You can work your glute muscles with a variety of exercises. Find out how to do glute kickbacks and whether they are a good choice for you.
Glute kickbacks involve standing bent over and extending (moving) one leg backward. Usually with some form of resistance to make the movement harder.
The regular version of glute kickbacks targets your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
With the right resistance, repetitions, nutrition, and rest, glute kickbacks are great for growing and strengthening these muscles.
Additionally, glute kickbacks help you get a better idea of what engaging these muscles feels like which can be useful in other exercises.
One thing to keep in mind is that most people still want to do exercises for other leg muscles too to avoid muscle imbalances.
Besides that, you want to use the right form to get the most out of glute kickbacks.
How to do a glute kickback properly
The walkthrough below assumes that you have a good cable machine with an ankle strap attachment. After this walkthrough, you can find what other equipment (and movement) options you have for glute kickbacks.
Take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Put the cable pulley as close to the ground as possible and preferably use an ankle strap handle. You may be able to get away with a D-grip handle but that option is a lot less safe.
- Stand with your face toward the cable machine and strap on the ankle band. You can hold the cable machine during the exercise for balance.
- Tilt your body forward until it is about horizontal or with your shoulders slightly more elevated. Keep your spine more or less straight throughout the rest of the exercise.
- Slowly move the foot with the strap back and with your knee slightly bent until your leg is about in one line with your upper body.
- Return your foot to starting position in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.
The first thing to keep in mind about glute kickback form is that you want to tilt your upper body forward enough.
This helps your leg go through the full range of motion which is helpful for muscle growth and strength progress.
Additionally, keeping your leg movements slow tends to be helpful. This can work your muscles harder and makes it easier to keep the rest of your body still so the focus of the exercise stays isolated.
One sign you may be using too much weight in the glute kickback exercise is if you can’t keep your movements controlled.
Glute kickback variations
The cable glute kickback above is the most standard version of the exercise. However, there are also a variety of other ways to do glute kickbacks at home or in the gym. Both in terms of equipment and technique.
First of all, the other equipment options you have include resistance bands, ankle weights, a specific glute kickback machine, and your body weight.
You also want to keep in mind that there are also simpler cable systems that are suited for home gyms.
The resistance band glute kickback will have a somewhat different feel but very similar effects as the regular cable version.
Ankle weights can still be a good equipment choice but they are slightly less effective due to the smaller range of motion under tension.
In terms of different movements, the main options you have are moving your leg somewhat sideways to focus more on outer thigh muscles and a glute kickback machine to worry less about balance and moving your leg in the right trajectory.
Glute kickbacks vs donkey kicks
Some people do not make the difference between glute kickbacks vs donkey kicks but it is worth mentioning that these are not the same exercises.
In donkey kicks, you sit on your hands and knees and keep the moving leg folded at the knee.
Donkey kicks can help you train similar muscles but cable glute kickbacks are generally slightly better because they allow you to go through a larger range of motion under tension.
Glute kickbacks muscles worked
The main muscles worked in glute kickbacks include your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. In simpler words, your butt, back thigh, and outer thigh muscles.
Your core muscles will have to work to a small extent to keep your spine straight but not in any significant amounts.
Keep in mind that just working your glutes and hamstrings with glute kickbacks a few times is often not enough to see the results you want.
You still need to implement the right amounts of pressure, repetitions, and frequency in glute isolation exercises too.
If you want to grow your muscles with glute kickbacks, you would do something like 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 repetitions.
Glute kickback benefits
If you approach your workout routine right, you can definitely get important benefits from glute kickbacks. A few examples include:
- Stronger muscles: Glute kickbacks make it easy to work your glutes and hamstrings in a way that can cause growth.
- Can help with losing weight: Glute kickbacks require more energy than typical daily activities and can help you build muscle mass. In combination with other good lifestyle habits, this can lead to weight loss.
- Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries: Glute kickbacks work one leg at a time. This helps you avoid working one leg more than the other which would lead to muscle imbalances.
- Balance & coordination: While glute kickbacks are not the hardest in this area, they can challenge your balance and coordination to some extent. This can help improve these fitness components.
- Can improve athletic performance: The glutes and hamstrings are responsible for a lot of your running speed. Strengthening and improving power in these with glute kickbacks can lead to better performance in a variety of sports.
There are other exercises that offer these benefits too but it should be clear that glute kickbacks can be a good addition to your workout routine.
Something to note is that there are people who find glute kickbacks uncomfortable on their hips and back.
People who are sensitive in these areas want to be careful when trying out glute kickbacks. It can also be helpful to select a low weight on the cable machine the first few times.
If you are able to do glute kickbacks successfully, great.
If not, you can make changes in your exercise routine and/or other lifestyle habits or conclude that glute kickbacks are not for you (yet).
Glute kickback alternatives
Doing glute kickbacks can be the right choice for certain people and situations. At the same time, you may also want to know about exercises that are somewhat similar in benefits but different.
A few glute kickback alternatives include:
- Hip thrusts
- Donkey kicks
- (Romanian) deadlifts
- Glute bridges
- Good morning
Your training goals and personal preferences will influence what glute kickback alternatives would be the best choices for you.
Are glute kickbacks a good exercise?
Glute kickbacks can be a great exercise for isolating your gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles.
They can also make it easier to avoid muscle imbalances compared to alternatives like hip thrusts.
You do want to keep in mind that your exercise routine still needs to be good enough to see results.
Additionally, you likely don’t only want to work your glutes and hamstrings. There are other important leg muscles that deserve some attention too.
Lastly, keep in mind that how much you like doing glute kickbacks plays a role in your decision too. It becomes easier to stick to a workout routine if you like the exercises in it.