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October 03, 2021
If you are looking for a great glute isolation exercise, the cable glute kickback is definitely one of the best. It’s a simple exercise based on hip extension, which is a movement powered by your gluteal muscles. In this article, you are going to learn everything you need to know about glute kickbacks (cable, bands, and bodyweight) as well as alternative exercises that are equally great for your glutes…
Your glutes are one of the strongest muscles in your body and also one of the biggest muscle groups, consisting of three major parts - gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. They are responsible for the movement of your hips and thighs and are what helps you to maintain your balance when jumping, climbing stairs, or even just standing.
Without strong glutes, you’d have poor stability and posture, you'd likely experience knee or hip pain, and you'd be unable to maintain balance standing on one leg. Moreover, weak glutes affect your physical performance.
Having strong glutes will dramatically impact your day-to-day life. Plus, strong glutes equal sexy glutes, and who doesn't want an aesthetically pleasing backside. This is one of the reasons why we love butt lift exercises so much!
Now, the questions is, do you need to isolate your glutes (or isolate them as best as possible as fully isolating them is impossible)?
The truth is, YES. Targeting your glutes and adding in exercises that specifically target your glutes will allow you to fully contract your glutes, which a lot of big compound exercises fail to do (or simply not to the same degree). They are great for really building a mind-muscle connection with your butt and increasing activation.
So, if you want to improve the shape of your glutes and improve gluteal strength and activation, isolation exercises in the form of hip extensions are important.
Note: If you want serious glute development, you also need to do big compound movements like squats and loaded hip thrusts, but glute isolation exercises like kickbacks should never be overlooked.
A glute kickback is an exercise that isolates the glute muscles and targets muscle groups in your lower body. Glute kickbacks can be done with bodyweight, bands, machines, and of course, a cable machine. For now, let's focus on the cable crossover machine.
A cable glute kickback is one of the best glute exercises to shape and strengthen your gluteus maximus by isolating and focus the resistance on the muscles better than squats. Therefore, improving the pelvis’s stability makes this cable exercise one of the best, and it’s super easy to perform.
One great thing about the cable machine is that you can easily adjust the resistance and there are many variations that you can do.
When you perform kickbacks, you’ll find a variety of techniques, alternatives, and cable glute kickback substitutes that allow you to build strength in your lower body.
Whether you are looking to increase strength, muscle, athletic performance, or just want a good looking behind the cable glute kickbacks is the exercise to do it all. And the best part is that it doesn’t require a lot of weight. All you need to do is focus on proper form, execution, and full range of motion to get the most out of this exercise.
Glute kickbacks can be done in a very similar manner with resistance bands and booty bands (aka hip circle bands). You can do this by anchoring the band to and external object or holding it with your hands and with booty bands you just need to wrap them around your legs.
You can also do kickbacks with just your bodyweight. As a beginner, this is the best place to start. You can get great activation by just focusing on good form and full contraction.
Finally, some gyms may have a machine specifically for kickbacks.
Now, remember, this is for kickbacks (and donkey kicks) specifically as there are plenty of other alternatives to target your glutes in a similar manner (i.e. through hip extension), but more on that later...
A donkey kick and a glute kickback are very similar and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, technically speaking, a donkey kick is a glute kickback with your knee bent at about 90 degree. There is no movement at the knee.
Basically, a glute kickback is more versatile and can be done in various ways, whereas a donkey kick is a specific type of glute kickback.
Kickbacks aren’t just for your gluteus maximus muscles. You’ll target several muscle groups with this simple yet very effective exercise, including your core.
Primary Muscle Groups: Gluteal Muscles
Secondary Muscle Groups: Hamstrings
You’ll feel the hamstrings being engaged when performing this exercise, and you’ll likely, feel the calves and quads of your planted leg feeling a burn. This is because the foot planted is working hard to maintain your balance and stabilize the body during the exercise motion. When stabilizing your body, you’ll also engage your abdominal muscles.
Besides glute kickbacks being the best at building a strong good looking booty, there are many additional benefits from whole-body stability, improved leg power, improved posture, improved athletic performance, and eases lower back pain.
