Donkey Kick Exercises: Get Your Booty in Gear

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on September 19, 2016Written by Nicole Bowling on September 19, 2016
Donkey kick

If you’re searching for an exercise to target and tighten your rear end, look no further than the donkey kick.

Donkey kicks target the glutes in a way many other compound exercises can’t. This move can be completed without equipment and can be modified for all fitness levels.

The donkey kick’s scientific name is a quadruped bent-knee hip extension. But it gets its nickname from the literal movement, which looks like the animal’s notorious kick.

There are several different variations of this exercise that can be performed. Try one of these five to get your booty in gear.

1. Donkey kick

Donkey Kick

The traditional execution of this exercise is the best for beginners. Focus on form, ensuring the back isn’t sagging and your glute is doing the work.

Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Equipment needed: none

  • Assume the starting position on all fours: knees hip-width apart, hands under your shoulders, neck and spine neutral.
  • Bracing your core, begin to lift your right leg, knee staying bent, foot staying flat, and hinging at the hip.
  • Use your glute to press your foot directly toward the ceiling and squeeze at the top. Ensure your pelvis and working hip stay pointed toward the ground.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Complete 20 reps on each leg for 4-5 sets.

2. Straight-leg donkey kick with half circle

Straight-leg donkey kick with half circle

An added circle at the end of the knee and hip extension adds a bit of difficulty to a standard donkey kick.

Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Equipment needed: none

  1. Assume the starting position on all fours: knees hip-width apart, hands under your shoulders, neck and spine neutral.
  2. Begin to lift your foot and knee off the ground. Point your foot and drive your toes straight back, using your glute to reach your leg as high as it can go while your pelvis and hips stay parallel to the ground.
  3. At the top, kick your leg outward on the descent, drawing a half circle with your toes.
  4. When your foot reaches the ground, bring your knee back inward toward your chest, pausing for 1 second, and then reaching back out.
  5. Complete 15-20 reps on each leg for 4-5 sets.

3. Resistance band donkey kick

Resistance band donkey kick

Added resistance from a light resistance band will make this move a bit more challenging and the burn more intense.

Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Equipment needed: light resistance band

  1. Grab the resistance band handles and position your hands so they are directly under your face, elbows bent. Hook your right foot into the band on the other end.
  2. Keeping your back straight, push your right leg out and up.
  3. Draw it back into your chest for 1 rep.
  4. Complete 10-15 reps for 2-4 sets on each leg.

4. Smith machine donkey kick

Smith machine donkey kick

If you’re looking to grow the size of your glute muscles, don’t be afraid to add weight to this exercise. Always err on the side of caution and start without adding weight until you’re comfortable with the movement.

Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Equipment needed: smith machine

  1. Adjust the smith machine bar so you can assume the starting position on all fours under and in front of it, with the arch of your foot on the underside of the bar and your working leg’s thigh parallel to the ground.
  2. Pushing with your glute through the arch of your foot, extend your knee in a slow and controlled motion.
  3. Return to the starting position and complete 10 to 12 reps for 2-4 sets on each leg.

5. One-legged kickback on cable machine

One-legged kickback on cable machine

While this isn’t a traditional donkey kick, a glute kickback works many of the same muscles while targeting your glutes from a different position.

Muscles worked: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Equipment needed: cable machine with ankle strap attachment

  1. Attach the ankle strap at the bottom of the pulley. Stand facing the machine 1-2 feet away, stabilizing yourself on the frame.
  2. Bracing your core with knees and hips slightly bent, use your glute to kick your working leg directly back as high as it will go without compromising your hip position. Squeeze at the top.
  3. Resist the weight and slowly lower your foot back to the starting position.
  4. Complete 10-12 reps for 2-4 sets on each leg.

Bottom line

With correct form, the donkey kick is a highly effective isolation exercise for your glutes. Incorporating multiple variations will ensure that you target your glutes in different ways, allowing maximum benefit.

Make sure that you feel comfortable and are in control of the standard donkey kick movement before graduating to more challenging versions.

Nicole Bowling
CMS Id: 110374