I know, I know, I know—you’re probably thinking, “Glute bridges? I know how to do glute bridges. What’s so hard about glute bridges? Boooooring! What else you got?”
Hear me out. A glute bridge is a simple, yet versatile exercise that helps you activate and strengthen your glutes, teaches you to extend your hips while maintaining a neutral spine and braced core, and lays the foundation for you to progress to bigger and better booty-building exercises.
Glute bridges also help strengthen the mind-muscle connection for a lot of women. If your pelvis is tilted anteriorly, your glutes (and hamstrings) are in a lengthened position, and you probably don’t use them the way you should. Performing a glute bridge properly helps you get a sense for how it feels to use your glutes effectively during a simple movement, so you can start practicing when performing more complex movements.
How To Perform A Basic Bodyweight Glute Bridge
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your spine in a neutral position. It is very important that your spine is neutral when you lie down. You may find it easier to maintain a neutral neck by placing a bit of support under your head. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart. Make sure your feet are firmly placed on the floor, as you will be driving through your heels.
Exhale fully to properly position and brace your core. This is a technique we use with many of our exercises at Girls Gone Strong. It ensures that you’re in the proper position to brace your core and extended your hips, instead of extending your lumbar spine. To do this: take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale fully through your mouth while drive your rib cage down toward your pelvis and brace your core.
Drive your feet into the ground and extend your hips by squeezing your glutes. Lift your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees, to your hips, to your shoulders. Hold for a second or two at the top, squeezing your glutes hard.
Reverse the motion to come down smoothly. Do not drop down fast, or let your hips drown before your core. Your body should move in one fluid motion.
Remember, you want your whole body to move as a unit, with your core braced, your spine neutral, and your glutes doing the work.
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Once you’ve mastered the basic glute bridge, there are several variations of this exercise you can do to make it more challenging.
Band-Resisted Glute Bridge
This variation is great because it gives a little bit of tension as you drive your knees out slightly, and helps you really feel your glutes as you squeeze.
Place the band around both knees and get into the starting position.
Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, and driving your rib cage down to brace your core.
Lift your hips up, while simultaneously driving your knees out against the band and squeezing your glutes as hard as you can.
Hold a second or two, then lower your hips back down in one smooth motion.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Don’t be deceived! These can be pretty tough, so we advice you to perform them with one knee pulled to your chest, at least until you’ve mastered the movement. This will help you avoid hyperextending your lower back.
Start lying on your back, spine neutral, and feet flat on the floor approximately 4-6 inches apart.
Pull one knee to your chest and hold it there with one or both arms.
Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth and drive your ribcage down to brace your core. Drive your foot into the ground and squeeze your glutes to extend your hips. Try to keep your pelvis square and lift your whole pelvis evenly. If you’re struggling with that, simply make the move smaller and master it progressively.
Hold a second or two squeezing your glutes hard, then lower your hips smoothly as one unit, and don’t allow your pelvis to twist or rotate.
Tip: If you feel your hamstring start to cramp or dominate the movement, move your feet closer to your body.
Feet-Elevated Glute Bridge
If you’re ready to step things up a notch, but aren’t quite ready for the Back-Elevated Glute Bridge (aka the Hip Thrust), you can try the Feet-Elevated Glute Bridge instead. The Feet-Elevated Glute Bridge increases the range of motion and thus the time under tension and amount of work your glutes are doing, so it’s more challenging than a regular glute bridge, but not as challenging as a Hip Thrust.
Lie on the floor in the starting position with your knees bent, and instead of placing your feet on the floor, place them on the bench. You can either put your heels on the bench or your feet against the bench, whichever is most comfortable for you and helps you feel your glutes working!
Take a big breath in through your nose, and exhale fully, driving your ribcage down while bracing your core.
Drive your feet through the floor, squeezing your glutes to extend your hips fully, creating that nice, straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold for a second or two, squeezing your glutes hard.
Reverse the motion to lower your body down smoothly as a unit. No dropping your hips or hyperextending your spine.
How To Incorporate The Glute Bridge Into Your Training
If you’re new to strength training, the glute bridge and its variations can be used as the hip-dominant lower body exercise in your training program. For example, your workout might look something like this:
A1. Bodyweight Box Squat – 3 x 8-10
A2. Walk Out – 3 x 6-10
B1. Glute Bridge – 3 x 8-10
B2. Band Pull-Apart – 3 x 8-10
B3. Suitcase Carry – 3 x 10 yards
Intermediate and Advanced:
If you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, you have more options with the glute bridge, including, but not limited to:
Perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 during your warm-up to help “activate” your glutes.
Perform a light set of 8-12 in between sets of upper body exercises as a way to get in extra glute work without affecting your upper body training.
Perform a light set of 8-12 in between sets of lower body exercises as a way to recruit your glutes more effectively during your lower body exercises.
Perform 1-3 high volume sets (20-50 reps) at the end of your workout as a finisher to get a great glute pump and help stimulate hypertrophy and growth.
If you’re curious exactly how to incorporate each glute bridge variation into your training program safely and effectively, let us help! We’re experts at helping women achieve the results they want while following a sane, sustainable, and fun program.
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Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and woman-in-charge at Girls Gone Strong, and creator of The Coaching & Training Women Academy, home for the world's most comprehensive, evidence-based, women-specific coaching certifications.
A former figure competitor and powerlifter who has dedicated the last 15 years of her life to helping women achieve their goals and feel more comfortable and at home in their bodies.
Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.