Published by Isaac Robertson
Last updated: September 20, 2022
When it comes to lower body workout routines, people tend to focus on the quads, hamstrings, and calves through isolation exercises.
And while squats are great compound glute exercises, sometimes you need to isolate those buttocks.
As a personal fitness coach, I believe the traditional cable glute kickback is possibly the most effective way to do this.
But I often see folks at the gym that get this isolation exercise wrong, which could lead to injuries. Like other lower body exercises, it all comes down to the setup and execution.
So, let me show you what it’s about.
- Many athletes overlook glute isolation exercises or don't follow a good technique to get the maximum effect.
- The cable glute kickback targets the area where hamstrings meet the buttocks to give you the perfectly shaped backside.
- People often make common mistakes that can cause damage to the hips and the lower back.
How Do You Set Up Cable Kickbacks?
Here is how you set up and execute the cable glute kickback on your next leg day.
Step #1: Starting Position
- The starting position is with your toes facing the cable machine and the ankle cuff attachment on your right leg. Also, make sure you’re set up for the low cable pulley system as far down to the ground as possible.
- Keep both knees slightly bent with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Start with just a few weight plates to get a feeling for the movement, and then set up a heavier weight stack for fewer reps.
Step #2: Slow And Effective Movement
- Start the movement and slowly kick the right leg back while keeping your upper body facing the machine. Also, keep the leg straight while you slowly bring your foot up to hip level.
- You’ll need to lean forward a bit to create some counterbalance.
- As you get close to the top position, squeeze your glutes hard and hold that top position for one second.
Step #3: Maximize Range Of Motion
Range of motion is vital for the glute kickback. That’s why it’s important to regularly do some hip and leg stretching to make sure you can lift your leg as high as possible.
This will also make it easier to squeeze your glutes all the way to build stronger glutes.
Step #4: Switch Legs And Repeat
Yup, don’t just do this for one leg. Your left leg needs to go through the same reps and sets.
I’d suggest avoiding too much of a break as you switch from one to the other leg.
Simply switch the ankle strap and take a break after completing one set on each leg. It’s better for athletic performance and strength building.
What Muscles Do Cable Kickbacks Work?
As the name suggests, the cable glute kickback specifically targets the glute muscles from the upper hamstring upwards.
The most direct impact will be to the gluteus maximus, which is the largest butt muscle and the one that gives your backside some shape.
But you can also feel the strain in your hamstring and core, especially if you focus on keeping your abs tight during the movement.
And by holding the leg at the top position for a couple of seconds, you can make sure that you maximize the time under tension and see the best results for your backside .
“Cable kickbacks offer a unique way to target the muscles within the posterior that won’t necessarily be targeted in our usual routines. They predominantly target the glutes, providing an engaging and challenging workout for the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, all of which are posterior muscles in the upper leg.”
- Chris Allsobrook, Personal Trainer at Origym
4 Common Cable Kickback Mistakes
Here are the four most common errors I see my clients make.
1. Standing Straight
If you keep your upper body vertical, you won’t get the full range of motion and add a lot of strain to your lower spine.
The cable kickbacks movement involves slowly tilting forward to reduce the pressure on your back and get that leg up as high as possible.
2. Using Momentum
Even folks who do glute kickbacks on a regular basis can get caught up in using body momentum to lift the weight.
Typically, this is a forward body movement before you lift the leg, and it reduces muscle tension.
3. Quantity Over Quality
The cable glute kickback will have a lot more impact on your butt if you slow down the movement and maintain proper form rather than force the maximum weight.
It might feel good writing down a large weight in your journal, but it won’t have the same effect as a slow and steady motion.
4. Going For Speed
This is a typical amateur mistake. Lifting weights should never be about speed but maximizing the time under tension.
Aim to count to two as you raise your leg, hold the tension for 1 to 2 seconds, and then count to three on the way back down.
Speed is not your friend.
Cable Kickback Variations And Reps
Here are two things to consider when planning your next leg set.
Cable Glute Kickback With Abduction
Along with the regular kickbacks, you can slightly change your starting position. Stand 90 degrees to the cable machine and attach the ankle cuff to the leg furthest away from the machine.
Then, raise your leg to the side as far as possible to target muscles in your thighs and the smaller gluteal muscles.
Choosing The Right Reps
So, do you do 8 to 10 reps or 12 to 15?
That depends on your goals. With good form and where the last two of eight reps are a real struggle, you’ll trigger muscle building for a bigger and defined backside.
But if you want to lose some flabby stuff on your butt, then lightening the load and doing 15 reps will be extremely effective .
Can You Do Cable Glute Kickbacks Without A Cable Machine?
Not everyone will have a cable machine at home, but there’s still a way to target these muscle groups. You can do the cable glute kickback by attaching a resistance band to the door frame with a tight loop.
As long as you get good tension on your glutes as you move the leg back, you’ll achieve the same results.
