Cable Glute Kickback Alternatives (8 Best Substitutes)

Cable glute kickbacks are on your personal workout schedule, but you see the gym machines often unavailable (occupied, out of order, etc.) Or maybe you are considering purchasing a cable machine for your home gym, but is it worth it just for a few exercises?

Debacles like these distract from real progress, or worse—cause you to lose motivation altogether. These struggles are needless: Here, you will find a cable glute kickback alternative to pull out in any situation.

Most cable kickback replacements actually are improvements on the original exercise. For a beginner, body weight usually provides a sufficient challenge. Plus—with so many weight and resistance band options—you can easily increase workout intensity. Furthermore, not using a machine forces you to engage your brain-body unit differently to stabilize posture and support more functional movements.  

1. Kickbacks

What exercise is the same as cable kickbacks? Obviously, this is it: the same movement, just without the machine. All types of kickbacks are the best isolation exercises to target the glutes, and with small tweaks, you can even possibly target one gluteus muscle at a time.

  • Bodyweight
    All you have to do is lean forward about 45 degrees and lift your leg all the way back in a controlled manner. For a more comprehensive challenge, try doing this without leaning on a chair, wall, etc., for support. To work your minimus or medius glutes, gradually alter the sideways angle of the lift.
  • Resistance Bands
    A workout cable machine does give a special kind of resistance control, so how do you do glute kickbacks without cable? If you are someone who really wants to incrementally add weight/resistance, “booty bands” are the perfect substitute. You can get bands especially made for upper leg/glute workouts that graduate in resistance.
  • Ankle Weights
    Both these and the bands above are the at-home exercise equipment alternative to a glute kickback exercise; however, some might find weighted ankle straps less tedious or more accessible.
Regular Glute Kickback

2. Glute Bridges

These are the best floor calisthenics to target the glutes. Lie down as you would for ab crunches, then push off your feet and use your glutes to support your body in a raised position.

  • Single-Leg Bridges
    If the basic bridge has gotten boring, move on to straightening one leg while supporting your body in the bridge position with the other. This isolates muscles of each side in different ways simultaneously.
  • Hip Thrusts
    This is really the same motion/position, but with the upper body raised about 1.5 ft. off the floor.
Glute Bridges

3. All-Fours Kickbacks

Instead of standing at all, get down on all fours and lift/kick your legs back one at a time in a controlled way. This gives you the same degree of muscle isolation and even more range of motion compared to standard kickbacks.

  • Bent Knee Kickbacks
    Keep your leg bent at the same 45-degree angle throughout the motion, but still lift all the way up and maintain control.
  • Donkey Kicks
    Straighten the leg as you lift, as though you are kicking something behind you, but be sure to keep the movement steady and controlled.
  • Banded Glute Kickbacks
    Apply a band around your thighs to add resistance, if needed—and do any of the above exercises. Alternatively or in addition, you could carefully alter the sideways angle to target the gluteus medius and minimus.
All-Fours Kickbacks

4. Squats

These are compound exercises—they work the muscles surrounding the glutes, and really the whole lower body. You can always hold weight(s) for powerlifting training or just to make the workout harder, as needed.

  • Basic
    Start in a well-supported standing position with feet about hip-width. Bend down as far as you can, being sure to lead the motion with the butt going back so that the knees are always in line with, or behind, the feet. Come back up to standing in a controlled manner.
  • Sumo Squats
    This is a great way to add thigh engagement. Use a wider stance than you would for the basic squat. Come down as far as you can. Then, come back up in a controlled manner. 
  • Jump Squats
    This works the whole lower body while lightly engaging the core. Squat like usual, then lift up to stand on tippy toes with both arms lifted overhead and abs and neck engaged for support. As a ballistic exercise, this improves the body’s efficiency of strength/energy output.
squats

5. Deadlift

There is a symbiotic relationship between glute kickbacks and deadliftsglute isolation exercises foster improved performance and safety for compound movements that require glute strength and power.

