Cable glute kickbacks are a popular isolation exercise used to build strength and size in the glutes. Isolation exercises are fantastic for correcting muscular imbalances and focusing on specific weaknesses.

The cable machine is a staple piece of equipment in most gyms but what if you don't have access to one at home and want to isolate your glutes?

If this is you then read on because I'm giving you the best 8 cable glute kickback alternative exercises that are guaranteed to bring you glute gains.

There are many cable glute kickback alternative exercises that provide the same results as cable glute kickbacks and will build strength and size in the gluteus maximus. 

For a beginner, body weight usually provides a sufficient challenge. With so many weight and resistance band options—you can easily increase workout intensity. By not using the cable machine, it encourages you to engage your brain-body unit differently to stabilize posture and support more functional movements.  

Let's dive straight into the best cable glute kickback alternative exercises, starting with a banded variation.

1. Banded Kickbacks

Woman Doing Banded Kickbacks

What exercise is the same as cable glute kickbacks? Banded glute kickbacks are the exact same movement just without the cable machine and a band instead for resistance. 

Any type of glute kickback are the best isolation exercises to target the glutes, and with small tweaks, you can even possibly target one gluteus muscle at a time, perfect for addressing imbalances.

Benefits:

  • Improves muscle strength in the glutes.
  • Easy to do anywhere or at home. 
  • Helps increase core stability. 
  • 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
    Cable glute kickbacks provides a special kind of resistance control, so how do you do glute kickbacks without a cable machine? 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
    Using ankle weights and bands are the at-home exercise equipment alternative to a glute kickback exercise; however, some might find weighted ankle straps less tedious or more accessible.

Tips From A Trainer!

For these glute kickbacks, you shouldn't be standing upright. It is easier and more effective to target the glute muscles by increasing range of motion with a forward lean of your torso. You can also try out other glute isolation exercises.

2. Glute Bridges

Glute Bridges

Glute kickbacks are great, but glute bridges should be part of every workout routine due to the effectiveness of targeting the gluteus maximus muscle.

This cable glute kickback alternative can be done anywhere and resistance can easily be added to glute bridges to build stronger and more powerful glutes.

Benefits:

  • Effective in building strong glutes.
  • Helps reduce risk of injury.
  • Boosts athletic and sports performance. 
  • Single-Leg Bridges
    If the basic glute bridge has gotten boring or too easy, 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 your upper body raised about 1.5 ft. off the floor. Hip thrusts with the barbell is one of the best exercises to target your gluteus maximus. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your core engaged and squeeze your glutes hard when your hips are extended. To increase the difficulty of a bodyweight glute bridge you can elevate your feet and keep your upper body on the floor.

3. All-Fours Kickbacks

Woman Doing All-Fours Kickbacks Exercise

No cable machine? No problem! Glute kickbacks like this alternative in the prone position (body facing downwards) are great for those working through injury or for pregnant women. 

These glute kickbacks gives you the same degree of muscle isolation and even more range of motion compared to standard cable glute kickbacks. You can also add resistance if you need.

Benefits:

  • Great glute and core strengthening exercises for beginners.
  • Improves balance and challenges stabalizer muscles. 
  • Helps strengthen and stabalize the lower back.
  • 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.

Tips From A Trainer!

To do this exercise well, always keep your core engaged to make sure your lower back doesn't hyperextend as your leg lifts.  

4. Squats

Bodyweight Squats

Squats are the king of lower body strength exercises—they work the muscles surrounding the glutes and all major leg muscles. 

You can always hold weight(s) for powerlifting training or just to make the workout harder, as needed.

Benefits:

  • Targets all leg muscles and builds strong, powerful legs.
  • Improves core strength.
  • Improves posture and carries over to everyday movements. 
  • Basic
    Start in a well-supported standing position with feet 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 standard 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.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you struggle reaching the full range of motion then try squatting with your heels elevated. This will help those who have mobility issues in their hips and ankles.  

5. Romanian Deadlift

Man Doing A Romanian Deadlift Exercise

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.

Whilst this isn't an isolation exercise, it should be a staple exercise for everyone to build a strong body, including strong glutes. 

If you can't perform the Romanian deadlift because of injury or lack of equipment, you can try out RDL alternatives that target similar muscles.

Benefits:

  • One of the best compound exercises for strengthening the hips.
  • Builds a strong back and can reduce risk of back pain.
  • Improves sports and athletic performance. 
  • 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. This isolation exercise is done by keeping the weight off the ground for the entire set, which means more time under tension and more muscle hypertrophy. This is one of the best exercises to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't try to rip the bar off the floor as hard as possible as this will likely cause you to lose positioning. Engage your core and back then think about initiating the movement by pushing with your legs against the ground. 

6. Kettlebell Swings

People Perfoming Kettlebell Swings In The Gym

This exercise is a very effective alternative to cable kickbacks as kettlebell swings work and engage the muscles in your posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

You also get the kettlebell swing benefit of increased metabolic conditioning and improvements to cardiovascular fitness. 

However, if you don't own a kettlebell swing or want other options, you can try out kettlebell swing alternative exercise that target similar muscles.

Benefits:

  • Builds explosive strength and power.
  • Creates a strong posterior chain.
  • Quick and convenient exercise. 
  • Basic
    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.
  • Single Arm
    To challenge your body one side at a time, kettlebell swings can be done using a single arm, perfect for improving imbalances between the right and left side of your body. There are also 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.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you are hinging at the hips and not squatting down for this exercise. 

7. Reverse Lunges

Woman Doing Reverse Lunge Exercise

Leg isolation exercises should be part of every workout.

They allow you to focus on one side at a time and revitalise balance within the body.  

When your body is more aligned and balances that is when you feel and perform at your best. 

Benefits:

  • Reduces muscular imbalances.
  • Increases balance and coordination.
  • Improves core stabalization. 
  • 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!

Tips From A Trainer!

Coordinate your breathing with the movement. Inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you push through the heel and rise back up to the starting position.

8. Stability Ball Knee Tucks

Man Doing Stability Ball Knee Tucks

Any exercise that challenges your balance is going to being improvements in body awareness.  

Balance exercises keep our bodies strong and stable and provides better health outcomes. 

Benefits:

  • Stabalizer muscles worked. 
  • Can add variety and challenge to your workout.
  • Good for beginners who need to build better strength, balance and coordination. 
  • 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.[1]

Tips From A Trainer!

Perform the knee tucks in a slow and controlled manner. Avoid any sudden or jerky movements that can compromise your form or lead to injury.

Muscles Worked With Cable Glute Kickback Substitutes

Naturally, all glute cable glute 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 glutes 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 workoutsThe 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 rehabMoreover, low-impact glute and posterior exercises make great pre-emptive therapy for back pain and knee trouble.[2

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.[3]

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.

Cable Glute Kickback FAQs

Why do cable kickbacks hurt my back? 

Cable kickbacks may hurt your back 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? 

Here are some good glute stretches you can try:

  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 or gear for cable glute alternatives. 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, cable glute kickbacks are effective. 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, there are cable machine workouts that target the buttocks. 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 glute workout for everybody—whether you have access to a cable machine or not, have limited equipment in your home gym, or are a complete beginner and you need easy and appropriate exercises to build up your strength. 

Adding substitutes for cable glute kickbacks to your workout routine is sure-fire way to look your best and have a competitive edge in weightlifting and high-impact sports. 

References:

1.https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/whole-body-vibration/faq-20057958

2.https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/ss20210329-simple-exercises-to-reduce-back-pain

3.https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/take-control-of-your-knee-pain

Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website