The cable glute kickback is a very popular exercise with the girls. However, done well it is also a very useful exercise for all runners or anyone with a weak and flabby bottom.
- Stretch out the quads.
- Hook one heel into a theraband or use an ankle cuff to attach to a cable machine. Start with a light weight!
- Stand on the other leg, keeping it level under you. It will want to swing out to the side you are standing on. So no sashaying.
- Under control take the working leg out behind you only as far as it will go without the hips or your body tilting forwards.
- As you return the leg to the start, do keep the tension in the glute. It is only too easy to concentrate only on the pushing back part only.
- Place your hand on the working buttock. It should be clenching in a most satisfying manner.
- Then place your hand in the low back, that should be absolutely still through out the movement.
- Your abs should tighten up, but only naturally. If it feels as if it is also an ab workout, then either your abs are weak, in which case I think this exercise is too advanced for them to stabilise your back safely or they are turned off and the superficial abs and QLs are working like blazes to stabilise that back. This is not a good scenario.
Bottoms do not benefit from being sat on all day. The hip flexors (at the front of the hip) get very tight and short, which means the big bottom muscle, the gluteus megamaximus, cannot contract. If you squeeze your biceps and hold them tight, it will be impossible to contract the triceps.1 So when any muscle is overtight, it can’t let go and let its opposite number have a squeeze.
The determining factor for how far back your leg will go is how long your hip flexors are when your low back is almost straight.
This exercise is frequently done very badly, with people going gung-ho for a big range of movement. I chose this video clip because Kelly Liljeblad is extremely clear about the common faults or either leaning forwards as the leg swings back or arching the back to increase the movement.
Kelly Lijeblad tells us to lift the working hip. This will indeed engage the gluteus medius on the standing leg. If you put your hand just under the top of the hip bone, fingers pointing to the floor, as you lift the opposite hip, you will feel a flattening of the muscle under your hand – the gluteus medius. The problem here is that now the hips are not level. It may be better to stand on a thick book or block, checking that the gluteus medius is doing its job in keeping the hips level when standing on one leg. Now the working leg can move freely without getting snagged on the floor. Whichever version you choose, as long as the gluteus medius is working, this exercise becomes part of the cure for the sashay or toddle: sashaying is only for high heels, not for exercising. And neither should we be toddling down the street – shoulders tipping side to side. And, conversely, if you are a man wishing to walk in high heels convincingly, you need to be prepared to trash your hips/knees/ankles as you let the hips swing from side to side. Oh, and mush your toes into a gnarl.
Another question mark is whether we should stand free as is the video or hold onto something for stability. We certainly shouldn’t be hanging onto something as we walk or run – Zimmer frames are for the end game, after all. But when we walk or run, we do thousands of light reps. Here we do but a relatively few, heavier reps. Personally, I think it best to hold onto something solid so we can concentrate on the exercise, properly strengthening the muscles, with less energy going into not falling over or wobbling about.
Then we have the interesting question of foot position. If we turn the foot out, we more easily engage the glutes because of the way the muscle fibres run. So if we are seeking to increase the size of our butt due to a body building championship on the horizon or just because a big, firm bum is sexy in either sex, then turning out the foot will help. However, if we are doing this exercise to help us run faster or without pain, then we are best to keep the foot straight, since developing a duck waddle won’t help that 3 hour marathon goal. All this said, as part of good muscle development, if part of a long term programme, then the angle of the foot should be varied.
The final difficulty is the rep range. If the muscle is weak, then high reps are a necessity – 15 – 20 well controlled reps. Also 15 – 20 reps and above train the endurance fibres, which are long and lean. However, our bottom is principally made of fast twitch fibres, which respond best to heavier weights and lower reps. But techniques have to be super secure before attempting a 5 rep set, or your local chiropractor will be buying a bigger car very soon.
- You can, of course, squeeze both the biceps and the triceps at the same time, locking the arm in place. But this is not what I’m talking about. [↩]