The Right Way to Do Donkey Kicks for Stronger Glutes, Arms, and Core

Adding this exercise to your workouts can help strengthen and stabilize the largest muscle in your body, the gluteus maximus. 

If you were around during the '80s, you might remember doing a donkey kick in aerobic classes. This quintessential exercise is still a popular workout move, namely because it's as effective as it is convenient. Plus, it's also a low-impact, bodyweight exercise that doesn't require jumping. So what do donkey kicks do for the body? Think: strength, toning, and stability.

How to Do Donkey Kick Exercise: Proper Donkey Kick Form
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"Donkey kicks are a great exercise for targeting the largest part of the glutes, the gluteus maximus," says Ashlie Sustaita, master instructor at Life Time athletic club in Houston, Texas. There's even a surprise bonus to donkey kicks—if done with proper form, of course. Because this move is performed on all fours, "[t]he shoulder and core muscles are also working to hold stability and posture through the movement."

To make this exercise as effective (and safe) as possible, you need to make sure you're doing it right. Follow these step-by-step directions for basic donkey kicks from Sustaita.

Basic Donkey Kick Form

How to do donkey kicks: donkey kick exercise form
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  1. Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under the hips.
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles to help create a stable pelvis and strong back. Keep your chin slightly tucked and eyes looking out and down, so the back of the neck stays flat.
  3. Using your glutes (give them a squeeze to activate), lift your right leg up and behind you toward the ceiling, keeping a 90-degree bend in your right leg and flexing the right foot.
  4. Lift up to the point right before your lower back arches (scoops down) or your hips rotate or tilt; if either one of these things happens, you've lifted too high. You want your hips to stay level and squared to the floor and your back to stay neutral and strong. Avoid rushing the motion so you can do the exercise with a full range of motion and proper technique.
  5. Lower the right leg to start position and repeat on that same leg. Once you've completed all repetitions on the right side, switch to the left side.

Sustaita recommends doing 10 to 16 repetitions on each leg for three sets. Repeat about once or twice a week, adding it to other lower body strength exercises.

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