Glute kickbacks strengthen the muscles in your butt and lower body, specifically the glutes.
Peeps may turn to squats, bridges, and lunges for strong glutes and booty-full derriere. But glute kickbacks are one of the most effective moves to transform your tush, boost your balance, and step up your glute strength.
Glute kickbacks work your glutes by isolating the muscles and engaging them through a range of motion.
The glutes are your biggest and strongest muscles, consisting of the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. Together, these muscles help with hip extension and rotation and the stabilization of your pelvis.
There are a few different ways to perform a glute kickback. Common variations include cable glute kickbacks, banded glute kickback exercises, and machine kickbacks.
Although they may look easy, you’ll need skill and coordination to really get the most out of these moves.
- Get onto an all fours with your knees and toes bent and in contact with the floor. Keep your hips over your knees and hands directly under your shoulders.
- Engage your core, keep your pelvis slightly tucked and your ribs down. Don’t arch your back.
- Extend your left leg back until your thigh is parallel with the ground.
- Squeeze your left glute and hold the position briefly.
- Return to the starting position without the leg contacting the floor.
- Repeat 10–15 repetitions on the left side before moving on to the right side. Complete 2–3 sets.
Pro tip: You can add weights to increase difficulty and load if you want to take your kickbacks to the next level. Just place a dumbbell in the crease of your knee and grip it between your calf and hamstring as you raise your leg.
Although you can perform glute kickbacks as a bodyweight exercise, some gyms also have a dedicated glute kickback machine. This machine helps you add additional weight as your strength increases, but a downside is they don’t fit all bodies correctly.
Before you use a glute kickback machine, make sure you adjust the machine to fit your body. Proper form is key, so if you’re new to this machine, ask a gym staff member for help.
To use a kneeling glute kickback machine:
- Adjust the machine to fit your body. Start by positioning yourself on the machine with your knees facing forward and resting near the bottom of the padding.
- Place your forearms on the upper padding and extend your arms until you can grip the handles.
- Next, press your right foot against the footplate positioned behind your body.
- Engage your core, flatten your lower back, and squeeze the right glute.
- Push your right leg behind you while keeping a 90-degree angle at the knee, pushing your foot toward the ceiling until it’s parallel to the ground.
- Hold for a moment, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10–12 reps on one side before moving on to the other. Complete 3 sets.
Pro tip: It’s important to push the footplate with the heel of your foot. If you push with the toe, it can engage the calf muscles and allow your glutes to slack off. Don’t forget to keep your back flat and engage your core as you lift.
Cable glute kickbacks are a variation of regular glute kickbacks that use a cable machine to add resistance. This additional resistance makes it an even more effective exercise for building strength and muscle. This variation also requires more coordination, which may benefit your core and stabilizing accessory muscles.
A super handy thing about the cable machine is that you can easily adjust the resistance, and there are tons of variations to spice up your routine.
To do a cable glute kickback:
- Start by attaching the ankle strap to the cable machine with the pulley in the lowest position.
- With the strap around your right ankle, face the machine and set your feet apart.
- Hold the machine and hinge your upper body at the waist so you’re slightly bent over, but not totally parallel to the ground.
- Slightly bend your left knee. To start the move, bend your right knee and push your leg back, driving through your heel.
- Squeeze your glutes to straighten your right leg at the top of the movement. Pause for 1 and 2 seconds before returning to the start position.
- Repeat 10–20 reps on one side and then again on the other. Complete 3 sets.
Pro tip: Always keep your core engaged, and don’t hollow your back. That way, you’ll target your glutes, minimize injury, and get good gains.
Resistance band glute kickbacks are a great way to add an extra challenge to your regular glute kickback routine without needing a fancy machine. The added resistance from a looped resistance band helps build your glute muscles more effectively.
To do a resistance band glute kickback:
- Get onto all fours. Loop the band around the middle of your left foot and above your right knee.
- Keep your back flat, core engaged, and shoulders relaxed and stacked over your elbows.
- Push back with your left foot, toe pointing down, driving through your heel.
- Hold the position for 1 to 2 seconds and then lower it down in a controlled movement. Do not let your knee touch the ground between reps.
- Repeat 10–20 reps on one side and then the other. Complete 3 sets.
Adding glute kickbacks to your routine helps boost your butt and has some other benefits:
- It builds lower body strength which enhances your overall performance. Doing glute kickbacks before bigger butt-building moves, like squats and deadlifts, allows you to maximize those other movements.
- It may help strengthen and stabilize the lower back like other glute strengthening exercises, which helps improve posture and avoid imbalances.
- It improves balance and stability as you distribute weight onto one side of your body, challenging different muscle groups. It’s easy to forget to incorporate balance into your workouts, but without it, it increases the risk of injuries and falls.
- Glute isolation means you can increase gluteal growth more effectively than with squats.
If you’re looking for substitutes for glute kickbacks, here are a few faves.
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent, and hips in a neutral position.
- Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the ground until they align with your thighs.
- Hold at the top for a few seconds before lowering down.
- Repeat for 2–3 sets of 10–20 reps.
- Start on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Keep your back flat and tuck your chin slightly.
- Keeping left foot flexed, push through you left heel to lift the left leg up while keeping a 90-degree bend in the knee.
- Lift until just before your back begins to arch or your hips start to rotate and squeeze glute at the top.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-20 reps on each side. Complete 2-3 sets.
Reverse leg lift
- Start face down on the floor with feet together and hands under your forehead.
- Engage your core, contract your glutes and lift your right leg in the air, keeping the knee straight.
- Hold for a moment before returning the leg to the ground.
- Repeat 10–20 reps on each side. Complete 2–3 sets.
Glute kickbacks target and tone the muscles in your butt, and they offer a variety of benefits for overall strength, balance, and stability.
If you’re looking for substitutes for glute kickbacks, some favorites include hip bridges, donkey kicks, and reverse leg lifts.
Whether you use a machine, cables, or resistance band, adding glute kickbacks to your workout routine is great for building a bodacious butt.