Fitness Tips

This Pilates Move Is the Gold Standard of Glute Work, as Long as You’re Not Making These Mistakes

Saanya Ali

Donkey kicks are a pilates move that can feel nearly impossible to do correctly. They can seem awkward and counterintuitive, and you never really know if you're reaping the benefits...that is, until you feel the burn. Today, trainer, Chloe de Winter, is going to show you (or really, prove to you) that, with the right form, donkey kicks can be a fruitful way to work your peach (see what I did there? *wink*).

Donkey kicks target your bum—specifically the gluteus maximus or "back butt," explains de Winter. That said, they are also great for working on stability and control throughout your shoulders and core since the move forces you to keep your upper body muscles engaged as well. A donkey kick is a bent-knee hip extension pilates exercise that you do while on all fours. To do a donkey kick, all you have to do is set yourself up on your hands and your knees—making sure to keep your wrists planted under your shoulders and your knees parallel with your hips—then bending one knee at a 90-degree angle and flexing your foot while lifting it backward in a controlled motion to be level with your hip in a sort of "kick" motion. Stablity is so key here because it is the centerpiece of the move and is what keeps you balanced and grounded in the motion while you tone and strengthen. The control forces you to engage your smaller muscles at the same time as you're working your larger ones.

As with any exercise, proper form is important both to prevent injury and reap the benefits. In this episode of The Right Way, de Winter breaks down the 3 most common mistakes people make when doing a donkey kick. Then, she demos how to do the move properly. Keep scrolling for what you need to know.

Common mistakes when attempting a donkey kick:

1. Arched low back

Just like with planks and push-ups, keeping your back flat is tantamount to a donkey kick's proper form. If it's arching toward the ground when you kick your leg up into the air, it's a sign that you aren't stabilizing your core properly, which means you aren't reaping the full benefits of the move. Plus, it may lead to tightness, tension, and strain in the back of your body later on.

2. Shifting your weight

Again, stability is key. If you shift your weight to sit or lean into your right hip as you kick up your left leg(or vice versa), you won't get the alignment you need to fully support your body throughout the move. This, in turn, limits the amount of control you'll have in strengthening your leg and glute.

3. Sunken shoulders

When your shoulders begin to hunch instead of staying square, it stresses the muscles in your upper neck. This causes tension and strain, and limits the amount of postural stabilization—or the ability to stay upright in a controlled way—and work that you can achieve.

Now that you've learned the biggest mistakes, watch the video above to see de Winter demo a donkey kick with proper form.

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