Most people are under the assumption that squats and lunges are the only way to build stronger glutes. While those two exercises are essential exercises to any workout routine, they do not isolate the glutes. There are a lot of other muscles being targeted by the cable glute kickbacks that squats and lunges won’t target.
1. Strength Gains
If you’re looking to build serious lower body strength, then this is the single most important exercise that you can do. Stronger glutes improve your overall performance at the gym - by increasing your maximum deadlift or squat, increased stability and balance, faster running, and higher jumping.
The cable glute kickback exercise will build and tone your glute muscles, leg muscles, and core.
2. Glute Isolation
By targeting or isolating specific muscles, you’re able to improve growth. This is what makes cable glute kickbacks better than squats when it comes to your glutes.
With the cable glute kickback, you are specifically targeting the gluteal muscles. You’ll feel the stretching and contracting throughout the movements when performing this exercise.
3. Increased Balance & Stability
You’re activating muscles in your core, ankle, calves, quads, and core. These muscles must be engaged in order to keep you balanced. By performing this exercise slowly and with the controlled motion, you’ll improve the connection with your mind and body, as well as increase greater muscle activation.
4. Mimics Real-life Movement
Unlike most exercises, this exercise actually enhances your daily life. The movement in this exercise mimics movements that you perform each day, whether it’s walking upstairs, standing for long periods of time, or running, and makes these tasks easier.
5. Eases lower back pain
If you’ve been suffering from lower back pain, it’s likely that your hips are not properly aligned or not strong. Cable kickbacks will release the tension in your back.
6. Improved posture
Poor posture causes a handful of problems, including lower back pain, misaligned hips, and headaches. Realigning your hips can help your posture, and this can be achieved through cable glute kickback exercises.
What about the benefit of using a cable machine?
The cable pulley machine simply makes life easier. You can easily adjust the resistance and getting into position (or switching up positions) just takes seconds.
You’ll find that there are three variations of the cable glute kickback exercise. The first is the standing cable kickbacks, which is based on just hip extension (no knee movement). The second is from a slight bent over position, which does have some knee extension. And the last is a kneeling cable kickback.
Remember, range of motion is important, as is fully contracting your glutes at the end range.
Generally speaking, the kneeling variation provides a larger range of motion, but at the same time, the standing versions allows for better, stricter form.
Standing Cable Glute Kickback Technique (Hip Extension)
Starting out with the cable glute kickback, you’ll need to attach the ankle strap to the cable machine and set the pulley to the lowest position.
Facing towards the machine with the strap around one of your ankles, set your feet apart.
Keep your body upright and hold onto the machine. Then, with your leg straight, raise it straight back.
Remember, your glutes are in control of extending out the hip (pushing your leg straight back).
Raise your leg back behind you as far as you can go and hold for 1-2 seconds before lowering your leg back down. Repeat.
Bent Over Standing Kickback Technique
Most people find this body position to be the best for glute activation.
Starting out with the cable glute kickback, you’ll need to attach the ankle strap to the cable machine and set the pulley to the lowest position.
Facing towards the machine, you’ll attach the strap around one of your ankles, set your feet apart just a little bit, and push your hips back so your bent slightly forward. Keep in mind that your glutes are hip extenders and in control of extending out the hip. So when you’re in a standing position, there’s less movement at the hip joint, and you won’t get as much out of the exercise.
Now push your butt back while holding onto the frame of the machine with both hands and extend your leg straight back until your body is straight and contract at the glute, holding for 1-2 seconds, then returning back to the start position.
Kneeling Cable Kickbacks Technique
Now for the kneeling cable kickbacks technique, you’ll need to grab a flat bench (this raised position will allow you to get a greater range of motion).
Note: We don't have the pic for this with a cable machine, but the form is the same.
You’ll place this bench in front of a cable machine and lower the pulley to the lowest position.
Now facing the machine, you’ll attach the ankle cuff to your ankle. And get onto the bench on all fours.
You’ll push your attached leg back behind you with your heel. Keep your leg straight until your hip is fully extended and contract your glute muscles holding tightly for 1-2 seconds.
And return to the start position to repeat.
Your form and control are two of the most important aspects of performing the cable glute kickback regardless of which technique you choose to use. Not the weight (which is why even bodyweight kickbacks are effective).
