If you're in the market for a tighter, toned tush, glute bridges should be the basis of your butt training.
The biggest benefit of glute bridges is the way they isolate the glutes, Holly Perkins, BS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and author of Lift To Get Lean, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
For example, when you do a standing glute exercise, like a banded kickback or hip extension, you must contend with the whole length of your leg. This means that you generate force down at the ankle rather than directly from your glutes.
But because you perform glute bridges with bent knees, you shorten the lever length of your legs to the distance from your hips to your knees, Perkins says. This translates to more load on the glutes and less on other muscle groups. This is especially important because your glutes — the largest muscles in your body — require significant resistance to really change, Perkins says.
While glute bridges look straightforward — you lie on your back and lift your butt off the ground — it's easy to let your form slide.
Here, Perkins shares seven common mistakes that may make your glute bridges less effective (or even potentially painful), plus offers ways to boost the move's booty-burning benefits.
1. You Hyperextend Your Lower Back
You might think that thrusting your hips as high as you can at the top of your glute bridge is best, but doing this often leads to hyperextending your lower back. And when you hyperextend in this way, you take the load off the glutes and shift the work to your lower back, Perkins says. Not only does this make the move less effective for your buns, but over time, it can also cause strain and discomfort in your back.
Don’t raise your hips too high. This means “your hips should be slightly lower than your knees and your shoulders at full extension at the top,” Perkins explains.
2. You Push Through Your Toes Instead of Your Heels
While it's possible to perform the glute bridge on your tippy-toes, you won't get the full benefits for your booty. When you push through your toes instead of your heels, "you shift the force and put your glutes into an anteriorly (forward) rotated position so that you will use your quads and calves more," Perkins explains.
“Release the tension from your toes and put the force into your heels,” Perkins says. “By doing so, you will automatically be more inclined to posteriorly rotate the pelvis, which reduces the force generation of the quads and increases the load onto the glutes and hamstrings.”
3. You Don’t Squeeze Your Butt at the Top
"This simply reduces the time under tension and the full contractibility of the glute muscles at the top of the position," Perkins says. Here's the thing: The more time under tension (or the longer your muscle is under strain), the greater the intensity and stimulus to spur gains for your glutes.
“Take a full two-second pause at the top of the movement, conscientiously squeezing your glute muscles together and under so that you’re getting a full contraction and shortening of the glutes,” Perkins says.
“This also helps to reinforce the mind-muscle connection so that you’re truly activating your glutes and not moving the exercise through your hamstrings,” she adds.
4. You Use Your Hips and Quads Instead of Your Glutes and Hamstrings
Remember, the move is called a glute bridge, so if you're swinging your hips or relying on your quads to lift your body, you're not fully engaging the intended muscle groups, aka your butt, first and foremost, and your hamstrings, which work as hip extensors. By shifting the workload to your hips and quads, you lessen the bridges' booty-burning benefits and unintentionally sabotage your glute goals.
Make sure you pause and tilt your pelvis under at the top of the movement, so your hip bones move more toward your abdomen, Perkins says. This posterior rotation reduces your quads’ involvement and focuses the work on your glutes and hamstrings.
5. You Plant Your Feet Too Close or Too Far From Your Butt
Where you position your feet can make all the difference when it comes to optimizing glute bridges. If you plant them too far or close to your caboose, you'll engage your adductors (inner thighs) and hamstrings more than your glutes, Perkins says.
Set your heels approximately 12 inches, or one foot, away from your butt. “This position reduces the involvement of the hamstrings and optimizes the involvement of the glutes alone, isolating them better,” Perkins says.
Also, you want to make sure your feet are separated by at least 6 inches and your toes are slightly pointed out (about 5 to 10 degrees). “Positioning in this way mechanically puts your glutes into the position for optimal contraction” and emphasizes the abductors (your side butt muscles), Perkins adds.
6. You Don't Engage Your Core
You might be wondering: What does my core have to do with my butt? Well, your core isn't just your abs. Indeed, your core consists of many muscles, including your glutes.
And if your core isn't engaged, your pelvis is going to rotate anteriorly, which puts more load onto your quads and calves, Perkins says.
Before you begin the exercise, brace through your core and pull in your abdomen so that you draw your hip bones upward and put your pelvis into a posteriorly rotated position, Perkins says. Maintain this core engagement and tucked pelvis throughout the entire range of movement.
7. You Don’t Tuck Your Chin
Believe it or not, if you keep a 90-degree angle from your chin to your neck, your lower body won't work as effectively during glute bridges. That's because a tucked chin helps you posteriorly rotate the pelvis and increases the amount of force you can produce on the posterior chain — the backside of your muscles, Perkins says.
"A tucked chin reduces the tendency for an exaggerated arch in the lower back, which takes the load off the glutes," she explains.
"Secondly, tucking the chin shortens the lever length of the upper body from the hips," Perkins says. And if the lever is shorter, your muscles can generate more force, therefore enhancing your ability to move more weight, which makes the exercise more effective, she adds.
You don’t have to tuck your chin a ton — just keep it angled down slightly at the top of the movement, Perkins says.