Donkey Kick Exercise: How To, Alternatives,…

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You can challenge your body with many movements. Find out how to do the donkey kick exercise and whether you should.

The donkey kick is an exercise where you start on your hands and knees. You then move one foot backward and upward while keeping the leg at a 90-degree angle.

Doing donkey kicks is mainly good for working your glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back thighs).

One thing to keep in mind is that these are relatively strong muscles.

If you actually want to grow and strengthen these instead of just improve endurance, you will likely need a good amount of resistance.

Even with something like a resistance band, this can feel inconvenient to do. At least compared to the exercise alternatives there are.

That being said, it is still fair to say that doing donkey kicks can offer valuable benefits. Make sure you also give your quadriceps (front thighs) enough attention with other exercises.

How to do a donkey kick

If you find the exercise uncomfortable on your knees, you can invest in a soft pad or simply use something like a blanket.

That aside, take the following steps to do a donkey kick:

  1. Sit on your hands and knees. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched, your shoulders above your wrists, and your spine more or less straight.
  2. Moving one foot backward and upward until your upper leg is horizontal. Keep your knee at the same 90-degree angle and your hips in the same position.
  3. Lower your leg back into starting position.
  4. Complete your set with one leg and do the same number of repetitions on the other side.
How to do a donkey kick

The main thing to keep in mind is that you want to keep your hips in the same position. This will allow you to focus on the target muscles of the donkey kick exercise.

Donkey kick exercise muscles worked

The main muscles you work with the donkey kick exercise are your glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back thighs). More specifically, your upper hamstrings.

Something important people forget is that just doing a resistance training exercise like donkey kicks a few times is often not enough to see certain results.

More specifically, if you want to actually grow and strengthen your glutes and hamstrings with donkey kicks, you still need to do enough repetitions and use enough resistance.

How many donkey kicks are ideal depends on details like your training goals and personal capacities.

That being said, if you want to grow the muscles above, you want to do about 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 donkey kicks per leg with a resistance where you are barely able to do these ranges.

Since the glutes and hamstrings are strong muscles, many people will need to do some form of weighted donkey kicks to see results.

Some examples of equipment options include ankle weights, a resistance band, or even clamping a dumbbell between your legs.

Benefits of donkey kicks

While there may be more effective exercise alternatives too, you can still say that donkey kicks offer benefits. A few of these include:

  1. Grow and strengthen muscles: Doing donkey kicks in a good exercise routine can help you grow and strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.
  2. Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries: Because donkey kicks work one leg at a time, it becomes easier to work each side equally. This can help you avoid muscle imbalances.
  3. Can help weight loss: Donkey kicks can help weight loss to some extent by making your movements more intense than usual and helping you build muscle. Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits still matter too.
  4. Balance and coordination: While they are not the most challenging in this area, donkey kicks do require some balance and coordination. If you are currently not great in these areas, doing donkey kicks could be enough to see improvements.
  5. Can make daily activities easier: Your glutes and hamstrings play a big role in activities like walking around and climbing stairs. After a few weeks of donkey kicks, these things may feel easier to do.

Even if donkey kicks are not the only exercise that offers these effects, it is nice to see that adding them offers these helpful benefits.

Donkey kick alternatives

By now, you may want to know what other exercises can work your glutes, hamstrings, and other muscles. A few examples of donkey kick alternatives are:

  • Hip thrusts
  • Glute kickbacks
  • (Romanian) deadlifts
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Cable pull-throughs
  • Squats

What equipment you have available is a big factor in which of these donkey kick alternatives is the best for your situation.

Are donkey kicks a good exercise?

Donkey kicks can be a good exercise for working your glutes and hamstrings when you don’t have a lot of equipment available.

One potential downside is that many people will still need at least some equipment to make the exercise more challenging.

Especially if you are interested in actually growing and strengthening the muscles donkey kicks work.

For this reason, you could consider one of the donkey kick alternatives that are “naturally” more challenging for these muscles.

That being said, keep in mind that your personal preferences should influence exercise choices too. This detail can influence how consistent you are with your workouts.

Related posts:


Do donkey kicks make your bum bigger?

If you do them with enough resistance for enough repetitions, donkey kicks can make your bum bigger.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.