Good form and contraction will allow you to target your glutes, minimize injury, and benefit from its amazing effects on your overall physical benefits.
More Cable Machine Exercises:
You don't need a cable machine to do glute kickbacks.
And there will be times that you won’t have access to a cable machine...i.e. you are at home or your gym took it down or its broken.
You can perform the same movement with your bodyweight or a resistance band, both from a kneeling or standing position.
Let us demonstrate...
With resistance bands, the same form applies. You have a few options as well...
Banded Kneeling Kickbacks
Standing Glute Kickback (Hip Extension)
Bent Over Kickbacks
Booty Band Donkey Kicks
The same exact form applies with bodyweight glute kickbacks too! Just make sure you move slowly, controlled, and really squeeze the heck out of your glutes.
Standing Glute Kickback
Bodyweight Kneeling Glute Kickback
Kneeling Donkey Kick
Glute Kickback On Bench (for greater range of motion)
GLUTE PRESS MACHINE:
Some gyms also have a glute kickback machine!
The glute kickback machine is easy to use and often found near the abduction machine. You’ll simply adjust the machine with the right weight and in the correct position for your height. Be sure that you are squeezing your glutes and keeping your form.
Ideally, you’d want to do between 10 to 15 reps and two to three sets is to do about 10 to 15 reps, with perfect form. When performing any exercise making sure you have perfect proper form is essential to targeting the correct muscles and minimizing injury.
By starting off with a lightweight, you can perfect your form and then increase the number of reps and sets as you get better and stronger. You’ll know when to increase the weights if you can do more than 20 reps. If you cannot do five reps, then the weight is too heavy.
Be conscious of your form and how you’re lifting your leg when pulling the weights. If you find that you are making one of the common mistakes - swinging or using momentum, arching your back, or using too much weight simply, make the necessary changes to improve your form.
And don’t forget to engage your core; by contracting your ab muscles throughout the movements, you’ll have better control over your form, the exercise, and you’ll get the most out of this exercise.
This is how you should perform each rep in a single set,
➔ Slowly raise your leg in one or two seconds
➔ When you reach the top, squeeze your glutes and hold for one to two seconds.
➔ Then count for three to four seconds as you put your leg down
There are a handful of mistakes that you can make when performing this exercise. And you are making any of these mistakes; it’s likely you won’t benefit from the many advantages it has to offer.
1. Using Your Leg To Drive The Motion
Your leg is not supposed to be doing the work. Many people swing their legs to create momentum when performing the cable glute kickback. If you are doing this, it’s likely that you’re trying to lift too much weight. Your form, motion, and focus are important - focus on squeezing your glutes throughout the exercise motion and having control over your movements.
2. Not Following Through
Full range of motion is the most important part of this exercise. The bigger the range of motion, the better the rep. When performing the cable glute kickback, a complete rep will consist of you extending your leg back until your leg and back are straight. The more tension you will bring to your glutes, the bigger gains. Be sure that you are paying more attention to form and full range of motion rather than weight.
3. Standing Up Straight
Another common mistake is standing up straight when performing the cable glute kickback. When you stand up, you can get the full range of motion during this exercise, which prevents you from targeting the glutes specifically. By bending over slightly to allow for a greater range of motion!
4. Using the Wrong Weights
One of the common mistakes is putting on too much weight, and as a result of this, you cannot keep your back straight. You need to arch your back to accommodate for the weight, which will hurt your lower back. Lifting heavy weight will not increase your strength if you don’t have proper form or full range of motion. When the weight is too heavy, you’ll swing through the motions rather than using your muscles.
5. Moving the Upper Body
The only body part that should be moving is the active leg.
6. Opening the Hips
When you open your hips, you’ll notice that your body will begin to rotate outward. Be sure that your hips are perpendicular to the cable machine and that your torso is facing forward through all of your reps. Don’t allow your body to rotate at all.
Be aware of how much weight you are using, is your back straight, that you have a full range of motion, and are you rushing through your reps? If you’re using too much weight, not using proper form, and not completing each reps correctly.
Glute kickbacks are one of the best exercises for building strong glutes, but they are certainly not the only accessory glute builders out there.
Here are some glute kickback alternative exercises that you can do that will help to improve your lower body training efforts.
