Glutes

9 Best Cable Kickback Alternative Exercises For Glutes

cable kickback alternative

While most of us love compound exercises like the squat for building strong glutes, isolating your glute muscles by doing movements such as the cable kickback offers a better mind-muscle connection for enhanced strength and muscle gains.  

But what if you don’t have access to a cable machine, or you’re looking to add some variety to your training.  


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In which case what makes a good cable kickback alternative? 

The great news is that there are numerous excellent substitutes to replace the cable kickback, all just as effective in targeting and strengthening those large and powerful gluteal muscles.

So, stay tuned as we explore various kickback alternatives suitable for both the gym and home settings, ensuring you can continue your glute training no matter where you are.

Why Look For A Cable Kickback Alternative?

Firstly, relying solely on cable kickbacks may lead to muscle imbalances over time.

Glute cable machine kickbacks

While the glutes are undoubtedly the main focus, other muscles, such as your hamstrings and lower back, play important roles in hip extension and stabilization.

By keeping things varied and incorporating cable kickback alternatives you can target these muscle groups alongside your glutes helping to prevent these imbalances.  

Secondly, cable machines may not always be readily available.  

Knowing alternatives to cable glute kickbacks gives you the flexibility to effectively strengthen your glutes, whether you can access a cable machine or not.  

What’s more, varying your exercises encourages muscle growth and stops you from hitting a plateau.  

While cable kickbacks isolate the glutes, especially your gluteus maximus, alternative exercises engage these muscles in different ways helping to trigger muscle adaptation and growth.  

Mixing up your workout routine also prevents boredom from setting in.  

Cable Kickback Alternatives You Can Do At Home

An effective glute workout doesn’t always have to be done in the gym.  

Using just your body weight you can fire up those glutes making them stronger and more toned.  

And, when you want to kick things up a notch, get yourself a set of bands to add some resistance to your workouts.  

The glute bridge is one of our favorite exercises for firming up your butt muscles making it a great alternative to the cable kickback.  

It’s perfect for beginners as you can start with just your body weight.  

When done to a full range of motion, the glute bridge will work your glute max, with secondary activation from the hamstrings and lower back muscles.  

It’s also a great exercise for strengthening your hip flexors which can improve stability to your lower body.  

glute-bridge-movement

​How To: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep your arms down by your sides. This is your starting position. 
  3. Push your heels into the ground and lift your hips towards the ceiling.
  4. Squeeze your glutes as much as you can at the top. 
  5. Lower back down and repeat with slow controlled reps.
Glute Bridge Progression

Add resistance by placing a glute band just above your knees.  

As you raise your hips up slowly pull your knees apart to increase the contraction. 

Donkey kicks are a great glute isolation exercise making them an efficient alternative to cable kickbacks.

When done with proper form, donkey kicks not only work your glutes but also engage your core and hamstrings, essentially making it a compound exercise that benefits your lower body and core strength.

They’re also beneficial for improving the stability of your hip flexors.

Donkey kick

How To:

  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle, lift one leg up towards the ceiling, ensuring your foot is flexed.
  3. At the top of the movement, the sole of your foot should be facing the ceiling. 
  4. Give your glutes a good squeeze before returning to the starting position.
  5. Be sure to do equal reps on both sides.
Donkey Kick Progression

To increase the muscle contraction either loop a resistance band around your thighs or wear ankle weights and perform the reps in the same way.  

Fire hydrants are a dynamic exercise that targets the gluteus medius and minimus (the outer glute muscle), which are crucial for abductor strength and hip stability.

This makes them a fantastic choice for anyone looking to enhance their lateral glute strength as an alternative to the cable kickback.  

By engaging the outer glutes and hip muscles, fire hydrants also help to improve the range of motion and stability of your hip joints, which can contribute to better lower body strength.

One of the most common mistakes when performing the fire hydrant is to tip the working leg too far up causing your torso to rotate.  

It’s important to keep your hips and shoulders square to the floor.  

fire hydrant with resistance band

How To:

  1. Begin in a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Keeping your knee bent, lift one leg away from your body and out to the side.
  3. Lift your leg until it’s at a 90-degree angle to the floor and without shifting your weight to the opposite side.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Fire Hydrant Progression

Increase the challenge by placing a resistance band around your knees or by holding the raised position for a few seconds to intensify muscle engagement.

The single-leg glute bridge is one of the more challenging glute exercises but perfect for targeting the gluteus maximus and improving hip stability, making it an excellent alternative to the cable kickback.  

As it’s a unilateral movement it’s also a great way of improving balance and stability. 

When it’s executed with good form it’s going to engage the glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles, making it a great lower body workout. It also helps to strengthen the hip flexors and improve hip mobility, contributing to better functional movement patterns.

Single leg glute bridge on mat

How To:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
  2. Extend one leg straight out in front of you, keeping your foot flexed.
  3. Brace your abdominal muscles then press through the heel of the grounded foot and slowly raise your hips towards the ceiling.
  4. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly lower back down to the start.
  5. Repeat for reps then switch sides.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge Progression

Try elevating the grounded foot on a step or bench to increase the range of motion and challenge your balance further.  

Lateral band offer a fantastic alternative to the cable kickback, focusing on strengthening the lateral aspect of the glutes and improving hip mobility.  

