Popular with runners and other athletes, you often see butt kicks — also known as bum kicks or butt kickers — used as a warm-up exercise. But this exercise can be included in any phase of your workout, and done in a variety of ways. It can also be modified for all training levels.

This article will look at the benefits of the butt kick exercise, how to do it safely, and ways to change it up for beginners and more advanced fitness levels.

Butt kicks are a type of plyometric, or jump training, exercise. These are powerful aerobic exercises that work your cardiovascular system and boost your muscle strength and endurance using only your own body weight as resistance.

Butt kicks are considered a key running drill for athletes who want to gain better form, efficiency in their stride, and protection from injury. In particular, butt kicks may help increase the speed of hamstring contractions, which can help you run faster.

This explosive move works both your hamstring muscles and your glutes, and it can also be used as a dynamic stretch for your quads.

If you pump your arms while doing butt kicks, you can also work the muscles in your core, arms, and back.

Butt kicks are easy to do, and they can be done almost anywhere — at a gym, on a track, or even in your living room.

To try this drill:

  1. Begin by standing with your feet about hip-distance apart, with your arms at your side.
  2. Slowly bring your right heel to your buttocks by contracting your hamstring muscle.
  3. Place the ball of your right foot back on the ground, and slowly bring your left heel to your buttocks.
  4. Perform this motion a few more times — alternating heels and gradually building speed.
  5. When you’re ready, continue alternating your right and left heels, picking up your pace until it feels like you’re jogging in place.
  6. To work your upper body at the same time, pump your arms while performing this motion. If your left heel is kicking your buttocks, pump your right arm forward at a 90-degree angle. If your right heel is kicking, pump your left arm forward.
  7. Continue the drill for at least 30 seconds, focusing on quick leg turnover.
  8. You can increase the duration as you build your fitness.

Although this exercise focuses on the legs, it’s important to maintain proper form throughout your body. If done incorrectly, you could sprain or strain a muscle, or injure a joint.

Keep these safety pointers in mind when doing a butt kick exercise:

  • Start slowly before picking up the pace.
  • Make sure your core is engaged (tightened), your spine is neutral, and your chest is open.
  • Land gently on the balls of your feet, not on your heels.
  • Try focusing more on contracting your hamstring while lifting your leg than pushing off the ground.

Warming up before you launch into a butt kick can help ensure that your muscles are warmed up and ready for exercise.

You may want to ask a certified personal trainer to show you the correct form for butt kicks before you add them to your workout.

If you’re just starting out or looking to increase the difficulty of this move, there are several variations you can try, depending on your fitness level.

For beginners

Before you build up speed, it’s important to focus on the general motion of butt kicks.

  1. Slowly bring your right heel to your buttocks by contracting your hamstring muscle.
  2. Place the ball of your right foot back on the ground gently and slowly bring your left heel to your buttocks.
  3. Perform this motion a few more times — alternating legs and widening your stance if necessary.
  4. You can keep this motion low impact by continuing slowly for 30 seconds, rocking side to side as you kick back, and keeping your arms stationary.
  5. As you get more comfortable with form, you can pick up the pace, increase the time, and add your arms.

For intermediate or advanced fitness levels

The following two variations are ideal for anyone who wants a more challenging version of a classic butt kick.

1. Alternate with high knees

Instead of keeping your thighs perpendicular with the ground, you can work slightly different muscles by including high kicks with your butt kicks.

To do this:

  1. Complete a set of eight butt kicks.
  2. Then, switch to doing a set of eight high knees. This involves running on the spot and bringing your knees up as high as you can. As with butt kicks, make sure you land gently on the balls of your feet.
  3. Alternate between sets of eight classic butt kicks and eight high knees.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds to start, then rest for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat this exercise three times, making sure you rest in between each set.
  6. You can extend the duration as you build your fitness.

2. Moving butt kicks

You may also take butt kicks on the go, moving forward as you tweak the basic motion.

  1. For this variation, bring your knees up in front of you, as if you’re going to do a high kick. Instead of keeping your foot beneath your knee, bring your foot under your leg so your heel touches your buttocks.
  2. Then move forward as you continue this motion. You can start slowly and then pick up the pace. It should feel like you’re running with high knees that touch your butt.
  3. Make sure you land gently on the ball of your foot, with your foot landing directly beneath your hips.
  4. Continue for 10 to 20 yards, repeating three to four times. Experienced athletes may want to do five repetitions of 50 yards.

If you’re planning to do butt kicks as part of your running routine, do them before you start logging your miles. Butt kick drills can help warm up your muscles for the work ahead. They can also help you focus on good running form.

Butt kicks can also be included as part of a comprehensive plyometric exercise routine. You can alternate them with other powerful plyometric moves, like high knees, jumping jacks, squat jumps, box jumps, plyo pushups, or skipping.

Consider choosing three or four plyometric exercises, and do each one for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds to two minutes between each exercise. Repeat your routine, and aim to build up to a total workout time of 15 to 20 minutes.

You can also alternate butt kicks with body-weight and strength-training exercises, like pushups, squats, or planks.

Adding plyometric moves, like butt kicks, to your regular exercise routine can strengthen your hamstrings, which may help you run faster and more efficiently.

Even if you’re not a runner, adding butt kicks to your workout can be a great way to increase your heart rate, boost your stamina, and elevate your fitness.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before trying any new fitness routine, especially if you’re new to fitness or have a medical condition.