Cable Glute Kickbacks: A Complete Guide | How to Train Your Glutes!

By
Mike Kenler
October 13, 2020

The Cable Glute Kickback

The cable glute kickback is one of the best exercises to strengthen your glutes. Armed with a cable machine and an ankle cuff attachment, you can seriously bolster your lower body routine with this glute isolation exercise.

Muscles Worked by the Cable Glute Kickback

Primary Muscle Groups:

The cable glute kickback primarily works the gluteal muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. The glutes are one of the strongest and most powerful muscles in the human body. The cable kickback will help shape the gluteus and strengthen it as a cohesive unit.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

While the glutes are the main drivers of the cable glute kickback, this exercise also engages the hamstrings. In addition, the calves and quads of your plant leg activate to balance and stabilize the body during the exercise motion. Lastly, the abdominal muscles engage to add support as well. 

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Cable Glute Kickback Benefits

1. Strength Gains

The cable glute kickback will build serious lower body strength. Stronger glutes will improve your performance in a variety of exercises at the gym. For example, for those trying to increase their maximum deadlift or squat, the cable glute kickback can serve as a great supplementary exercise.

Stronger gluteal muscles can also boost your performance in athletic movements that rely upon explosive lower body movements, such as running and jumping.

2. Glute Isolation

As stated before, the cable glute kickback is an isolation exercise. This means that unlike other exercises such as the squat or deadlift, the glute kickback specifically targets the gluteal muscles. Isolation can be a huge advantage if your glutes are particularly weak in comparison to your legs.

The kickback can be used to balance your distribution of muscle throughout your lower body.

3. Improved balance

As your leg moves behind you, muscles in your ankle, calves, quads, and core all work to stabilize your body during the cable glute kickback. This will help improve your body control.

When you do the kickback in a slow, controlled fashion, you will feel a greater muscle activation and a heightened connection between your mind and body, which is an important skill involved in balancing.

How to do the Cable Glute Kickback

Equipment:

To perform the cable glute kickback, you need a cable machine and an ankle cuff attachment.

Setup:

1. Set the pulley system to the lowest possible setting and attach the ankle cuff to your ankle. 

2. Hinge at the waist and bend over so your back is nearly parallel to the floor. Hold on to the machine for stability if necessary.

Action:

1. Keeping your plant leg relatively straight, engage your abs and contract your glutes to bring your leg back as far as possible in a controlled fashion.

2. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the rep. Slowly return to the starting position.

3. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps on each leg.

Recommendation:

If you are new to the cable glute kickback, perform 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions. If you are using heavier weight, aim for 6-8 repetitions per set. 

Cable Glute Kickback Mistakes

1. Using Your Leg to Drive the Motion

Far too often, I see weight lifters “swing” their leg back using momentum during the cable glute kickback. This sometimes occurs when people try to lift too much weight. In reality, this is stealing potential gains from your glutes.

Instead of using your leg to drive the ankle attachment backwards, focus on squeezing your glutes throughout the exercise motion. 

2. Completing Partial Reps

Other lifters fail to complete full reps during the cable glute kickback — they extend their leg back a few feet and stop there. More than other exercises, the glute kickback’s efficacy depends on full range of motion — the further you can move your leg back, the more tension you will bring to your glutes.

Don’t be afraid to reduce the weight if necessary and focus on completing full reps!

3. Standing Up Straight

Standing up straight is another common mistake made during the cable glute kickback. Standing up vertically hinders your range of motion during this exercise, making it more difficult to target the glutes. Instead, hinge at the waist and bend over to allow for a greater range of motion! 

Cable Glute Kickback Variations

1. Switches

The cable switch is a glute kickback variation that emphasizes the development of the gluteus medius and minimus. The setup is the same as the traditional cable glute kickback. However, as you swing your leg back, rotate your foot 90 degrees to the right or left.

Squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position. Be sure to switch legs and repeat!

2. Glute Pushdown Machine

The glute pushdown machine is a similar exercise motion to the cable glute kickback. After adjusting the leg pad to fit in the crook of your knee, engage your abs and contract your glutes to bring the pad down and back.

Squeeze your glutes hard and slowly return to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat!

Cable Glute Kickback Alternatives

If you enjoyed the cable glute kickback, check out these other glute exercises to improve your lower body training:

1. Hip Bridges

Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, your knees bent, and your palms facing down. Contract your glutes to raise your hips off the floor as high as they can go. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!

2. Leg Back Toe Down Pulses

To begin, assume a starting position on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Extend one leg straight behind you with your toes facing downwards. Squeeze your glutes to pulse your leg and up down. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions and switch legs!


3. Donkey Kicks 

Assume a starting position on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Brace your abs and extend one leg backwards as far as you can. Squeeze your glutes and slowly return to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat!

Looking for a Glute Workout?

For more glute exercises, check out this intense 5-minute hip and glute workout!

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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