The downside is that you might find it a bit more difficult to raise the tension with multiple bands on the same side, but it’s better than trying to achieve the same results by just climbing stairs.
- Best Glute Isolation Exercises
- How to Get Bigger Legs Fast
- Best Leg Exercises
Are Cable Glute Kickbacks Bad for Your Back?
No, cable glute kickbacks aren't bad for your back as long as you perform them properly. Bad posture and a lower body misalignment can increase the pressure on your lower spine and cause some significant strain injuries.
Should You Do Cable Glute Kickbacks Every Day?
No, you shouldn’t do cable glute kickbacks every day. You can have a designated leg and glute day once or twice a week, but anything more than that will limit the benefits you can get.
Are You Going To Focus More On Your Gluteal Muscles?
Out of all the other glute exercises, the cable glute kickbacks seem to work on the human body and bittocks the best.
When you work on larger muscle groups, especially around your hips, it’s always good to focus on an isolation exercise.
To a lesser extent, you’ll also engage other muscles, which can help you build up a strong core.
Try out the above tips on your next leg exercise day, and see how much of a difference they will make.
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About The Author
Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Certifications: CISSN, ISSA
Education: University of Maryland
Lives in: Lexington Park, Maryland
Isaac is a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. He has spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. He has helped hundreds of people lose weight, get in shape, and maintain their healthy lifestyles through proper training and eating habits.
Do cable kickbacks actually grow glutes? ›
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.What attachment to use for cable kickbacks? ›
So what attachment do you use for cable kickbacks? For cable kickbacks, you use an attachment that wraps around your foot or ankle and has D-rings to clip the cable onto. If you're using an ankle attachment, look for one with padding so it doesn't dig into your skin.How heavy should cable kickbacks be? ›
The average Cable Kickback weight for a male lifter is 44 lb (1RM). This makes you Intermediate on Strength Level and is a very impressive lift. What is a good Cable Kickback? Male beginners should aim to lift 10 lb (1RM) which is still impressive compared to the general population.How many reps should I do for kickbacks? ›
On an exhale, engage your triceps as you slowly extend your arm back as far as you can, keeping your arm in tight by your side. Pause here, then inhale as your return your arm to the starting position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.Why can't I feel kickbacks in my glutes? ›
Common Glute Kickback Mistakes
A common mistake people make is they put too much on the pin machine and it's way too heavy and then they're using their body to get their leg up. Then the glute's not doing all the work so it defeats the purpose of the whole exercise," noted Skye.
Overall, the hip thrust is our pick for adding strength to your glutes, while the cable pull-through might be better for adding size to them. So if you're an athlete, stick with the hip thrust, but if you want bigger glutes, go with the cable pull-through.What are the worst exercises for glutes? ›
The reason Squats, Lunges and Step Ups are some of the WORST glute exercises is because they don't isolate the glutes and force them to work. Because of our modern lifestyle, our glutes often don't naturally want to engage and are often inactive and underused.How to do cable kickbacks without machine? ›
- Stand with your back against a wall, with a resistance band around your knees.
- Bend your knees, and bring them up toward the wall.
- Keep your abs tight, and don't let your back arch.
- By keeping your knees bent, lift one leg towards the ceiling so that it's parallel to the floor.
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.What can I do instead of cable kickbacks? ›
Such exercises like the pistol squat compound bodyweight exercise or the more easily performed fire hydrant exercise can readily act as an alternative level of training to the cable kickback while still imparting most of the benefits found therein.
Why does my lower back hurt when I do cable kickbacks? ›
The cable glute kickbacks are an exercise commonly used to develop or strengthen the glutes, the problem is usually people perform the exercise wrong are actually overworking their lower back. Your glute max muscle is the main muscle that performs hip extension, it functions to pull the upper leg bone backwards.How often should you do glute kickbacks? ›
How often should you train the glutes for maximum results? The short answer is 2-6 times per week.Are tricep kickbacks pointless? ›
The kickbacks do not provide any kind of meaningful stretch to the triceps. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Due to the position of the elbow (which is in line with your body), kickbacks emphasize the contraction of the triceps and are completely useless when trying to stretch them under resistance.Is it better to do 8 reps or 10? ›
It turns out that 8-12 reps is actually good advice. It sits in the Goldilocks Zone of reps and loading, it's time efficient in that it can maximize the number of tough reps per set, it's energy efficient in that it doesn't require too many reps to stimulate hypertrophy, or involve loads that are unnecessarily heavy.How do you engage glutes in kickback? ›
- Get into all fours, with a straight spine, and contract your core muscles.
- Extend your right leg back and up until your thigh is parallel with the ground. ...
- Contract your glute at the top of the move and hold for a beat.
- Return to your starting position without touching your knee to the ground and repeat.
- Glutes: With proper form, kickbacks are one of the best exercises for working your glute muscles, including the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
- Hamstrings: The kickback movement pattern activates the hamstrings on the back of your legs as you lift them behind you.
