How to Do a Quadruped Hip Extension: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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The quadruped hip extension, often referred to as the glute kickback, is an excellent, beginner-friendly exercise for targeting the gluteus maximus. It enables you to work each side of the body independently.

This exercise works the gluteus muscles without requiring the coordination, range of motion, or strength of a squat, lunge, or deadlift. If you struggle with these total-body compound movements, doing isolation exercises like the quadruped hip extension can help you develop strength in your glutes.

Also Known As: Glute kickbacks

Targets: Glutes

Equipment Needed: Yoga mat

Level: Beginner

How to Do the Quadruped Hip Extension

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

"Quadruped" simply means you set up for the exercise on all fours. The quadruped hip extension is a bodyweight exercise you do on the floor, so you just need enough space to lay down a yoga mat—and you will want a yoga mat to keep your hands and knees from getting sore.

Start in a quadruped position on your yoga mat. Check your hand and knee placement. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.

  1. Engage your core, and make sure your back is straight and flat from the base of your pelvis to the top of your head.
  2. Shift your weight slightly to the right side, keeping your torso stable as you do—your hips and shoulders shouldn't twist or rotate as you shift.
  3. Press your left foot up toward the ceiling, keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle as you fully extend your left hip. Exhale as you perform the hip extension. Again, make sure your torso remains flat and stable—don't allow your left hip to rotate out or up as your hip extends.
  4. Lower your left knee back toward the floor, slowly and with control. Stop just before it touches down, then inhale and lower your knee all the way down to fhe mat.
  5. Complete a full set of repetitions to one side before switching to the opposite side.

Benefits of the Quadruped Hip Extension

The quadruped hip extension is designed to isolate and target the largest muscles of the butt, the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. But in addition to targeting the glutes, the exercise requires you to maintain a neutral spine by engaging the stabilizing muscles of your core, from your hips to your shoulders. This can help strengthen your core and your low back.

The quadruped hip extension is an isolation exercise, meaning that it isolates and targets a particular muscle group, and in this case, does so unilaterally (one side at a time). A small research study found that the quadruped hip extension was better at activating the gluteus maximus and medius muscles than other common butt exercises, including traditional squats, lunges, step-ups, or leg press.

This movement should be used in conjunction with other exercises, like the squat, rather than in place of them. But if you are unable to perform squats or lunges due to injuries or a limited range of motion, the quadruped hip extension may help you develop greater glute strength that can eventually transfer to these other compound exercises.

The quadruped hip extension is an excellent rehab or prehab exercise for anyone who is new to exercise or trying to get back into strength training after an injury to the lower back or lower extremities.

A study published in 2017 found that including simple hip exercises, such as the quadruped hip extension, into a rehab program for low back pain helped reduce the incidence of pain. This is likely due to the strengthening of the deep muscles of the abdomen, erector spinae (the stabilizing muscles of the back), and gluteus medius.

By incorporating core and hip exercises into a rehab or workout program, you can help correct these imbalances and strengthen the core. This protects the spine from the undesirable movement that can lead to injury.

Other Variations of the Quadruped Hip Extension

You can perform this exercise in different ways to meet your skill level and goals.

Joint Friendly Quadruped Hip Extension

While the basic quadruped hip extension is fairly beginner-friendly, individuals who have a hard time getting into or out of the quadruped position on the floor (such as those with bad knees or limited range of motion in the lower extremities) may have difficulty with the exercise. If this applies to you, try the same exercise with these modifications:

  1. Place your hands on a raised surface, like a plyo box or the back of a couch.
  2. Step both feet behind you until your body forms a straight line in a modified plank position.
  3. Draw one knee forward, so your knee is aligned under your hips—your hip and knee joint should both be bent at 90-degrees.
  4. Perform the exercise just as described, pressing your heel up and back as you extend your hip.
  5. Do a complete set of reps to one side, then reset and perform the next set of repetitions to the opposite side.