  • Basic
    Bend down as you would for a squat, with the butt leading and the legs and core held steady. Pick up a barbell on the floor in front of you to the point where you are just hefting the weight and then replace it to the floor in a controlled movement. 
  • Romanian Deadlifts
    The Romanian deadlift engages the back and core muscles more because the torso is kept higher throughout the movement. Instead of lifting off the floor, you lift and replace the weight to a rack/support
Romanian Deadlift

6. Kettlebell Swings

Assume a wider-than-hip-width stance with the kettlebell placed right in front of you. Bend down and pick up the kettlebell and swing it up and out—as far as you can while keeping the movement controlled and supported.

Another great ballistic exercise, there are many variations you could apply—changing pace, angle, range, and posture. Regular kettlebell swing practice is sure to tone the entire posterior chain; that is, the muscles along the back of the leg, the glutes, and much of the back.

Garage Gym Pro Tip - You could use a medicine ball instead if you prefer and already have one. 

Learn More - 10 Best Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

Kettlebell Swings

7. Leg Isolation Exercises 

  • Step-Ups
    Simply step up on a raised surface, such as a stair step or bench, then step down. You can alternate legs or do a set with one leg at a time. This is an isolation exercise for each leg—while it does not target the glutes themselves, it strongly supports symmetry of motion. A great variation to try would be to alter the angle of the step so as to more heavily target other gluteal muscles. Also, be sure to maintain good posture—specifically, a straightened back supported by engaged abs—throughout the motion. Check out alternatives to step ups here!
  • Lunges
    Instead of stepping up, make a wide step forward on a flat surface until your legs are both at almost 90-degree angles; you can touch the ground with your knee or just come close—whichever feels most comfortable and allows you to keep control of the motion. Come back up and either switch legs with each rep, or alternatively, perform sets with one leg at a time. You can also read through our article on the benefits of lunges for more info!
Reverse Lunge

8. Dynamic Exercises

  • Balance
    If nothing else, just try balancing on one foot; this is an exercise you can do almost anywhere. Not only is balance helpful in and of itself—but it also engages the glutes, core, legs, and other muscles for a low-impact, compound, functional workout. Admittedly, sometimes the most basic of movements are the most helpful. In fact, you really should not move on to more difficult exercises until you can do this.
  • Exercise/Stability Ball
    If nothing else, just sitting on one of these will gently engage the glutes; this is the ultimate low-impact lower body workout. You can also support your upper or lower body on it for a more exciting glute bridge experience that requires more balance and finer brain-muscle engagement.
  • Vibration Workouts
    This does involve buying or otherwise accessing a piece of equipment, but some might enjoy the added stimulation. These vibrating machines will work muscles in a nuanced way, because you must hold steady against a sporadically changing foundation. However, body vibration probably should only be used as an accompaniment to other exercises and health habits for best results.
Stability Ball Knee Tucks

Muscles Worked With Cable Glute Kickback Substitutes

Naturally, all glute cable kickback alternatives work the posterior chain muscles, especially the glutes, primarily the gluteus maximus, and secondarily, the gluteus medius and minimus. Some might wonder whether these kickback substitutes will make their bum bigger.

The answer: It depends on how you do them; generally, less resistance and more reps/sets will tone muscles (with steady caloric intake); fewer reps/sets with more resistance will bulk up muscles (especially if accompanied by an increase in calories to promote weight gain). 

The hamstrings tend to move with the glutes; while this could be seen as undermining muscle isolation, it is actually beneficial. The back of the leg is an area that most people would like to tone up. 

You should feel your core (abs and back) become activated during glute-kickback-type workouts. The goal is to engage the core in such a way as to protect the back from strain. This is arguably the most practical fitness area since so many people needlessly suffer from chronic back pain due to a weakened or untrained core 


Benefits Of Doing Cable Glute Kickback Alternative Exercises

There is a great glute workout for everyone, even those who are absolute beginners, elderly, injured, or in rehab. Moreover, low-impact glute and posterior exercises make great pre-emptive therapy for back pain and knee trouble.