Pull back the strapped leg at a 45-degree angle, while keeping your knee straight and feeling your upper glutes stretch. Lower your leg slowly and return to your original position, Repeat the exercise on your other leg for 12-15 reps.How do I force my glute activation? ›
As you exhale, press your heels into the mat, squeeze your glutes and raise your pelvis off the floor until your body forms one straight line from chin to knee, resting on your shoulders. As you inhale, lower your pelvis to return to the starting position. Repeat for 15 repetitions.What are the symptoms of weak glutes? ›
- Pain in your lower back or pelvic area. Often, lower back pain is associated with a weak core. ...
- Having a hard time with stairs. ...
- Feeling fatigued from standing briefly.
- Hip thrust. Also called “bridges,” this exercise is pretty self-explanatory. ...
- Lateral banded walks. Begin by placing a resistance band around your legs, just above the knees. ...
- Curtsy lunge.
How many times a week should I train glutes for best results? ›
The short answer is three times a week, but the longer answer is anywhere between 2 and 6 times a week. Why the difference? Scientific studies have proven that training twice a week is better than once a week.How effective are cable kickbacks? ›
The cable kickback is a great glute isolation exercise that helps to build strength and muscle. Paired with compound movements like squats and deadlifts, this can help create an effective lower body workout.Are Skullcrushers and kickbacks the same? ›
The decline dumb-bell skull crusher puts all the emphasis on the triceps. Unlike the kickbacks' high postural demands, it takes the body out and puts the triceps in. "With less nervous system demands the arms receive all the love and not just a kiss on the cheek," says McTeggart.What is better DB or cable kickbacks? ›
If you want to strengthen the muscle in a full range of. motion, then the cable should be your choice. And if you want to put the load on the muscle toward. its full extension, go with the dumbbell.What happens if you only train glutes? ›
So even if you're trying to build glute strength, you can't safely do it without properly strengthening the other muscles in the area too. "If you work your booty too much without giving any love to your core, legs, or postural muscles, it can often cause tightness in the low back," says Speir.What muscles do kickbacks work? ›
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.What muscles are used in kickbacks? ›
The lateral head of the triceps muscle attaches to the back of the humerus, the bone of the upper arm. The lateral head is the strongest part of the triceps muscle. Triceps kickbacks mainly activate the lateral head of the triceps.How long does it take to grow your glutes? ›
Glute growth generally takes 6-8 weeks to see noticeable changes, however, some individuals may find it takes 10-12 weeks based on diet, training, and body type. When trying to grow your glutes faster, you should train them multiple times a week (2-3X) and make sure you are eating enough calories to build muscle.How long does it take to build a butt? ›
Patience and consistency is absolutely KEY when it comes to growing your glutes! Building muscle is a slow process, but with your diet and training on point, you will start to see results typically around 8 weeks or even longer in some cases.Is working glutes 2x a week enough? ›
Yes, two to three times a week is enough! That's because the in-between recovery days are just as important for your glute strength.
How much weight should I use for tricep kickbacks? ›
The average Dumbbell Tricep Kickback weight for a male lifter is 40 lb (1RM). This makes you Intermediate on Strength Level and is a very impressive lift. What is a good Dumbbell Tricep Kickback? Male beginners should aim to lift 9 lb (1RM) which is still impressive compared to the general population.Are donkey kicks or kickbacks better? ›
Both exercises work the same muscles but from a slightly different angle, so you can choose your favourite or do both. Donkey kicks help to strengthen and grow your glutes, which over time can lead to a fuller, bigger bum.Do tricep kickbacks build mass? ›
During the kickback, you'll put yourself in a position in which your triceps muscle is alone without support from other muscle groups. Once you get into the right position, all you can do is extend your elbow (the key function of the triceps), which makes the move all the more effective for building muscle.Are tricep kickbacks a waste of time? ›
The kickbacks do not provide any kind of meaningful stretch to the triceps. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Due to the position of the elbow (which is in line with your body), kickbacks emphasize the contraction of the triceps and are completely useless when trying to stretch them under resistance.Why do I feel cable kickbacks in my back? ›
The cable glute kickbacks are an exercise commonly used to develop or strengthen the glutes, the problem is usually people perform the exercise wrong are actually overworking their lower back. Your glute max muscle is the main muscle that performs hip extension, it functions to pull the upper leg bone backwards.Is cable kickback better than hip thrust? ›
Overall, the hip thrust is our pick for adding strength to your glutes, while the cable pull-through might be better for adding size to them. So if you're an athlete, stick with the hip thrust, but if you want bigger glutes, go with the cable pull-through.How do you target glutes in kickbacks? ›
Stand with feet together and lean forward slightly, keeping back flat and core engaged throughout the entire movement. B. Squeeze glute to activate the muscle, then lift leg attached to the machine back behind body with control.