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July 29, 2021 9 min read

Oh, leg day. 

You might hate the sound of those two words right before and during but there truly is no better feeling after a good leg workout that makes you feel those gains coming in.

If you follow a split body workout routine and have been dreading leg day lately, then it might be a sign that you need to switch up your workout plan by incorporating some glute kickbacks. We are all guilty of getting stuck in our ways and staying in our comfort zone but we all know there is no room for growth (or gains) in the comfort zone.

Rather than sticking to the typical squats, lunges, or deadlifts to stimulate those glute muscles, try some different workouts for your lower body. A great way to target and isolate your glute muscles is by performing some glute kickbacks.

Implementing a Multifaceted Approach to Reach Your Goals

You can't simply perform glute kickbacks and expect immediate results. Building muscle definition takes commitment both in the gym and in the kitchen. It is possible to get the results you desire through the right combination of isolated exercises in combination with proper nutrition

Sporty young woman with protein at home

Proper nutrition means you are fueling your body before your workout with enough carbs and after your workout with a balanced post-workout that has enough carbs and protein to provide amino acids that repair the muscle tissue that is in need of recovery. 

In this day and age, we are all busy and may not have the time to cook up a whole meal and eat it when you are balancing a full-time job and life in general. Our protein powders are for you disciplined gym-goers who are focused on maximizing your workouts and getting that muscle definition.

If you're on the go and don't have enough time for a whole meal, protein shakes may be the way to go. Give our protein powders a try to focus on those muscle gains.

We have a wide variety of protein powders that are fit for every lifestyle that also come in a variety of flavors that can be tried in our sample packets. We also offer plant-based protein powders which provide 20g of protein that includes all the essential amino acids.

What Exactly Is a Glute Kickback?

A glute kickback is an effective exercise that is typically done on all fours. The exercise mainly focuses on the glute muscles which are made up of the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus.

Many people are unaware of the importance of the group of muscles mentioned and how much they support your entire body. The glutes provide stability for your pelvis and lower back which allow you to be able to lift heavier loads.

The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three gluteal muscles highlighted. Strong gluteal muscles are crucial for simple movements such as walking but are also extremely important for squat and deadlift performance.

The exercise is extremely versatile and focuses on leg extension, muscle building, balance, and improving range of motion. The best thing about a simple glute kickback can be performed alone with the use of any extra equipment. All you need is a comfortable space and your body weight.

Like any workout, regardless of upper body or lower body, you must pay extra attention to your form by keeping your back straight and avoiding arching your lower back prior to adjusting acute variables such as increasing the tempo, number of reps, or adding weight.

Proper form is key when it comes to any effective workout and ensures proper activation of your muscles. Not only does incorrect form inhibit possible muscle growth and strength improvement, but you also put yourself at risk of injury which could make you unable to work out at all.

How to Prepare for Glute Kickbacks

To help prevent injury, it is recommended that you warm up your muscles with some stretching and cardio. Exercises that specifically focus on the gluteal muscles will help activate those muscles and prepare them for the activity that is about to come.

If you don't take the time to activate your glute muscles prior to performing glute kickbacks, you risk your glutes not firing up properly especially if you've been stationary for a while. This can lead to synergistic dominance causing the wrong muscle to step in and become more dominant in order to perform the exercise. Long-term, this leads to risks of muscle imbalance and a higher risk of injury.

Foam rolling is a great first step to increase blood flow and get rid of any built-up tension in the muscles especially if you're still sore from your previous leg day. Some good glute activation exercises are bridges and lateral band walks.

Once you master the basic glute kickback, there is a large variety of variations you can incorporate to further challenge your muscles, and improve your range of motion. Now to the part that we have all been waiting for. How do you do a glute kickback?

When you think of a glute kickback starting position, you can also think of the starting position of a donkey kick. Getting set up properly is just as important as performing the exercise. Make sure you are in a comfortable space with proper support for your knees such as a yoga mat to prevent discomfort.

Here's how to properly do a glute kickback:

  1. First, get into your kneeling push-up position. Make sure your palms are directly under your shoulders and your knees are bent shoulder-width apart.

  2. While engaging your core and keeping your back straight, exhale, slowly lift, and kick your right leg back. Your hamstrings should be in line with your back and your right foot should be flexed.

  3. Contract your glutes and hold briefly at the top to get that maximum engagement.

  4. Now, inhale and slowly lower your leg back to the starting position and repeat the exercise for the number of reps in your set. 

  5. Switch to your left leg and repeat steps 1-4 for as many sets in your plan.

Proper breathwork is important as it helps keep you calm and allows you to further activate and engage those muscles to the max during your workout.

Inhaling through your nose during the eccentric part (muscle lengthening) and exhaling during the concentric (muscle shortening) allows proper blood flow and oxygen absorption that maximize your workout since there is an increase in physical activity which in result leads to an increase in muscle cell respiration.

Benefits of Glute Kickback Exercises

You might be questioning if it's worth leaving behind traditional squats and deadlifts, but the truth is, by adding glute kickback exercises to your traditional routine, you could see even more results.

The incorporation of glute kickbacks is a great way to build your glute muscles, strengthen your lower body and target different muscle groups. 

