is the meaning of failur?

mnsjason's picture
Posted Thu, 05/09/2013 - 16:50

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

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

ttank u sooo much MR/mnjason

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Posted 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

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Posted 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.

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Posted 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.

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Posted Wed, 02/20/2013 - 22:51
Courtney W

This workout kicked my butt! I love it!

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Posted Fri, 02/08/2013 - 08:11

30 SETS? Ohoo no nooo my friend...Ive been working out a lonngg time and this will give you a round, toned but smaller butt...not a nice thick strong juicy booty....

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Posted Tue, 02/05/2013 - 09:25

i have been jogging and lifting forever. not with any guidance, however. not a wimp at all, but i couldnt get through ten sets of squats. my legs are killing me today. i am going to run with this for a while.

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Posted Sat, 02/02/2013 - 15:10

I guess, this may sound like a silly question, but I'm not a native English speaker and I am wondering what failure means? It says Leg Extensions, 3 sets, Failure reps? Does this mean descending or something? Thanks for the answer!

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Posted Fri, 02/01/2013 - 17:55

On the row titled Leg Extensions, what does "Failure" mean? Also, on lifting (rather than cardio) days, I still like to get at least a mile of cardio in, do you recommend doing it before or after the workout?

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:45
Karen McKinney

Hi Julie...I want to add muscle mass to my thighs and glutes, what do you recommend i eat pre workout & post workout?

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Posted Thu, 01/17/2013 - 01:05
Kelsey Rea

I have bad knees but would like to build my butt yet tone my legs and hips. Is there a way i can do that?

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Posted Tue, 01/15/2013 - 09:31

I am not able to do the supersets 10 times. I am trying to build muscle. Is six sets fine and still get results? Also should I be doing thr lunges with weight?

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Posted Wed, 01/09/2013 - 15:53

I love this workout! My butt got bigger by 1/2" in 3 weeks. Only problem is that I had to switch gyms, my new gym has the seated leg curl and not the one where you lay on your stomach. It feels different. Is it much different or is it in my head? The other thing that changed; I always used free weights for the squats, I was intimidated to use the barbell.. but I really want to try it. How much weight should I use and any tips on how to do it? (i used to hold 15 lb weights in each hand for the free weight, but I started at 12 lbs.)

Joey's picture
Posted Wed, 01/09/2013 - 16:10

Start with a weight where you can complete the recommended reps with great form. Perfect your form and slowly add weight so that you struggle to complete the reps. Once you're able to complete the prescribed reps, you should add weight the next time you squat. Again, your form is very important with squats. You may want to start with only the bar.

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Posted Mon, 12/17/2012 - 07:43

Do you do online training? I just had a son about 3 and a half months ago and I'm trying to get started on my fitness journey. I love to workout but I'm new to doing things the proper way to get results, as in what workouts twhat to eat. I lost most of my baby fat. I'm 5'4 and 114 but I look to thin AMD I just want to get this right.My email is

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Posted Tue, 12/04/2012 - 06:18

Hey, I really want to tone up my legs/bum, i already have really muscly legs naturally, they have always been big. I don't want them any bigger, although at the same time I would rather not lose muscle whilst trying to lose fat. Should I be doing workouts this intense on my legs, or should I do lighter workouts on my legs? :)

Joey's picture
Posted Fri, 12/07/2012 - 12:11

While losing weight, you'll still want to encourage your body to hang on to as much muscle as possible. You won't want to ease up on the legs!

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Posted Fri, 11/30/2012 - 12:30

how many times should i perform this workout

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Posted Mon, 11/26/2012 - 19:11

I am trying to start doing squat but i have bad knees want other workout i can do to help butt get big thanks

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Posted Sat, 11/24/2012 - 19:31

what are some protein shake brands suggested for women for after a workout? and also some post work out brands?

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Posted Tue, 11/06/2012 - 16:52

Is it okay to do cardio, such as the elliptical, treadmill, etc, the next day after this workout while being really sore?

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Posted Fri, 11/02/2012 - 17:53

I want to build my legs and I use to have a rounder butt. But notice as I'm getting older early 40s that I have slowed down from lack there of. So my butt is going south and I'm getting flabby in tummy area. What can i do to build my legs and my butt back. And not be flabby. Need your help.


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Posted Sun, 09/16/2012 - 23:44

i have heavy upper body and fat on my back and neck

want toned body and my weight is 154lbs. please help me to lose weight.

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Posted Tue, 09/11/2012 - 14:20
Jessica Williams


I absolutely love your comment about machines and I feel the same way about light weight and lots of reps. Im about to try this workout today and add in a few extras. I'll let you know how it goes!

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Posted Thu, 08/23/2012 - 22:23

Going to give this workout a try tomorrow. Well let you know how I feel after.

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Posted Wed, 07/25/2012 - 13:50

what can i use is i dont have weights or Barbell or Dumbbells

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Posted Mon, 06/25/2012 - 19:46

Hi! I don't have any machines for the Leg Extensions, what would be a good replacment without machinery? Thanks!!