I have a treat for you this week! The exercise I’m about to introduce you to, is one of my favorites and well worthy of being in the Best Butt Exercises index.

It’s called the cable kick back.

cable kickbacks
Image credit: 1st Phorm via Youtube

Exercise: Cable Kickbacks
Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, core
Jolie Recommends: 3 sets: 2 sets of 12 reps, followed by a 3rd set of 20 (at lower weight)
Difficulty rating: 3
Effectiveness rating: 8

You’ll need some equipment to perform this exercise: a machine capable of a cable attachment point down low, similar to the one shown below.

cable machine
Example of a cable machine (available from Amazon)

Most home weight machines will have a low cable attachment point, but if you don’t have one of these then it’s time to get yourself to a gym that does! Trust me, the results you get from this exercise will be worth it.

Best Butt Exercise #29: Cable Kick Backs

If you used to be like me a few years ago, I didn’t know how to do exercises that would make my butt work. In fact, I rarely ever felt moves in my glutes, and getting that sore muscle ache after a hard workout? Yep, never in the glutes.

That was, until I learned how to do exercises like this one.

Kick backs are great because you can’t really do them without using the glutes. In a lot of other exercises it’s possible for other muscles to take over, but with extension of the leg behind you, there’s limited accessory muscles that can take over.

Your glutes will have no other choice but to work, and work hard! (Hey, we know what’s best for them, right?)


How to Do the Move

Flat bench for kneeling cable kickbacks. (Available from Amazon)

The video below demonstrates two different versions of the cable kickback.

The first is a kneeling kickback similar to a donkey kick, but you get a larger range of motion and the use of the cable ensures there is resistance applied throughout the entire motion – which is very good for glutes. You’ll need a flat bench to do this one.

The second variation is a standing cable kick back, more commonly seen. Be sure to only use light weight for both exercises – you should never feel this exercise in your lower back, only the glutes.

Kneeling Cable Kick Back
  1. Attach an ankle cuff (or preferably, a Glute Strap is highly recommended for these) to your right ankle/foot, and clip yourself to a cable resistance machine.
  2. Kneel on 2 hands and your left knee on a flat bench, positioned so that your right leg is free to move alongside the bench. Your right leg starts with the knee straight and foot forward, touching the ground.
  3. Tighten your core muscles to hold your back straight in a neutral position, you want to maintain this throughout the exercise.
  4. Without arching your back or tilting your hips, swing your right leg directly back behind you in an arc, lifting the foot as high back behind you as possible.
  5. Bring your leg back into the starting position, not touching down the foot to the ground – this is one rep.
  6. Complete the desired number of reps and repeat on the other leg.
Standing Cable Kick Back
  1. Attach an ankle cuff (or Glute Strap) to your right ankle/foot, and clip yourself to a cable resistance machine.
  2. Sit your hips back slightly, hinging at the hips, so that your glute and hamstrings are slightly stretched. You can rest your hands on the cable machine stand for balance.
  3. Keeping your hips level, tighten your core to hold your back straight in a neutral position.
  4. Use your glutes to lift your right leg directly back behind you in an arc.
  5. Squeeze the glutes at the back of the movement. Depending on flexibility you should try to extend back beyond the line of your torso, as this will really hit the glutes.
  6. Return the leg back to the starting position, being sure to keep tension on the cable even in the start position. This is one rep.
  7. Complete the desired number of reps and repeat on the other leg.

Perfecting Your Form

One of the main mistakes in this exercise is allowing your back to arch to help bring your leg behind you. This robs the glute muscle of the work it’s supposed to be doing!

It’s particularly easy to let this happen when you are trying to move too much weight, so start unweighted so you can perfect the form first.

  • Choose a weight that is not going to make you arch your back – start light or with no weight at all.
  • To prevent arching of the back, you really need to hold your core super tight and ensure your spine stays neutral.
  • Keep your hips pointing straight ahead, don’t allow one side of your hips to roll out as you move.
  • Start 1 or 2 steps away from the machine, so that even in start position there is still a little tension on the cable.
  • Keepin a slight bend in your standing leg and sitting back with your hips will engage the glutes and work even your standing leg!

If you are having trouble ‘feeling’ this move in your glutes, then consider trying out the Glute Strap or a similar device:glute strapIt changes the point of attachment of the cable resistance machine from around your ankle to your heel; which acts to automatically activate the glutes when you perform kick back moves.

Reppin’ It

Unlike a lot of other butt building exercises, you won’t want to go super heavy weight with this one. Instead, fatigue the muscle by doing high reps at lower weight.

Performing both variations will do wonders to keep your muscles guessing.
Try for 3 sets of each type; 2 sets of 12 and do the last set with 20 reps and a lower weight.
Best Butt Exercises: Cable Kick Backs
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