By engaging the glute medius muscles, abductors and hip stabilizers, lateral band walks can help to enhance hip strength and stability which can reduce the risk of injury.

They’re also effective for activating the muscles responsible for maintaining proper hip alignment.

lateral resistance band walks

How To:

  1. Place a resistance band around your legs, just above your knees.
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a with slight bend in your knees.
  3. Take small steps to the side, maintaining tension on the band throughout the movement.
  4. Keep your torso in an upright position throughout.
  5. Move several steps in one direction, then move back in the opposite direction.  
Lateral Band Walks Progression

Move to a higher resistance band or perform the exercise in a deeper squat position to intensify the challenge.

When you’re ready to progress with heavier weight to develop those glutes even more, the below suggestions all make for great alternatives to the cable kickback using different equipment in the gym.  

The barbell hip thrust is a staple exercise for targeting and isolating the gluteus maximus, making it an excellent choice for those looking to build strength and size in their glutes. It’s a little like the glute bridge but with your upper back resting on a weight bench.  

Give this one a miss if you suffer from lower back pain.  

How To:

  1. Sit on the ground with your upper back resting against a bench and a padded barbell across your hips.
  2. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and hip-width apart.
  3. Drive through your heels to lift your hips towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top.
  4. Lower back down with control and repeat for the desired number of reps. 
Barbell Hip Thrust Progression

Increase the weight on the barbell or perform single-leg hip thrusts to intensify the exercise and challenge your glutes further.  

Don’t be tempted to jump straight to a heavy weight and only make small changes.  

The cable pull-through is perfect for lighting up the glutes and hamstrings while also recruiting your core muscles.

It’s an excellent alternative to the standard kickback, providing a dynamic movement that mimics hip extension.

How To:

  1. Stand facing away from the cable machine with a rope or handle attachment set low on the pulley.
  2. Grab the rope or handle between your legs and take a few steps forward to create tension in the cable.
  3. Hinge at your hips, keeping your back flat, and allow the weight to pull your arms down and between your legs.
  4. Drive through your hips to extend them forward.  Use power to do this and make sure you lock out your hips at the top as though doing a conventional deadlift.  
  5. Control the weight back to the starting position and repeat.  
Cable Pull-Through Progression

Increase the weight on the cable machine or perform the exercise with a wider stance (often called a sumo stance) to target different areas of the glutes and hamstrings.

The Smith machine Romanian deadlift is a variation of the traditional Romanian deadlift.  

It’s a compound movement so it’s going to activate several muscle groups including your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core muscles.  

It’s a good choice for beginners due to the fixed movement of the barbell and the smith machine providing some stability.  

How To:

  1. Stand in front of the Smith machine with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell set to around mid-thigh height.
  2. Take hold of the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands just past your thighs.  
  3. Push your hips forward to unrack the bar and maintain a standing position. 
  4. Push your hips back and lower the bar until it reaches just below your knees.  Keep your back flat throughout. 
  5. You should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings.
  6. Drive through your feet, pushing your hips forward to return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top.
Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift Progression

Increase the weight on the bar or try varying your stance and grip width.  

The cable hip abduction is an effective way of strengthening your outer glute muscles, which can often be neglected in favor of the glute max muscles.  

It makes for an excellent cable kickback alternative as it works the muscles in a slightly different way while promoting better hip alignment and reducing the risk of injury.

You don’t need much weight to perform this exercise so don’t be tempted to go too heavy.  

Start light and progress as you develop stronger glutes.  

Good form is important so you don’t stress your hip joints so don’t use any momentum and only move your leg out to the side using plenty of control.  

How To:

  1. Attach an ankle strap to the low pulley cable machine and secure it around your ankle.
  2. Stand side on to the machine with the leg to be worked on the outside.  
  3. For support, grab hold of the machine with one hand.
  4. Point the toes of your cuffed leg up then extend it straight out to the side.  
  5. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then return to the starting position with control.
Cable Hip Abduction Progression

Increase the weight on the cable machine or perform the exercise with a resistance band looped around your thighs for increased resistance.

Why It’s Important To Strengthen Your Glute Muscles

Performing any type of glute exercise, whether it’s the cable kickback or the ones mentioned in this article, does much more than just build muscle mass for aesthetics.  

Developing strong glutes is important for good posture, injury prevention, and improved athletic performance.  

Let’s look at each of these in turn to see how strong glutes contribute to your overall health.  

While it may not seem like it, strong glute muscles are fundamental to maintaining good posture.  

This is because they assist in supporting the pelvis and spine when you stand, walk and even sit.  

When your posture is good then you’re less like to develop low back pain and you’ll also reduce stress on other areas of your body. 

By providing support to your lower back and knees, stronger glutes can lower your risk of injury.

This protective role around the hips and lower back is especially crucial during physical activities, where the demand on these areas might increase.  

For athletes, the glutes are powerhouses as they are the largest and strongest muscle groups.  

They contribute significantly to sprinting, jumping, and quickly changing directions, directly impacting speed and agility.

Increasing overall strength to this muscle group can lead to noticeable improvements in performance across a range of sports.

Wrapping Up

During leg day training, it’s so important to invest in a well-developed glute workout.  

Performing the cable kickback along with our suggested alternatives will get you on the way to building killer glutes that will not only look good but also enhance your overall physical health and reduce your chance of injuries to the hips and lower back while potentially boosting your athletic capabilities.  

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