What are Glute Kickbacks? (How to build the glutes)

What are glute kickbacks

What are glute kickbacks?

You've probably heard the term before, seen them performed in the gym or even attempted them yourself but what are they used for? This guide will answer the question, 'what are glute kickbacks'?

Glute kickbacks are a resistance exercise that targets the glutes. They can be performed with just bodyweight, cable attachments or on a glute kickback machine. Strengthening the glutes can add numbers to your squat and deadlifts as well as improve your posture and aesthetics.

Which muscles are targeted with glute kickbacks?

As the name of the exercise suggests, glute kickbacks target the gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscles are the gluteus maximus, medial and minimus and are probably the most powerful muscles in your body. 

Muscles targeted by glute kickbacks

Although the gluteal muscles are the target, other muscles are also activated as stabilisers and assisters. The quads and hamstrings in the upper legs come into play as assisters whereas the calves and core muscles are engaged as stabilising muscles. 

Adding glute kickbacks to your routine will not only strengthen the area but improve posture and aesthetics for bodybuilders

The benefits of glute kickbacks.

Glute kickbacks are great for adding strength to the lower body making it an ideal accessory movement for strength trainers on deadlift or squat days. Strengthening the glutes will also benefit athletes who perform sprinting or jumping movements in their sport as they give you explosive leg strength. 

Bodybuilders also benefit from developing the glutes. There is no point in having a toned back, hamstrings and calves if the glute muscles are flat. Adding glute kickbacks to a hypertrophy routine will give better aesthetics for rear poses especially if you are in tight trunks!

No other exercise targets the gluteal muscles like glute kickbacks. Whilst they are activated with lunges, squats and deadlifts, the quads, hamstrings and lower back take the majority of the load. 

Glute kickbacks can be classed as an isolation exercise as the majority of the resistance does go straight to the gluteal muscles allowing for a good mind/muscle connection. 

How do I perform glute kickbacks?

There are a few ways of performing glute kickbacks. Glute kickback machines are the ultimate method as they allow you to have a sturdy, comfortable stance and reduce the amount of stabilising muscles required. 

Second to that would be a cable machine with an ankle strap and the least effective would be a bodyweight kickback.

How do I use a glute kickback machine?

How to use a glute kickback machine

The majority of commercial gyms will now have a glute kickback machine of some variation. They will require you to lie on your front or lean on a pad and use your arms to stabilise your upper body. 

It is then just a case of hooking one leg at a time underneath the resistance pad, selecting your weight and using your glutes to raise the pad up and down. 

Make sure that you are using an explosive positive movement to lift the weight and a slow, controlled negative movement to lower the weight. Try not to rest at the bottom to keep the muscle under constant tension. This is not an exercise that requires a heavy weight. 

Using a lighter weight with a strict form and slow negative movement will produce the best results for both hypertrophy and strength. 

If you are not used to performing glute kickbacks, ease yourself into them. The DOMS can be quite intense the following day. 

How to do cable kickbacks?

Cable kickbacks are a great alternative if you do not have a dedicated machine at your gym. The movement is exactly the same and the muscle is activated in the same way. 
How do I do cable kickbacks

Once you have selected your weight from the stack, set the pulley to the lowest pin and attach an ankle strap. Fasten the ankle strap to your ankle and lean against the machine using your arms to stabilise your upper body. 

Lean forward so that your upper body is at a 45-degree angle and take up the tension on the cable with your working leg. 

Once you have steadied yourself with your standing leg, kick back the working leg in an explosive motion making sure that the gluteal muscles are controlling the movement. 

Try to kick back so that your foot is level with the back of your head before slowly lowering to the start position. Repeat this for the required number of reps and sets. 

How do I do bodyweight kickbacks?

If you do not have access to a kickback machine or cables, you can perform kickbacks with bodyweight or with resistance bands. The movement is exactly the same but it is performed from a kneeling position. 

How do I do resistance band kickbacks

Tips for performing effective kickbacks.

  1. Make sure that you are completing full repetitions for glute kickbacks. Some exercises lend themselves well to partial reps but glute kickbacks require a full range of motion to be effective as the majority of the resistance on the gluteal muscle comes at the top of the movement. 
  2. Do not try to keep a straight back. It might look good especially if you are really flexible but to make sure you are kicking back and putting the gluteal muscles under maximum tension, lean forward to at least a 45-degree angle.
  3. When performing glute kickbacks, make sure that you are connecting with the gluteal muscles and that they are doing the majority of the work. It is too easy to bend the leg and extend the weight with the legs but this will not activate the target muscles.
  4. Although there is always going to be an element of 'swinging' the leg in this exercise, try to control the movement as much as possible and make sure that your gluteal muscles are coming under direct tension with each lift.
  5. Aim for an explosive positive movement as you lift the weight and a slow, controlled negative movement to keep the muscle under tension.
  6. Start your positive movement just before you complete the negative to the starting position. This maximises time under tension and will work the gluteal muscles much harder.

Alternatives to glute kickbacks.

Hip raises.

Alternative to glute kickback
Hip raises are a great alternative to kickbacks. Simply lie on your back with your knees bent and arms by your side to stabilise the upper body. Push down through your heels and raise your hips upwards until your upper legs are straight with your spine. 

Hold this position for a few seconds and squeeze the gluteal muscles before slowly lowering to the ground. Repeat this exercise for the required number of reps and sets. As it is a bodyweight exercise, the focus should be on slow movement and strict form. 

Hip raises can be used as an alternative to glute kickbacks or as part of a posterior chain circuit.

Leg pulses.

Glute kickback pulses

Leg pulses are very similar to kickbacks. They are a partial movement of a bodyweight kickback but they target the top part of the movement. By keeping your kicking leg straight and pulsing it in an up and down motion, you are putting incredible tension on the gluteal muscles. 
This is a great exercise if you do not have cables or a kickback machine but find bodyweight kickbacks too easy.


We hope that you have found this guide useful. Check out our FREE guide to maximum gains with our advanced HyperTrophy bodybuilding program. Click on the banner below for more information. 

Free bodybuilding

Gymenix offers a selection of free training programs to suit all abilities and goals. Click on the links below for FREE access. 

Beginner bodybuilding guide

Bodybuilding for the over fiftys

Over 40s Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding home workout program

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form