Having a shapely butt is a nice aesthetic goal, but building strength in your glutes is even better. And one well-established way to get those muscles firing is the humble but oh-so-effective basic bridge exercise, aka the glute bridge.
"Your glutes are the largest muscle group in your entire body, and they can do so much for you, but only if you activate them properly," says Holly Perkins, CSCS, founder of Women's Strength Nation and creator of The GLUTES Project. "The glute bridge is a great starting point, because you can build on it and progress as your glutes get stronger."
- What is a bridge exercise? This body-weight exercise involves lying on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and then lifting your hips — easy to do anywhere!
- What muscles do glute bridges target? No surprise here: your glutes. But you'll also be activating your hamstrings, hips and core.
- Who can do bridges? All fitness levels, even beginners.
How to Do the Basic Bridge Exercise
"Even though this might seem like a simple exercise, be sure to focus on your form, so you're making the exercise as efficient as possible," Perkins says. "You want to target the glutes, of course, so move slowly and focus. That way, you're not using momentum to lift your hips."
Step 1: Lie on Your Back
- Lie down on a mat or the floor with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly. (If your toes are facing forward, you'll be relying more on your hamstrings.)
- Your arms should be relaxed alongside your body.
- Think of your shoulders being "glued" to the floor to help keep your spine neutral throughout the move.
Step 2: Lift Your Hips
- Press into your heels to lift your hips until your spine is straight.
- Tuck your pelvis under slightly and squeeze your glutes.
- Hold this position for a few seconds with your glutes engaged.
Step 3: Lower and Lift Again
- Lower your hips and reset in starting position for a second before lifting back up.
- Remember to always briefly squeeze your glutes at the top of your bridge as you continue through your reps.
How Many Bridges Should You Do?
Glute bridges can be done every day as part of a warm-up, Perkins says, and if that's what you're doing, go for a single set of 10 reps. If you'd like to incorporate them as part of your strength routine, consider doing 3 sets of 10 reps, three to four times per week.
Bridge Exercise Benefits
Stronger glutes don't just look good, they also make you less reliant on your quads for mobility, and that can improve your overall alignment, according to certified personal trainer Aaron Leventhal, owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis.
"Without that quad dominance, you'll be recruiting more muscles to distribute the work of everyday activities," he says. "That's important not just in the gym, but with everything you do, from picking up your kid to carrying groceries." Other benefits of better alignment through stronger glutes include:
- Improved range of motion
- Less tightness in your hips and shoulders
- Better joint health
Read more: 6 Stretches to Loosen Up Those Tight Glutes
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Speeding your way through a set of glute bridges may feel like you're getting a butt-building workout in a fraction of the time, but most likely, you aren't activating the right muscles or you're letting momentum do the work, Perkins says. Here are some common missteps:
- Leading with your quads. If you thrust up with your hips and your heels come off the floor slightly, you'll be putting all the work into the quads — and they get enough love already. Be sure to keep your feet planted and lift up slowly.
- Pointing your toes forward. That changes the alignment of the exercise to make it more about the hamstrings, Perkins says.
- Setting your feet too far apart. That'll activate your hip muscles more than your glutes.
- Letting your hips drop. It's common to "collapse" at the top of the movement, with your hips dipping down slightly. That's another indication that your quads are doing the work. Squeezing your glutes should cause your hips to pop back up to where they should be.
Bridge Exercise Variations
Once you've mastered the basic glute bridge and feel like your form is on point, you can start to introduce some variations that let you build more booty strength. Perkins suggests two to four weeks of standard bridges for beginners; then you can move on to bridge progressions like these.
Glute Bridge With Resistance Band
Since these require more muscle engagement, Perkins suggests doing them just two to three times per week, rather than every day.
- Loop a mini resistance band around your thighs, right above your knees.
- Lie down in glute bridge starting position.
- Focus on pushing out against the band as you lift your hips and squeeze your glutes.
- Lower down slowly, still pushing against the band.
Glute Bridge With Dumbbell
Also called a weighted glute bridge, this variation involves (carefully) holding a dumbbell in your hands between your belly button and hip bones. This can help prepare you to work up to a later progression like hip thrusts.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
This is a good option for addressing tight hip flexors.
- Begin in glute bridge position.
- Lift your right foot off the floor, bringing your knee up toward your chest. Hold it there as you lift your hips, pressing into the heel of the left foot.
- Do 8 to 10 reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.
Incorporate Glute Bridges Into Your Workout
You can do a basic bridge exercise on its own. But if you want a full range of booty-builders, consider adding more exercises to your next butt day workout.