How To Build Firm And Powerful Glutes With Cable Kickbacks
Before I get into the how and whys of performing cable kickbacks for your glute muscles, I feel it’s important that you understand the reasons for even training your glutes in the first place. Training for better glutes is often and mistakenly thought of as a more feminine goal. This is just plain wrong, everybody should be training their glutes hard.
Of course, many women train their glutes for aesthetic purposes but men should do the same. A man’s “butt” is often touted as being one of the first physical features that are noticed by the opposite sex, not your biceps.
The glutes aren’t only there for aesthetic and mate-attraction purposes. They are big, strong muscles that provide a great base of power for most athletic movements. Your glutes are primarily responsible for hip extension, which is heavily relied upon in almost all sports. Building a powerful set of hips means that you can run faster, tackle harder and jump higher; Your glutes play a crucial part in all of these.
The problem with glute training is that it can be quite hard to actually feel your glutes working during many exercises. You see, as a result of the glutes being such an important group of muscles, they are involved in a lot of exercises that also train multiple other muscles.
For example, squats can be a great glute-builder but you also use your quads, hamstrings and core muscles at the same time. This can make it very hard to feel and contract your glutes effectively during the movement. While exercises like the squat should never be ignored in a glute training program, finding ways to isolate your glutes so that you can really feel them working and emphasize their contraction will improve their development. An excellent exercise for really isolating your glute muscles are cable kickbacks. They are a simple exercise to perform that allows you to focus specifically on your glutes as you train them through their primary function of extending the hips.
The Benefits Of Cable Kickbacks
In case you aren’t already convinced that cable kickbacks are an excellent way to train your glutes to be bigger, firmer and more powerful, here is a quick of a few more reason for you to start performing them.
Isolates The Glute
I have already touched on this one in the introduction but I will explain a little more here.You may have heard the term “mind-muscle connection” thrown around by bodybuilders. This is the idea that really focusing on feeling a target muscle working through its range of motion will help you to activate it more. Obviously, more muscle activation should lead to more growth.
It is quite easy to activate this mind-muscle connection in muscles like your biceps. Most people know what it feels like to tense their biceps.The same cannot be said for the glutes. Many people really struggle to activate their glute muscles properly during a movement. Cable kickbacks can help to overcome that problem.
During a cable kickback, you are isolating your glutes throughout hip extension, which is their main function. You are also able to focus on just one side at a time.It shouldn’t take long until you are able to feel the glutes stretching and contracting throughout the movement. Making cable kickbacks perfect for creating that mind-muscle connection.
Mimics Real-life Movement
People often make the mistake of planning their training around exercises that work a particular muscle quite well but that has very little transfer into their day to day life. An example of this would be a hanging leg raise for abs; a great exercise for the rectus adbominis but how often is that specific movement performed each day? Not very.
In my opinion, training should go some way to enhancing daily life and making daily tasks easier. Cable kickback can accomplish this because they closely mimic the movement patterns that you will use when you are walking and running.
Cable kickbacks work your glutes exactly how they are going to be used every single day when you are walking or when you are competing in a sport that involves running.
Provides Constant Tension On Your Glutes
This benefit actually holds true for any exercise that makes use of a cable machine. Unlike, bars or dumbbells, the resistance provided by the cable is constant throughout the whole movement.
There is no resting point since the cable’s resistance is always pulling against you. The same can be applied to bands.
The constant tension makes an exercise more difficult and forces the target muscles to work harder for a longer period of time. In a cable kickback, your glutes end up spending a long time under tension during each rep. Time under tension has long been known as one of the key drivers for muscle hypertrophy. Spending more time under tension, as long as the resistance is sufficient, should lead to better overall muscle growth.
How To Perform Glute Cable Kickbacks
There are actually 2 main variations of the exercise: standing cable kickbacks and kneeling cable kickbacks. The kneeling variation does provide a larger range of motion, which can be beneficial. However, the peak contraction is often easier to feel with the standing version and it is easier to keep a neutral lumbar spine with the standing kickbacks.
I will provide the steps for both so that you can get in the gym and try out each then decide which one feels best for yourself.
Standing Cable Kickbacks Technique
- Attach an ankle strap to a cable machine and set the pulley to the very bottom of the machine.
- Facing the stack of weights, take a step back so that the weights are lifted slightly. You want there to be tension from the very start of the movement.
- You can hold on to the machine for support but make sure that your abs are braced and your spine is in a neutral alignment.
- From this start position, push the heel of the attached ankle directly behind you to extend your hip. Keeping your knee straight, push your leg behind you until your hip is fully extended and you can feel your glute muscles contract.
- Pause in the end position for 1-2 seconds before returning to the start in a controlled fashion.
Kneeling Cable Kickbacks Technique
- Position a flat bench in front of a cable machine.
- Lower the pulley to its lowest position and attach an ankle cuff to the machine.
- Face the cable stack and kneel on the bench with one leg. Your other leg should be attached to the machine with the ankle cuff.
- Bring the attached leg forward by swinging your foot towards the machine
- Push back directly behind you with your heel, with your leg straight until your hip is fully extended.
- Contract your glute muscles hard and pause in the end position for 1-2 seconds.
- Return to the start position in a controlled manner before repeating.
Cable Kickback Tips
There are a couple of key points that you should focus on in order to get the very most out of the kickback exercise.
The first thing that must be emphasized is the importance of keeping your back straight and neutral. Doing so will put the tension on more on your glutes and less on your lower back, leading to better glute activation and lower injury risk.
To keep your spine in alignment, be sure that your abs remain tensed throughout the exercise. Before each rep, make a mental note to check that your abs are braced and keep them braced the entire time.
You should also be wary not to over-extend your lower back at the end of each rep. The rep stops as soon as your hips are extended and you can feel your glute muscles contract. Arching your lower back so that you can push your leg back further will not help your glutes and could cause back issues.
Finally, contracting your glutes hard and pausing at the end of every rep is a great way to get them firing even more. There aren’t too many exercises where you get the chance to isolate your glute muscles in this way so you should take advantage of it.
Use the guides above and try out both variations of the cable kickback. If you have time and room in your training, you could incorporate both. If one variation just feels way better than the other, that would be the one to put your energy into.
Either way, I certainly suggest that you give cable kickbacks a try in your routine. Of course, do not forget those big compound exercises like squats and deadlifts for your glutes either.
A good routine will focus on a number of different exercises to provide the muscles with various types of stimulus. As always, let me know if you found this guide helpful in the comments section. Feel free to share your own favourite glute-builders too!