One of the best exercises for hitting the glutes and hamstrings is the Romanian deadlift. This deadlift removes the knees from the equation, so the emphasis is all on the hamstrings and glutes. To do this exercise, stand over a loaded barbell resting on the floor. Take a hip-width to shoulder-width stance, knees slightly bent and the bar touching your shins. Bend forward at the hips and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Maintain the arch in your back throughout the movement as you raise your torso until you are standing straight up with your torso leaning slightly back. Then lower the bar, keeping the arch in your back by hinging at the hips and allowing your glutes to move backward as you keep the bar in contact with your legs on the way down. If you are flexible enough, let the bar touch the floor and then pull it back up. Or you can stop about mid-shin height and then raise the bar back up.
■ Alternative: dumbbell Romanian deadlift
WHEN TO GET ROMANIAN: Since the Romanian deadlift allows you to go fairly heavy and place a lot of overload on your hamstrings and glutes, you should do it first in your hamstring-focused workouts. Then follow with leg curl exercises, such as lying and seated leg curls.
FORM AND FUNCTION: The hamstrings are composed of three different muscles. Most of the hamstrings, particularly the outer portion, are made up of the biceps femoris, which starts on the pelvis, crosses the hip and knee joint, and attaches to the tibia. The semitendinosus and semimembranosus make up the inner hamstrings and start on the lower portion of the pelvis and also cross both the hip joint and the knee joint to attach to the tibia (lower leg bone). All three hamstring muscles work to both flex the knee joint, such as during leg curls, and extend the hips, such as during Romanian deadlifts. The gluteus maximus, of course, is the large muscle you typically refer to as your butt.