Sample Legs, Glutes & Abs Workout for a Figure Competitor

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted this:

“I’ll post one of the workouts I currently have Jaclyn Gough (my awesome and beautiful girlfriend) on to train for her Figure show, which is on Oct 26th. I’m currently doing the workouts w/ her. So dudes can them, too, as there are no ‘girl’ or ‘guy’ workouts; there are just workouts for various goals. The goal of this program (currently) happens to be gaining muscle (i.e. increasing hypertrophy). So, which one of these workouts would you like to see most: the Lower-body (Legs, Glutes, Abs), Upper-body Pushing (i.e. Shoulders, Tri’s, etc.) or Upper-body Pulling (i.e. Back, Bi’s, etc.)?”

The overwhelming number of people voted to see the Lower-body workout, which is what I’m providing you in today’s post.

Here's Jackie in a Bikini show around 2010. She took some time off from competing. Since she's going to be competing in Figure in this upcoming show, we're going for a leaner lower-body and a more developed upper-body.
Here’s Jackie in a Bikini show around 2010. She took some time off from competing. Since she’s going to be competing in Figure in this upcoming show, we’re going for a leaner lower-body and a more developed upper-body.

Jackie’s Lower-body Workout Program

Here’s a picture of the lower-body workout I have Jackie on from weeks 13-9 out of her figure show. Below, I’ve also explained why I designed her current program in this way.


The Workout Breakdown

The first exercise I have Jackie doing is a One Leg One Arm Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift for 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Here's Deanna Avery showing us how it's done.
Here’s Deanna Avery showing us how it’s done.

Jackie then goes to One Leg One Arm Low Cable Romanian Deadlifts for 1 set x15 reps and 1 set x20 reps (per leg). I have her changing the angle of resistance within the same exercise movement for the reasons I’ve describe in my Full Spectrum Bodybuilding 101 article and in my Add More Mass to Your Ass article.


Next , she performs 3 sets x14-20 (per leg) of Single Leg Bench Hip Thrusts. To create overload, she holds a single dumbbell over the hip of her down (i.e. working) leg.

Not shown in this pic: Jackie holds a dumbbell over (in this case) her left hip. When she switches feet, she places the dumbbell over her right hip.
Not shown in this pic: Jackie holds a dumbbell over (in this case) her left hip. When she switches feet, to hot the right side, she places the dumbbell over her right hip.

Jackie then moves on to the Performance U Hamstring Hat-trick Circuit using a stability ball. This circuit consists of three exercises performed back-to-back: Leg curls, Straight leg (15° knee-bend) bridges w/ heels off the ball), and Bent leg bridges with toes off of the ball.

I have her super setting the Hamstring Hat-trick circuit with Stability Ball Pike Roll Outs for 3 sets x10-15 reps.

Jackie then moves on to perform a superset on the Machine Leg Press.

To begin the superset she places her feet at the mid-level of the platform (a higher foot placement would make it more glute dominant). Once she finishes her given reps on each set of Leg Presses; she places her feet at the bottom of the platform (with her heels off of the platform), and performs a set of Calf Raises.

For the machine Leg Press, I have her doing 3 sets x10-12 reps, and 1 set x20 reps.

For the Calf Raises I also have her doing 3 sets x10-12 reps, and 1 set x20 reps, as well.


Jackie finishes her lower-body workout with some “quadriceps dominant conditioning” by doing HIIT intervals on the Upright Bike.

She performs a 3-minute warm-up, then goes into her High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) rounds by performing 30-seconds of hard work interspersed with 60-seconds of light “active recovery.”

She performs 6-8 rounds of this interval scheme, and finishes with a 2-minute cool down. (Note: It’s technically a 3-minute cool-down when you add in the 6o-second active recovery period at the end of the last interval round.)

Weight-Training: Rest Between Sets?

In regards to resting between sets, I have Jackie rest as much as she needs, and as little as she has to in order to return to her following set, each time able to maintain good control and intensity.

As I covered in my Time Your Recovery to Build Muscle article for STACK, when we’re training to maximize hypertrophy gains, the Performance U approach emphasizes approx. 60 seconds rest time between sets.

Now, if the set is much higher volume (like the Hamstring Hatrick), that rest break (between sets) will likely need to be extended.

It should be noted that 60 seconds rest is not a strict rule that we always use. It’s just a general, and flexible guideline that we (for the most part) emphasize when training for increased muscle development. In other words, sometimes (but not as often) we emphasize resting longer between sets. But to go into detail about when and why we do this is beyond the scope of this post.

Due to the fact that, in Jackie’s current training program,  we’re not going for very long rest periods; I have Jackie doing her single leg work (the One Leg RDLs and the Single Leg Hip Thrusts) as stand-alone sets, whereas I do have her super-setting her bilateral exercises (like the Leg Presses with the Calf Raises).

Put simply, when doing any unilateral exercise, while one side is working the other side is resting. This enables her to keep the pace of her workout up while still allowing her muscles time for the recovery period we’re after. But if I gave her a super-set of a single leg exercise with a bilateral exercise, and she begins the single leg exercise with her left leg. In the time it takes for her to perform the exercise on her right leg, and to perform the bilateral exercise (she’s super-setting with), and takes a bit of a break to breathe; it will likely take her at least two minutes by the time she’s able to return to hitting her left leg again. And, as I stated above, that’s a longer rest break then we are looking to emphasize in this program.

Why is Jackie’s Lower-Body workout designed the way it is?

It’s obvious that this program focuses on developing the glutes and hamstrings. This is mainly done because it’s a goal of Jackies’ to improve her muscular development in these areas. Plus, I should not have to tell any personal trainer that this is a very common goal of females in general, and having great looking Legs and Hips is crucial if you want have any sort of good placement in a figure or bikini competition.

Another reason why I don’t have Jackie doing lots of knee-dominant strength training work – we do use some  – is that she has some structural (not functional) alignment issues, which cause me not to be very comfortable with really stressing her knees in the weight-room. This is another topic that beyond the scope of this post to go into detail about.

So, with the above in mind, the Exercise Bike becomes a great option for her to not only to get in some cardio-conditioning, but also help to develop her quads in a very knee-friendly training environment.

In other words, throughout her training process for this figure show – not just in this particular 4-week phase (training 5x per week) – the Bike will be her best friend. (Note: we’ll also incorporate some sled work in her next phase, which we’ve found to be another great knee-freindly, lower-body training option.) I go into detail about this topic in our Joint Friendly Strength Training 2-DVD set.


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