Kristi Eramo O’Connell, formerly a top-level CrossFit competitor, maintains her fitness post-retirement by incorporating a variety of workouts into her routine. From conquering half marathons to consistent gym sessions, she continues to embody the dedication of a fitness enthusiast even beyond her competitive career. On Jan. 28, 2024, Eramo O’Connell and her husband Patrick shared a YouTube video featuring the top seven exercises for building glutes and hamstrings.
Kristi Eramo O’Connell and her husband are also running their own gym as well as a coaching program. So, they have spent a significant amount of time perfecting their craft and learning everything there is to know about the process of building muscle. It is due to this experience that they decided to help out their fan base and reveal some effective exercises for the lower portion of the posterior chain.
Kristi Eramo O’Connell’s Top 7 Exercises for Glute & Hamstring Growth
- Banded Hip Extensions
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Dumbbell Sumo Stance Squats
- Deficit Lunge
- Single Leg RDL (Two variations)
- Traditional RDL
Exercise One — Banded Hip Extension
The first exercise that Kristi Eramo O’Connell decided to put on her list was the Banded Hip Extension. In order to set it up, Kristi hooked up the resistance band to a vertical pole at a height of around 6 to 12 inches. She then turned her back to the pole, got on the inner side of the resistance band, and came down to her knees while remaining in an upright stance.
With the resistance band set to the height of the hips, Kristi Eramo O’Connell also spreads out her knees to the width of her shoulders.
“What this band is wanting to do is pull me back toward the rig. So, I am going to think about tucking my chin and keeping my spine neutral as I break in the hip, hinging and letting the band pull my hips back. I can feel my glutes stretch and then I am going to extend by squeezing my glutes.”
Kristi Eramo O’Connell likes to use the Banded Hip Extension as a warm-up for her squats or whenever she expects to use her posterior chain more frequently.
Exercise Two — Bulgarian Split Squat
The second exercise on the list is the Bulgarian Split Squat, which is described by many as one of the best exercises for muscle hypertrophy. To set up this exercise, the O’Connell duo recommends taking a large step away from the bench and placing one foot on top of it.
The backfoot should only be there for support and balance. So, the front foot should be the main focus when it comes to exerting effort. An important factor when doing the Bulgarian Split Squat is bending the back leg at the knee while dropping the hips “back and down”.
This movement allows for the shins of the front leg to remain straight and vertical. On the other hand, if the shin leans forward and the knee goes past the toes, it would mean that the quads are the main active muscle group, rather than the intended glutes and hamstrings.
O’Connells recommend doing the entire set on one leg before altering the stance and performing the exercise on the other leg as well. Moreover, they state that this exercise can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, goblet holds, or without any additional weight.
Exercise Three — Dumbbell Sumo Stance Squats
Kristi Eramo O’Connell also likes Dumbbell Sumo Stance Squats when it comes to building her glutes and hamstrings. She likes to place her feet slightly wider than the shoulder stance, with the dumbbell straight below her center of mass. Kristi also grabs the dumbbell with her hands going over the top of each other.
“I’m going to pull my hips down, sitting back into the squat so I can feel my glutes and hamstrings engage. Then, I’m going to think about pushing through the floor, squeezing my glutes as I stand up. But my torso is still staying slightly forward. That way, I am weighing my glutes and hamstrings with a slight hinge,” said Kristi.
Kristi Eramo O’Connell also advises against locking out the repetitions. Instead, she believes that stopping the motion before reaching full lockout is more beneficial since it puts more tension on the glutes and hamstrings.
Exercise Four — Deficit Lunge
The lunge is known as a great exercise to incorporate into a leg day, but the O’Connells included a deficit variation on their list. So, for this exercise, a person needs to stand with both feet on an elevated platform, which is preferably about four inches high.
Next, O’Connell took a step backwards with one of the legs and lowered the knee down to the floor. Similarly to the Bulgarian Split Squat, O’Connell pointed out the importance of maintaining a vertical shin of the front leg in order to activate the glutes and hamstrings.
This exercise can be performed by alternating the legs after each rep or by finishing the set with one leg before moving to the other. Moreover, O’Connells state that the Deficit Lunge can be performed with a barbell, dumbbell, or without any weight for more volume.
Exercise Five & Six — Single Leg RDL
Kristi Eramo O’Connell demonstrated two versions of the Single Leg RDL exercise.
For the first version, Kristi Eramo O’Connell uses a staggered stance, which basically means that all of the bodyweight rests on the front leg while the toe of the other foot is placed slightly behind. The back leg should once again only be used to maintain balance and stability.
Moreover, Kristi uses the same-sided arm as the leg on which she is working. So, if the right leg is in front, then Kristi would grab the dumbbell with her right hand as well.
“From here, I want to think about keeping my midline tight, my chin slightly tucked, and having a soft and healthy bend in my front knee.
I’m going to think about reaching those hips back, pushing my hips as far back as I can, feeling a nice stretch through my hamstring and glute.
Then I am going to drive through my heel and squeeze my glutes,” said Kristi.
The second version holds up to the same standards as the first version, with the only difference being the stance. In the second version, Kristi demonstrated a Single Leg RDL where the back leg rested up on the wall behind her. As she explains, this version might feel more effective for some people.
Exercise Seven — Traditional RDL
The last exercise on Kristi Eramo O’Connell’s list of the best exercises to build hamstrings and glutes is the Traditional RDL (Romanian Deadlift). Although the RDL can be set up in numerous ways, O’Connell has described a few principles that have to be considered regardless of the variation.
Firstly, the feet should be spread to the width of the hips, while the toes need to be pointed directly forward. The Traditional RDL is then initialized with a soft bend in the knees. However, during the next portions of the lift, the knees should not bend any more than that, but rather stay in the same position.
With the knees locked in place, Patrick O’Connell advises pulling the shoulder blades back and down as well. Once everything is ready, the only focus remains pushing the hips as far back as possible. This causes the torso to lean forward as well.
However, the rep is completed by squeezing the glutes and returning the hips back into the starting positions. Due to this, many make the mistake of bringing their chest up through activation of other muscles, such as the lower back.
Watch the full video here:
Kristi Eramo O’Connell is undoubtedly one of the fittest women on earth, having taken part in seven consecutive editions of the CrossFit Games from 2016 to 2022. She placed in the top 10 on five occasions, with her best finish being seventh in 2019. Apart from that, she is also into running and has completed marathons.
Kristi Eramo O’Connell has decided to use all of her experience, alongside her husband, Patrick, to make videos and educate anyone who seeks help when it comes to fitness, as evident by her top 7 exercise picks for glute and hamstring growth.