Donkey kicks or squats: What is the best exercise to strengthen glutes?

Strong glutes are needed for a range of movements. We tell you if you should do squats or donkey kicks to strengthen glutes.

Butt exercises are not only to shape your butt like peach, but for strong glutes that support smooth body movement on a daily basis. Whether it is for walking, getting up, or using the stairs, you need the help of your glutes in mobility. Since most of us spend a lot of time just sitting and working on a laptop, our glutes tend to get weaker. Ask any fitness expert, and they will tell you to stand up every 30 minutes and walk around to prevent your glutes from getting weak. You can also add exercises like squats and donkey kicks to your fitness routine. But should you go for squats or donkey kicks to strengthen glutes?

What are squats?

Squats are specifically meant for the lower body. They target muscles of the hips, buttocks and thighs, and so, help in toning, and strengthening them.

A woman doing squats
Squats are good for lower body. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are donkey kicks?

The exercise ‘donkey kicks’ mimics the kicking motion that a donkey makes, hence the name. It primarily targets the gluteus maximus. It also works the core muscles, including the lower back, abdominals, and hamstrings, explains fitness expert Varun Rattan.

Donkey kicks vs squats

While donkey kicks is a good exercise for isolating the glutes, squats are arguably superior for strengthening this muscle group. Squats engage a wider range of lower body muscles in addition to the glutes. This comprehensive engagement leads to more significant muscle development and strength.
Moreover, squats is a more functional exercise, mimicking movements we perform in our daily lives, such as sitting down and standing up. This functionality translates into improved performance in everyday activities.

How to do donkey kicks?

Donkey kicks can always complement your workout routine, contributing to muscle development and variety in your exercise regimen. This exercise isolates the glutes and helps to build muscle strength and endurance.

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A woman doing donkey kicks
Donkey kicks can strengthen your glutes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Here is how to do donkey kicks:

  • Start on all fours, which means you need to keep your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Keeping your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your right leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your foot is pointed towards the ceiling. You can grasp a tennis ball in the crook of your knee to learn the movement.
  • Lower your leg back to the starting position. Go for the desired number of repetitions and then switch your legs.

Perform donkey kicks two to three times per week to strengthen glutes. You can start with two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg, and then gradually increase as your strength improves, suggests Rattan.

What are the variations of donkey kicks?

Try different types of donkey kicks to make your exercise routine more fun.

1. Donkey kick with a resistance band

  • Place a loop band around the balls of your heels.
  • Perform the exercise as usual with the added resistance.

2. Donkey kick pulses

Instead of returning your knee all the way to the starting position, keep it elevated and perform small pulsing movements.

3. Smith machine donkey kick

  • Set up a Smith machine with a desired weight.
  • Position yourself facing down on the floor, with your foot under the bar.
  • Perform the donkey kick motion against the resistance of the Smith machine.

But before moving on to more challenging versions of this butt exercise, make sure that you feel comfortable while doing the basic donkey kick workout for glutes.


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