How to Do the Glute Bridge for a Stronger Butt and Core

The glute bridge or basic bridge exercise challenges your glutes, hamstrings and core.
Image Credit: Aleksandr Kondratov/iStock/GettyImages

Want to warm up before a run, stretch out the front of your hips after or build glute strength? The humble but oh-so-effective glute bridge is always the perfect exercise.

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"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 glute bridge exercise?​ This body-weight exercise involves lying on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and then lifting your hips until they're in line with your knees.
  • What muscles does the glute bridge work?​ No surprise here: your glutes. The glute bridge is one of the best exercises for strengthening your gluteus maximus muscle, the biggest muscle in your butt, according to Danielle Chasin, CPT, Pilates instructor and ClassPass account manager. You also get some hamstring, hip and core activation with every bridge.
  • Who can do bridges?​ All fitness levels, even beginners. It's also a useful exercise for people recovering from lower back and knee injuries, Chasin says.
  • How often should you do glute bridges?​ You can do them 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, try 3 sets of 10 reps, three to four times per week.

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How to Do the Glute Bridge Exercise With Perfect Form

Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/Chasin
Skill Level All Levels
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part Abs and Butt
  1. Lie on your back with your arms resting by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. Your feet should be close enough to your hips that if you reach one hand at a time toward each heel, you can just touch it with your fingertips.
  2. Relax your arms alongside your body. Think of your shoulders being "glued" to the floor to help keep your spine neutral.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and core, and press your heels into the ground to drive your hips up toward the ceiling until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest. Resist the urge to arch your lower back as you raise your hips. Focus on keeping your spine in a neutral position throughout.
  4. Hold this position for a few seconds with your glutes engaged.
  5. Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground and reset in the starting position for a second before lifting back up.

Tip

"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."

Watch the Full Glute Bridge Tutorial

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5 Glute Bridge Benefits

1. It Activates the Glutes

There's a reason glute bridges are often included in warm-ups and rehab workouts: They do a great job of activating the glute muscles. Bridges get the muscles firing and working together so they're ready to perform bigger movements with strength, good range of motion and proper form.

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As they warm up the hips in particular, they're an ideal warm-up move before squats and deadlifts. Runners also turn to glute bridges for getting the booty ready to engage and do its job during a run.

2. It Builds Glute Strength

Want stronger glutes? Add glute bridges to your routine. Of course, at a certain point you'll need to progress your bridges by adding weights, or even graduating to a hip thrust. This similar move activates even more of your lower-body muscles because your back rests elevated on a bench.

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Strong glutes help you do pretty much everything better, including running, walking, lifting, biking... the list goes on. You rely on your glutes for workouts and everyday activities, so the stronger they are, the more optimal (and potentially pain-free) your movement patterns.

3. It Improves Daily Movement

Stronger glutes also make you less reliant on your quads for mobility, and that can improve your overall alignment and daily movement, according to Aaron Leventhal, CPT, owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis.

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"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."

In the long run, developing proper movement patterns can help keep you injury-free as you accomplish errands and complete tasks.

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4. It Helps Alleviate Knee and Lower-Back Pain

Your butt may seem unrelated to your knees and lower back, but the truth is that oftentimes, strengthening your glutes is part of the pain-relief recipe. Your hamstrings, glutes and other muscles in your hips and upper legs play a role in supporting the knee joint — so the stronger they are, the better they'll be at doing their job.

Your glutes also help stabilize the lower back and pelvis, so, same deal there: Showing your glutes some love can help your entire core work better and take some strain off the low back.

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5. It Stretches Hips and Shoulders

OK, a little exercise physiology lesson: Your glutes and hip flexors are opposing muscle groups. That means that when one contracts (flexes) the other lengthens (extends). When you contract your glutes during a glute bridge, you're simultaneously stretching your hip flexors — which are notoriously tight for anyone who spends most of their day in a seated position.

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4 Common Glute Bridge Mistakes

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 in an effort to shorten your workout, you may be making one of these common mistakes:

1. Placing Your Feet Too Wide or Narrow

Good foot placement is crucial. Too far apart and you activate your hip flexors more than your glutes, defeating the purpose of the move. Too close together, and you reduce your range of motion and won't get as much glute benefit, Chasin says.

Fix It

Stack your knees above your ankles with your feet at hip-width distance. "A good rule of thumb is when lying flat on your back with arms by your side, you should be able to reach your fingertips to your heels," Chasin says.