Band Resisted Quadruped Hip Extension

The easiest way to ramp up the intensity of the quadruped hip extension is to add resistance. Loop one side of a resistance band around the arch of your left foot. Hold the other end of the band in place against the ground with your left hand.

Perform the exercise as described. As you extend your hip, your foot will press against the resistance band, stretching it and making the movement more challenging. Do a full set of reps on the left side before switching to the right.

Common Mistakes

The goal of the quadruped hip extension is to isolate the glutes as much as possible. The most common error is to sacrifice form in a way that requires you to use other muscle groups to perform the exercise. Most often, this happens if you don't maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.

Sagging Low Back

It's not unusual for the low back to sag while performing the hip extension, particularly at the apex of the movement. As you press your heel toward the ceiling, there's a natural inclination to try to push higher, causing your pelvis to rotate up and your low back to collapse toward the floor.

As you do this, you lose the strong engagement of your glutes and begin to use your quads and hamstrings to complete the upward press. Plus, you stop engaging your abs and core completely, compromising the stability of your spine.

If you can, watch yourself doing the exercise in a mirror. If you notice your glutes start to rotate up toward the ceiling, and your abdomen sag toward the floor, reset yourself and re-engage your core muscles to keep your back flat.

You may also want to imagine you have a rod balancing along your spine as you perform the exercise. If the goal were to keep the rod perfectly steady, you wouldn't be able to do so if your low back sagged.

Craning or Sagging Neck

Craning or sagging your neck probably won't make or break the exercise, but it's a common problem with form in hip extensions, planks, push-ups, and other exercises where you're balanced on your limbs in a prone position.

By craning or sagging your neck, you're once again taking your spine out of its neutral position. Keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine helps strengthen the spinal erectors and stabilizers, which generally help protect your back from injury.

Correcting this mistake is simple—bring your neck back to a neutral position, so your body forms a straight line from hips to head. The key is remembering to do it. Try checking your form at the top of the movement and making any corrections necessary.

Moving Too Fast

The hip extension isn't intended to use momentum. It should be performed in a slow, steady, precise fashion. As soon as you start swinging your leg up and down with any sort of speed, you stop engaging the glutes to the full extent possible.

Slow down and perform both phases of the hip extension to a count of four. In other words, count slowly to four as you press your heel toward the ceiling, then count slowly to four as you lower your knee back toward the floor.

Allowing the Hips to Rotate

There's a natural inclination, as you lift one leg from the ground, to allow that entire side of your body to start rotating upward toward the ceiling. So instead of keeping both hips steady and square to the ground, the hip of the working leg angles upward.

When you allow your hips to rotate, your core is no longer engaged appropriately, and the gluteus maximus is no longer engaged as strongly as it would otherwise be. The other large muscle groups of your legs contribute more to the pressing motion, and you may even feel more engagement of the glute medius (on the outside of the hip) rather than the gluteus maximus (the largest glute muscle).

Watch yourself in a mirror as you perform the exercise to make sure your hips stay square to the ground. If you don't have access to a mirror, imagine balancing a rod along your spine. If your hips rotate, the rod will fall off your back. Using this visualization can help keep you honest as you perform the exercise.

Safety and Precautions

As long as you're using proper form, it's hard to hurt yourself while doing the quadruped hip extension. The main thing to remember is to keep your pace slow and steady so you aren't swinging your working leg or using momentum to power the movement, which could cause you to strain your lower back.

If the quadruped (hands-and-knees) position on the floor is uncomfortable for your knees, wrists, or shoulders, try the modified version. And of course, if at any point you feel a sharp or stabbing pain, stop the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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2 Sources
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  1. Anders M. Glutes to the max. American Council on Exercise FitnessMatters.

  2. Bade M, Cobo-Estevez M, Neeley D, Pandya J, Gunderson T, Cook C. Effects of manual therapy and exercise targeting the hips in patients with low-back pain-A randomized controlled trial. J Eval Clin Pract. 2017;23(4):734-740. doi:10.1111/jep.12705