As previously mentioned, there are numerous benefits that come along with performing these exercises such as building lower body strength, isolating those glute muscles, and improving balance as well as stability.

1. Helps Build Lower Body Strength

Your lower body strength enhancement can lead to a more well-rounded workout and can lower the risks of knee injuries as well as the risk of falling. By working on your lower body strength, your overall performance will be enhanced and you will be able to maximize other glute exercises such as squats or deadlifts.

Weak lower body glute muscles can lead to your movement being less powerful, which is not your desired goal. The stronger your glute muscles, the more likely you are to have a more stable pelvis which provides support for your lower back.

Having a strong lower back is crucial to help improve your posture as well as aid in holding up the gluteal muscles. Implementing an effective lower body workout plan can prevent incorrect posture that can lead to joint imbalance which causes daily tasks and exercise to be more challenging.

2. Isolating Glute Muscles

The glute kickback exercise is an incredible exercise as it focuses on isolating a specific group of gluteal muscles. By targeting and isolating the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus, individuals can work on strengthening the weaker muscles and contribute to more balance of muscle throughout the lower body.

Isolating specific muscles decreases the chances of muscle imbalance which in the long run can decrease chances of injury. Muscle imbalance can occur when synergistic dominance occurs and this is when synergistic muscles step in to compensate for a weak prime mover.

In the case of a weak gluteus maximus (prime mover), the bicep femoris (synergist) might step in which would cause an altered movement pattern.

3. Improving Balance As Well As Stability

Balance and stability are a lot more challenging than many people think and the lower body plays a large role in stabilizing your body. When you move your leg behind you whether it is in the traditional glute kickback or with one of the variations, you are distributing the weight onto one side of your body which challenges different muscle groups.

Many people forget to incorporate balance exercises into their regimen but balance develops the core and the core provides stability. Balance is extremely important to include in your workouts as, without it, you are at a higher risk of falling or being injured.

By challenging your balance, you actually create more muscle activation as your muscles are even more focused on creating a stable environment to resist possible injuries that engage more muscle groups.

How to Incorporate Glute Kickback Variations Into your Routine

If you're a pro at glute kickbacks and you want to switch up your routine even more, try out some of these variations. One of the many great things about glute kickback exercises is the wide variety that can be added to your lower body workout routine whether it is for weight loss, weight lifting or you are simply trying to fit in a quick at-home workout. 

Fitness woman doing exercise for glutes, cable kickbacks

How to Use a Cable Machine to Perform Cable Glute Kickbacks

  1. Place the ankle cuff around your right ankle. Make sure you are standing straight and if you have issues balancing, hold onto the cable machine to support yourself to prevent the risk of falling.

  2. Keep your left leg planted with a slight bend in the knee, engage your core and slowly lift your right leg back as far as possible while contracting your glutes. Note: it is important to make sure you never lock your knees and always keep a slight bend.
  1. Squeeze your gluteal muscles at the top of the rep then slowly return to the starting position.

  2. Repeat the exercise for the number of reps in your set.

  3. Switch the ankle cuff to your left ankle and repeat steps 1-4.

How to Use a Resistance Band to Perform Glute Kickbacks

Resistance bands have become extremely widespread due to the fact that they are extremely convenient as they are lightweight and can be taken almost anywhere whether you are traveling or simply need a quick at-home workout. They are a great tool as they don't break the bank and don't take up much space. 

There are numerous resistance bands out on the market depending on how much resistance you desire. If you're new to resistance bands, check out our article on the 5 types of resistance bands to figure out which one is right for you and your goals.

Resistance bands are widely available whether you visit Target or your local sports store.

  1. Get into your all-fours position on a comfortable surface. 
  2. Place your resistance band right above your knees or around your midthighs. 
  3. Slowly lift your right foot in the air and make sure your knee is still at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to keep your hips square and lift directly behind you.
  4. Repeat the exercise for the number of reps in your set.
  5. Switch to your left leg and repeat steps 1-4 on the other side. 

This exercise can also be performed standing. You would simply place the resistance band in the same position, right above your knees, and hold onto something to provide yourself with stability.

Then, while keeping your left leg planted, lift your right leg back as far as possible while keeping your core engaged. Squeeze your glutes and repeat for your desired number of reps then repeat on the other side.

Final Thoughts

The overall great thing about glute kickbacks is that they do not require any extra equipment and they can simply be done anywhere whether you are on the go or need some quick at-home workouts. Many people underestimate the ability of bodyweight exercises but once you're on that third set of glute kickbacks, you will feel the burn and those gains coming in.

You can choose any variation that makes your leg day more enjoyable, but just make sure you put in just as much effort on your right side as you do on your left side. We all have a dominant side but you shouldn’t give one side more attention than the other. 

Regardless of which variation you select, it is important that what you do on one side of your body, you also do on the other side of your body. For example, if you are doing 3 sets of 12 reps, make sure you complete the desired number of sets and reps on both the right and left sides to prevent muscle imbalance. 

By continuing your journey towards strength, you are expanding your capabilities. If you’re interested in finding other ways to strengthen your lower body, check out how to do hyperextensions for back and leg strength.

So, now that you know how to perform glute kickbacks properly, it’s time to hit the gym!