Learning how to support your spine and reduce the damaging impact on the knees by engaging the core and glutes is a great way to prevent trouble down the road. In fact, you should probably do some glute work before starting, or at least alongside, other exercise regiments. 

Most people will be happy to find that they can learn these movements by themselves. (However, if you find you cannot perform these exercises without pain, do not continue; first consult a doctor, physical therapist, or professional trainer.) 

Powerlifters definitely should make this part of their cross-training for peak performance and assurance that they will be able to keep competing without injury for as long as possible. 

For those who honestly just want to look good on the beach, isolating the individual glute muscles will give outstanding tone and bulk in all the right places. Also, posterior chain compound exercises are an understated must. Yes, a six-pack looks good, but what is better is a toned and muscular back and hamstrings along with it.


Cable Glute Kickback Alternatives (Mistakes You Need To Avoid)

Using Your Leg To Drive The Motion

If you are not used to engaging your glutes, and they are relatively weaker than other muscles, this is a natural tendency. Alternatively, some people might slip into this mistake when they are deprived of the guided feel of the cable machine. Ultimately, this lack of control undermines glute isolation and increases the chances of back strain.

Over-Relying On Back Muscles

This can be due to ab or glute under-engagement/weakness, but overly tight muscles can also be contributing factor. Be sure to do some leg and core stretches before doing any glute or leg workouts; at the same time, take some deep mindful breaths.

Completing Partial Reps

This could be an alternative physical response to the above problems. It is important to focus, engage/strengthen, and stretch to the point of being able to do full reps. Otherwise, you are not really getting the benefit of your workout.

Standing Up Straight

There is nothing inherently wrong with a standing kickback; however, it limits the range of motion, which generally makes the exercise less effective. However, on the flip side, this approach might be more comfortable for true beginners. Just be sure to use good technique otherwise.

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Cable Glute Kickback FAQs

Why do cable kickbacks hurt my back?  

This is likely due to not being warmed up or stretched out. Alternatively, you could be inadvertently moving incorrectly. Consider checking a mirror (if possible) or paying attention internally to see if you can shift your body such that there is less pain. Don't underestimate the importance of stretching!

What are good glute stretches?  

1) Fold one leg sideways underneath you and lie face down, stabilized by hands/arms; then, switch legs.

2) Sit on butt with legs bent so that bottoms of feet touch; to intensify this idea, cross legs more tightly than normal cross-legged seated position by crossing legs until your thighs are touching; switch sides.

3) For a more relaxed option that is also great for relaxation and digestion, lie on back and pull legs to chest; to intensify the motion, pull one leg up at a time. 

Do I need any equipment or gear for cable glute alternatives?  

For the most part, you do not need any equipment. However, some more advanced exercisers might like to have resistance bands designed for glutes and legs or ankle weights: There are options for all genders, aesthetics, and fitness levels. 

Are cable glute kickbacks effective?  

Yes, that there are so many alternatives does not mean the original is bad. The straightforward way that you can add resistance with a cable machine is especially great for serious strength trainers.

Are there cable machine workouts that target the buttocks besides the glute kickback?  

Yes. Leg abductions and adductions engage the glutes while really targeting the thighs. The fact that these exercises do not isolate the glutes does not make them less important for those who want a stronger or better-looking butt, however; these moves strengthen the inner and outer thigh muscles, secondarily targeting the glutes in different ways and from different angles, as well as supporting symmetry, balance, and range of motion for the entire lower body. 


Conclusion

There is a glute workout for everybody—whether you cannot get to the public gym, have a limited home gym, or have high anxiety about starting a workout regimen. Adding substitutes for cable glute exercises to your exercise arsenal is a sure-fire way to look your best and have a competitive edge in weightlifting and high-impact sports. 

Last Updated on August 25, 2022