All of these exercises are based on hip extension and are meant to really hone in on the glutes as best as possible.
1. Hip Bridges
Start by laying on your back with your arms at your sides and palms facing down. You’ll then bend your knees then, tighten your glutes and raise your hips off the floor as high as they can go, and then return to starting position slowly and repeat. Be sure that you are focusing on squeezing your glutes hard at the top.
2. Single Leg Hip Bridges
Increase resistance by using just one leg!
3. Leg Up Hip Bridges
This is the same thing but with your feet elevated, resistance is increased.
4. Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts can be done with just your bodyweight. You can use just one leg at a time for a greater challenge too. However, if your glutes are getting strong, you will want to add a weight load in the form of a barbell, dumbbells or even just plates.
5. Flutter Kicks
Get onto a flat bench and let your legs hanging off the end. Hold onto the side of the bench with your arms and bring your legs up and down in an alternating fashion. Really focus on using your glutes to power the movement. Squeeze your glutes at all times.
6. Step Ups
A step up is very similar to a glute kickback actually, but rather than kicking your leg back against resistance, you are using it to raise your body up.
With steps, if you are beginner, start with just your bodyweight. But, when and if you are ready, you can use dumbbells or even a barbell or EZ bar to increase resistance.
7. Bird Dogs
Bird Dogs involve a glute kickback with arm extension. Basically, this is just a more dynamic exercise that will allow you to work other muscles like your core and back at the same time. It's also great for improving balance and coordination.
8. Frog Pumps
The frog pump is similar to a hip bridge but it involves a high degree of hip abduction. With that, you can increase the activation of your gluteus medius and minimus (side glutes).
9. Kneeling Cable Hip Thrusts
This exercise is a great way to create resistance through hip extension. You will feel an amazing contraction in your glutes with this one, as well as good stretching tension.
This movement will help you to create strength too, which will translate to improvements in your squats and deadlifts (both of which involve hip extension just like this).
Related: Cable Pull Through Exercise Guide
10. Leg Back Toe Down Pulses
Get down on all fours. Be sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders, then extend one leg straight behind you, keeping your toes facing downwards. Squeeze your glutes to pulse your leg up and down.
11. Assisted Pull-up Machines
Yes, you can use the assisted pull-up machine to work your glutes. Simply hold on to the rack, and place your foot on the platform and push down. Extend your leg fully and squeeze your glutes. Hold for two seconds, then slowly bring your leg back up.
Related: 14 Best Cable Leg Exercises
When integrating the cable glute kickback into your routine will offer you amazing results in the strength, size, and appearance of your glutes. It takes time to build muscle definition and increase strength.
You can improve your results by incorporating these isolated exercises into your routine and through proper nutrition. If you’re like most people, you are stuck in your comfort zone, and this eliminates room for growth and gains. Start targeting and isolating your glute muscles to increase your leg strength, stability, and look good.
Do you have an exclusive leg day? This might be the best day to include the cable glute kickback or one of its alternative exercises. However, you’ll want to take some things into consideration when choosing leg day.
If your leg day is going to be heavy lifting, you might want to avoid doing the cable glute kickbacks, especially if you plan on performing lunges, squats, and deadlifts, as these exercises do engage the glutes.
However, if you plan on isolating your leg muscles, incorporating the cable glute kickbacks is perfect.
Body Part Split
Are you on a traditional bodybuilding routine that consists of split body parts? If so, you’ll want to include this exercise on leg day, and be sure that you are performing this exercise before your heavy lifting to avoid the difficulty of performing them in good form after heavy lifting.
Your butt deserves a day of its own. Your glutes are one of your body’s largest skeletal muscles. Without strong glutes, you’ll have a difficult time increasing your max weight when it comes to leg exercises. This day could include cable adductions, cable clamshells, and others to give your glutes the attention they deserve.
Much like your abs, your glutes are constantly being worked. Try the good, old-fashioned high-to-low rep method at the end of just about any workout day. It’s great for isolation days or any body part routine day as it aids in improving your overall physical strength.
We hope this post has inspired you to add glute kickbacks to your routine! Sometimes, you just need a little kick in the butt ;) If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us.
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