How to Perform Donkey Kicks to Develop Stronger Arms, Core, and Glutes

by Lochlan

You may recall performing the donkey kick in aerobic courses if you were alive in the 1980s. For good reason—this classic exercise is still a favorite among fitness enthusiasts: it is both efficient and convenient. It is also a bodyweight workout with minimal impact that does not need jumping.

What health benefits might donkey kicks offer, then? Consider stability, toning, and strength. Take note of these detailed instructions from fitness professionals to ensure that donkey kicks are as safe and effective as possible. More information on the maneuver, how to change the workout, and who should avoid it altogether are also shared.

Which Muscles Are Aimted at by Donkey Kicks?

According to master instructor Ashlie Sustaita, “donkey kicks are a terrific exercise for targeting the gluteus maximus, which is the largest component of the glutes.” Donkey kicks even have an unexpected bonus when executed correctly, of course. “[T]he shoulder and core muscles are also engaged to hold stability and posture through the action,” because this exercise is done on all fours.

The fitness manager at Crunch Fitness, Kirsten Brown, claims that donkey kicks are an excellent low-impact, equipment-free workout. According to Brown, “the actual beauty of the action is that donkey kicks are a wonderful exercise for the arms, back, and core.” “The rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, iliopsoas (the major flexor of the hip joint), the erector spinae, multifidus running along the spine, and the quadratus lumborum (connecting rib cage to pelvis) are extremely helpful in this movement, even though the primary function is glute activation.”

Techniques for Donkey Kicks

“One must be on all fours with knees hip-width apart, hands under shoulders, neck and spine in neutral, and the abdomen supported” in order to do a traditional donkey kick, according to Brown. Sustaita walks through how to do the technique with correct form below.

  1. Get down on your hands and knees on the ground. Put your knees beneath your hips and your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  2. To assist build a strong back and a stable pelvis, contract your abdominal muscles. To maintain a flat back of the neck, tuck your chin slightly and look down and out.
  3. Maintaining a 90-degree bend in your right leg and flexing your right foot, raise your right leg up and behind you toward the ceiling using your glutes.
  4. Lift until just before your hips twist or tilt, or your lower back arches (scoops down); if any of these occur, you have lifted too high. Your back should remain neutral and firm, and your hips should remain squared off to the floor. To complete the exercise with a complete range of motion and appropriate technique, try not to hurry the motion.
  5. Start with your right leg lowered, then repeat with the same leg. After doing all the reps on the right side, move on to the left side.

Sustaita suggests performing three sets of 10 to 16 repetitions on each leg. Repeat once or twice a week, incorporating it with additional workouts to develop your glutes.

Changes and Adaptations

For individuals who are new to the donkey kick exercise, begin with the standard form before using resistance or weight. Height will come with repetition, according to Brown. “How high the leg can go is less crucial than making sure that stabilization is maintained throughout the entire exercise.” Try a few of these adjustments once you have gotten comfortable with the basic form.

Use weights or resistance bands.

Add weights to your ankles or a resistance band around your knee as you push through each repetition to increase the difficulty of donkey kicks. Before you may go on to more difficult options, try using the least amount of ankle weight and resistance bands of varying thicknesses.

Include One More Move

Brown suggests adding a half circle to the conclusion of the donkey kick action to increase the challenge. “Kick your leg outward on the descent at the peak of the exercise, making a half circle with your toes. Bring the knees in toward the chest as soon as the foot reaches the floor, halt, and then extend the knees back out,” advises Brown.

Include Machinery

Donkey kicks can be performed without the assistance of machinery, however it is possible to integrate machinery for a more difficult workout. Brown claims that the classic donkey kick can also be executed on a Smith machine, a weight-training apparatus with steel rails and a stationary barbell.

“In this version, we want to make sure that the working leg’s thigh stays parallel to the ground and the foot arch is placed on the bottom of the bar. Just like in a classic donkey kick, the glute will push through the arch in this instance in a deliberate, slow manner, according to Brown.

Attempt Donkey Kicks While Standing.

The same muscles that a donkey kick targets are used and worked out in standing donkey kicks, also known as glute kickbacks. The only distinction is that instead of being on all fours, standing donkey kicks are executed on two legs. You can use this variation of the donkey kick to improve your balance and strengthen your core.