What are butt kicks?
Butt kicks are a running drill used for improving running technique. The drill strengthens hamstrings and glutes muscles while stretching the quadriceps by imitating overemphasized leg swings as the foot loses contact with the ground.
How to do butt kicks properly?
- Begin by standing with your feet hip-distance apart, look straight ahead, and keep your upper body straight.
- Pull the heel of the right foot toward the buttocks while standing on the ball of your left foot.
- With the ball of your right foot hit the ground below your center of mass and at the same time pulling the heel of the left foot toward the buttocks.
- Continue alternating sides and moving forward.
Your arms should follow your leg movements, as they do when you are running. As you are doing the butt kicks your foot should be bent towards your shin (dorsiflexion).
Tips for performing butt kicks properly
- Focus on quick leg movements; reduce the time spent in contact with the ground.
- Mind your posture. Keep your body straight; do not bend forward or backward.
- As you raise your heel, focus on contracting your hamstrings, not on pushing off the ground.
- Do not forget to move your arms. Swing the arm opposite the raised leg.
It is important to focus on the proper execution of the butt kicks. If you are not able to maintain proper form, you will ruin your running technique, thus increasing the risk of injury. Start with slower movements and gradually accelerate until you find your own rhythm. Maintain control of your movements throughout the drill.
If you are not sure whether you are doing butt kicks properly, it is advisable to do it while being watched by the coach. If that is not an option, then ask another runner to observe you or record yourself so that you can see whether you are performing the exercise properly.
What muscles do butt kicks target?
Butt kicks target the following muscles:
- Hip flexors
- Core muscles
Butt kicks benefits
Besides being part of a warm-up routine before more intensive training or races, butt kicks also have other benefits.
Improves running technique and running economy
Butt kicks improve the running technique by imitating overemphasized leg swings as the foot loses contact with the ground.
Butt kicks also teach you the proper foot position during a run. The foot should be bent towards the shin, in the position of dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion enables the activation of calf muscles. As you hit the ground the calf muscles will contract, allowing you to hit the ground with more force.
Butt kicks also teach you not to overstride by making you hit the ground below you. When you overstride, you hit the ground in front of you, which increases the restoring force and slows you down. To maintain speed, you then have to spend more energy than you would if you were using proper stroke technique. Since there is no slowdown you will also increase your running cadence (number of steps in a minute).
Research has shown that increasing cadence by 10% reduces the stress on your knees by 5%. This lowers the risk of usual runner injuries, such as hip or knee injuries.
Improves neuromuscular effectiveness
Butt kicks improve communication between nerves and muscles by quickening nerve impulses that send signals to muscle fibers. As a result, your muscles will have better coordination in more intensive training or race.
Strengthen hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles
Butt kicks teach you to grip the ground with more force by strengthening your hamstrings and glutes muscles.
A strong core allows you to control running movements and stabilizes your body. It ensures the force from the swings of your arms is properly transferred to your legs, thus improving your running economy.
Reduces contact with the ground
Butt kicks teach you to run on the balls of your feet that reduce the time you are in contact with the ground, thus increasing your speed.
In 2007 scientists from the Ryukoku University in Japan have set up a high-tech camera on the 15-kilometer-section of the half marathon and used it to record 283 runners. Research has shown that an average midfoot striker spends 183 milliseconds in contact with the ground, while an average heel striker spends 200 milliseconds in contact with the ground. Shorter time of contact results in a faster run and higher running economy.
Reduces the risk of injury
Butt kicks are an exercise that stretches the hip flexors as well as the quadriceps, thus reducing the risk of injury.
Helps you lose weight
Butt kicks are an exercise used in other sports as well because it is a high-intensity exercise that burns a high number of calories.
A person of 155 pounds will lose approximately 6-9 calories after a minute of butt kicks.
Improves cardiovascular condition
Butt kicks, like any other running drill, increase the blood flow in your muscles, thus raising muscle temperature. At higher temperatures hemoglobin in erythrocytes releases oxygen more quickly (Bohr effect). This means that you will be able to handle more exertion because your blood and oxygen have an easier time traveling through your organism.
Research has shown that proper warm-up results in a 2-3% increase in body temperature, lasting 45 minutes. The increase in temperature causes useful changes in muscles and tendons:
- Significantly increases muscle elasticity and allows higher-intensity training.
- Muscles and tendons become more flexible that makes stretching muscles and tendons easier and more effective.
- A rise in enzymes and metabolic activity improves the effectiveness of muscle contractions.
Read more: Top 10 Butt Kicks Benefits
How and when to include butt kicks in your training?
Butt kicks are a running drill used in warm-up routines before more intensive training or races. Also, you can use it after an easy jog, when you are not as tired, so you could focus on the proper execution of the exercise.
Butt kicks can be done in place or by moving forward 20 to 40 meters and then resting as you walk back to your starting position.
Example of a warm-up routine before interval training (8 x 400m)1. Easy jogging (10 minutes)
2. Warm-up exercises (mobility exercises and dynamic stretching exercises) (6 minutes)
3. Running drills – 2 x 40m ankling, 2 x 40m high knees, 2 x 40m butt kicks
4. Strides – 3 x 60m
Butt kicks are often used in other sports as a separate exercise that burns a high number of calories and strengthens the muscles.