How to Do Donkey Kicks

By Lisa M. Wolfe

Donkey kicks are a butt-blasting exercise you can do at home or at the gym. The upward-driving kicks, performed from a hands and knees position, target your glutes, but also work your hamstrings, hips and core. The weight of your legs provide resistance to strengthen these muscles as you push up against the downward force of gravity. You don’t need equipment for donkey kicks, however dumbbells can be added for an advanced version.

When To Kick

Include donkey kicks in your workouts on the days you perform lower-body or glute-targeted exercises. You can replace squats or lunges with donkey kicks for a change in routine or include donkey kicks as an additional exercise. Aim to complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg or do as many donkey kicks as you can until your glutes feel fatigued. When you perform donkey kicks as your first or only exercise, warm your glutes with three to five minutes of gentle, full-body movements, such as walking or marching in place. Whether performing the beginner or advanced kick, add the exercise to your routine two to three times a week, with a day of rest in between sessions.

Kickin' It

In preparation for donkey kicks, set down an exercise mat for comfort and assume a hands-and-knees position. Your knees should be directly below your hips, with your shins parallel and space between your feet. Place your hands on the mat under your shoulders. Keep your arms straight, but avoid locking your elbows. Your spine should be aligned and your back flat, not rounded up or arched down. It helps if you engage your core and pull your navel toward your back to support this posture. Protect your neck by looking at the floor space between your hands. Raise your bent right leg off the floor and flex your right foot by pulling your toes toward your shin. Keep your knee bent at a 90-degree angle so your foot is directly above your knee, which contracts the hamstrings. Squeeze your glutes and push up with your right heel until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Maintain the kick for a count of one and then return to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat the kick with your left leg. Alternate the bent-knee kicks until you complete your desired number of repetitions.

Modifications

If your form changes and your elbows bend or your back sags, decrease the range of motion in your donkey kicks. For example, instead of raising your leg until your thigh is in line with your hips, only lift your leg half way. This decreases the intensity of the kicks. On the other hand, when you need to increase the challenge, you have the option of completing all the repetitions on the right leg before switching to the left. Another way to advance donkey kicks is to place a light-weight dumbbell in the knee pit of the leg you are lifting. Select a weight that causes muscular fatigue after 10 to 15 repetitions.

Posture Check

It is common, but not recommended, for your back to sag or your hips to shift when you perform donkey kicks. This posture change alters the effectiveness of the exercise and can also lead to lower-back discomfort. To avoid this shift, target your glutes, stabilize your abdominals and protect your back, use a broomstick or other light-weight bar to signal when the change occurs. For example, in an all-fours position, place the bar across your lower back so it is perpendicular to your spine. Perform a donkey kick. If the bar moves more than slightly or it if it rolls forward or backward, you are altering your position and should limit the range of motion on your kicks until your strength improves.

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