2. Over-Arching Your Back

During your glute bridges, you want your spine to stay in line with your hips and head. "Over-arching of the back can lead to hyperextension of the lumbar spine, which can cause lower back pain and injury," Chasin says.

Fix It

Keep your core engaged the entire time to avoid over-arching your low back.

In the starting position, keep your low back flat on the floor and pull your bellybutton to your spine to activate your abdomen. When you lift your hips, keep the contraction in your midsection to maintain a flat back. Only raise your hips to the point where your glutes are engaged and your spine is straight.

3. Raising Your Heels

When your heels come off the floor at the top of your glute bridge, it's a sign you're thrusting with your hips, putting all the work in your quads — and they probably get enough love already. After all, the goal of this move is to work the back of your body, not the front.

Fix It

As you lift your hips up slowly, press through your entire foot, including the heels. Keep everything from your toes to your heels in contact with the floor throughout the entire movement.

4. Sinking Your Hips Down

It's common to "collapse" at the top of the movement, with your hips dipping down or sinking slightly toward the ground. That's another indication your quads are doing the work.

Fix It

Squeeze your glutes at the top of the motion and imagine your pelvis pressing toward the ceiling. This should cause the hips to pop back up to where they should be. Just make sure to also engage your abs to keep your back flat.

Are Glute Bridges Better Than Squats?

Like most things in fitness, it depends on your current fitness level and goals.

Glute bridges and squats both involve a hip hinge movement and work the glutes and legs. But squats also hit the quads on the front of the legs, while glute bridges target the hamstrings on the backside.

Only your butt is working against gravity in a glute bridge (versus your entire upper body), so it's a little more beginner-friendly. There's not as much core work and body control needed to stay stable and use good form.

Both exercises can be done with free weights or resistance bands to progress as you get stronger. It's easier to add a lot of weight to squats — considering you hold the weight and don't have to rest it on your hips — so they're usually a better choice if you're looking to grow muscle and need to keep upping the ante as you improve.

4 Glute Bridge Variations

Once you've perfected the basic glute bridge and feel like your form is on point, you can start introducing some variations that let you build more lower-body strength. Perkins suggests two to four weeks of standard bridges for beginners. Then, move on to bridge variations like these:

1. Banded Glute Bridge

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Resistance Band Workout
Body Part Butt
  1. Loop a mini resistance band around your thighs, right above your knees.
  2. Lie down in glute bridge starting position.
  3. Push your knees out against the band to create tension and fire up your glutes. Hold this tension throughout the exercise.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and core, and press your heels into the ground to drive your hips up toward the ceiling until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest. Resist the urge to arch your lower back as you raise your hips. Focus on keeping your spine in a neutral position throughout.
  5. Lower down slowly, still pushing against the band.

2. Weighted Glute Bridge

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Butt
  1. Lie down in glute bridge starting position.
  2. Place a dumbbell across your hips and hold it in place.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and core, and press your heels into the ground to drive your hips up toward the ceiling until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest. Resist the urge to arch your lower back as you raise your hips. Focus on keeping your spine in a neutral position throughout.
  4. Pause at the top, then slowly lower your hips back down to the ground.

Tip

As you get more advanced, you can try a weighted glute bridge with a barbell, too. Weight plates allow you to significantly increase the resistance of the exercise, taking the challenge up a notch.

3. Single-Leg Glute Bridge

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Skill Level Intermediate
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part Butt
  1. Lie down in glute bridge starting position.
  2. Raise your left foot off the ground and extend it straight toward the ceiling. Hold this leg elevated throughout the motion.
  3. Press into your right heel to lift your hips off the ground until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest. Resist the urge to arch your lower back as you raise your hips. Focus on keeping your hips level.
  4. Reverse the motion and lower your hips back to the ground.
  5. Perform all your reps with the left leg elevated, then switch sides.

Tip

You can modify this move with a glute bridge march. Hold your hips high and raise one knee off the ground, then the other, alternating left and right.

4. Elevated Glute Bridge

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Skill Level Intermediate
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part Butt
  1. Lie on your back with your arms resting by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on an elevated surface, like an aerobic bench or stair.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and core, and press your heels into the ground to drive your hips up toward the ceiling until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds with your glutes engaged.
  4. Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground.

Incorporate Glute Bridges Into Your Workout

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