Whether you're walking into a gym or scrolling through Instagram, chances are you’ll see somebody performing a glute cable kickback. Glute cable kickbacks are a great exercise for building that infamous “booty” and developing strength in your glutes.

Squats, deadlifts, and glute bridges are all great compound exercises that are necessary for building lower body strength and size. But, the glute cable kickback is one of the best accessory exercises to isolate the glutes.

Isolation exercises are great for focusing on and engaging a specific muscle, in this case, the glutes. Greater attention to a muscle can help reduce the risk of future injury and create a more rounded aesthetic look.

While the glute cable kickback is a gym staple for many of us, it’s not always performed correctly. If we’re not performing the exercise correctly, we’re not gaining the biggest benefit from it.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the benefits of the glute cable kickback, the muscles worked, the proper technique, and common mistakes. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get the most out of this incredible exercise!

Glute Cable Kickbacks: Muscles Worked

The glute cable kickback works two main muscle groups; primary and secondary. Primary muscles control the movement, whereas secondary muscles assist the primary muscle to perform the exercise.

But wait, isn’t this supposed to be an isolation exercise that only targets one muscle? Yes, but our secondary muscles assist the isolated muscle. The primary muscle will benefit the most, but our secondary muscles are still working, even if it’s to a lesser degree.

Primary Muscles

The glute cable kickback predominantly works the glutes, commonly known as the booty. The glutes are the largest muscle in the body. Their main job is to keep the body upright.

There are three major muscles in the glutes; gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. All three are targeted in the glute cable kickback.

Secondary Muscles

In addition to the glutes, the glute cable kickback inadvertently targets other major muscle groups. Your hamstrings, calves, quads, and core are all worked to help keep your body stabilized and balanced throughout the exercise.

Benefits of Glute Cable Kickbacks

Muscle Isolation

Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and glute bridges are great for building lower body strength. They’re compound movements, which means they recruit several muscle groups at one time.

Compound exercises allow you to move more load but don’t allow you to isolate a specific muscle. This is especially important if you have muscular imbalances. Your stronger muscles will compensate for the smaller ones and put you at an increased risk of injury.

Glute cable kickbacks focus predominantly on your glutes. If you’re lacking strength in the glutes, or want a more defined shape, this exercise is going to be key. Another benefit of muscle isolation is it can act as a great primer for other compound exercises such as the squat, deadlift, and glute bridge.

Improved Balance

With the glute cable kickback, your weight is loaded onto one foot. This helps build stability in your ankles, knees, and hips. Focusing on a slow, controlled movement will also help you build a mind-muscle connection between the brain and body. Stability around the joints and a strong mind-muscle connection are key for good balance.

Poor balance is only really considered an issue in the later stages of life. It’s true, older populations should pay attention to improving their balance to reduce their future risk of falls and fractures.

However, balance is also important for younger generations. Balance is a key component of a functional lifestyle. Balance is an integral part of our daily lives. It’s needed for more advanced sports such as surfing, and simpler tasks, such as walking up the stairs.

Increased Strength

The glute cable kickback focuses on building strength in the glutes. Strong glutes alongside a strong lower body can reduce the risk of imbalance-associated injuries and assist your other big lifts.

As we've mentioned, isolated weaknesses can contribute to the stronger muscles taking over the lift. In addition to an increased risk of injury, isolated weakness can also limit our full potential for big lifts. With stronger glutes, you’ll develop a bigger squat, deadlift, and glute bridge.

How to Perform Glute Cable Kickbacks

The glute cable kickback requires a cable machine with a low cable pulley and an ankle cuff attachment. If you don't have an ankle cuff attachment, don't worry, you can use an ankle strap or handle. However, for maximal comfort and focus on the glute cable kickback, we recommend the ankle cuff attachment.

  • Set the pulley to the lowest setting. Attach the ankle cuff and face the pulley system.
  • Step back until you feel resistance. Slightly bend your knees and keep your core engaged.
  • Lean your torso forward and brace yourself against the cable machine. Your torso should be near parallel to the floor. Shift your weight onto your non-kicking leg.
  • Push your kicking leg back and up in an arc position. Think about pulling the lower part of your glute to the top of your glute.
  • Hold for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Aim for 12-20 reps per leg for 2-4 sets.

Glute Cable Kickbacks: Common Mistakes

Kicking Back Too Much

Despite this exercise being called a kickback, we want to be moving the leg out and up like an arc movement rather than a kick. Excessive kicking puts more emphasis on the quads rather than the glutes, our primary target muscle.

Excessive Upper Body Movement

Sometimes when the weight gets too heavy, we rely on upper body momentum to help push the weight back and carry your kicking leg up as a counterbalance.

During the exercise, brace your upper body against the cable machine and focus on using your glutes to move the weight. Slowing down the exercise can also stop you from using momentum to move the weight. If you can’t perform a slow, controlled rep, you’ll need to drop the weight.

Limited Range of Motion

Like mentioned, the glutes are made up of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. To ensure we’re activating each part of the glute, we need to be moving through a full range of motion.

Achieving a full range of motion will activate each part of the glute and thus induce maximal muscle growth and strength gains.

The Take-Home

Glute cable kickbacks are a simple exercise to isolate the glutes to build maximal mind-muscle connection, strength, and size.

Although a common exercise, the glute cable kickback can be a tough one to perform correctly. We commonly see gym-goers using a heavier load than necessary, thus needing to recruit other muscles and use momentum to perform the lift.

Limit your upper body movement, and ensure you're moving your leg through a full arc range of motion.

In addition to a well-developed strength program, the glute cable kickback can provide additional isolation benefits most compound lifts can’t.