If you're serious about strengthening your glutes and back, you'll want to include glute bridges in your exercise rotation. The glute bridge — in which you lie on your back, plant both feet on the ground and lift your butt and back — seems simple enough, but this isn't always the case.
"Glute bridges look easy, but may not be for everyone," Ryan Ernsbarger, a certified personal trainer at Zenmaster Wellness, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Even those that can perform the exercise could potentially be performing it improperly."
Core strength, glute strength and hip mobility are key components to doing this move correctly, Ernsbarger says. And Bill Daniels, certified personal trainer and owner at Beyond Fitness Online, adds, "Excessive tightness in the quadriceps and hip flexors, as well as lower back weakness," can make glute bridges a struggle.
But here's the good news: With the right exercises, you can fix these issues, build strength and start doing glute bridges successfully. Here are the most common challenges that make glute bridges hard and how you can fix them.
If You: Rely on Your Arms to Push You Up
You Might: Have a Weak Core
Your core muscles include those around your midsection, including the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles), obliques (at your sides) and lower back muscles, among others. "Your core stabilizes your body as you perform the glute bridge," Ernsbarger says.
Daniels added that your lower back muscles are particularly important, as they provide stability and mobility to your lumbar spine as you attempt the glute bridge. Other signs your core strength is limiting you ability to do a glute bridge? Poor posture and lower back pain.
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Lift your body onto your forearms and toes, or forearms and knees (for ease).
- Hold your body in a straight line with a neutral spine and neck.
- Aim to start with 10 seconds and progress to 30 seconds.
2. Dead Bug
- Lie down on your back with your hands extended up toward the ceiling and perpendicular to the floor and legs up at a 90-degree angle between your thighs and calves.
- Brace your core as you lower your left leg and extend your right arm.
- Return to the starting position and alternate to using the left arm and right leg.
If You: Have Hip, Knee or Back Pain
You Might: Have Weak Glutes
It may seem like a catch-22 but in order to strengthen your glutes by doing a glute bridge, you need to have strong glutes. "The core and hamstrings also assist in the exercise, but the glutes do the heavy lifting," Ernsbarger says.
And according to Daniels, if you have weak glutes, you'll probably have a hard time performing extension movements without a lot of effort. For instance, when you pick up something a little heavy from the floor, you might find it a little difficult to get back up.
Glute exercises — like the ones below recommended by Ernsbarger and Daniels — level up your glute strength to make glute bridges easier.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward on your right leg, bending both knees to 90 degrees.
- Engage your glutes as you push off the right foot to return to the starting position.
- Do the same number of reps on each leg.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider).
- Initiate the movement by shifting your hips back and bending your knees simultaneously.
- Keep an upright torso throughout the movement and descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or however far your mobility allows).
- Stand back up.
3. Romanian Deadlift
- Grab a dumbbell and hold it with both hands. Or you can hold one dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Maintain a tall spine as you push your hips straight back, shifting your weight into your heels.Be sure not to round your spine while you do this.
- From there, squeeze your glutes and return to standing.
If You: Can't Lift Your Hips All the Way
You Might: Have Poor Hip Mobility
Glute bridge depends greatly on your hip mobility, and the hip flexors — a muscle group in front of your hip that helps to flex your legs toward your body — play a huge role in this.
Unfortunately, the hip flexors "tend to be very tight on a lot of people because the average American spends so much time sitting," Daniels says. If you're trying to pull off a glute bridge, tight hip flexors can make things difficult, as the top of the move requires a full hip extension.
"To fix this, you need to learn to relax the hip flexors and let them stretch," Daniels says. Luckily, many static and dynamic stretches can help to do that. Below are a few of them.
1. Kneeling Glute Activation
- Kneel and sit back onto your heels with your feet underneath your glutes while maintaining an upright torso.
- Use your glutes to drive yourself forward to the full kneeling position.
- Squeeze at the top position for one second.
- Lower back down to the start.
2. Butterfly Stretch
- Sit down on your butt with your feet out in front of you.
- Pull your feet in toward your hips, the soles of your feet touching in the middle in front of you.
- If it feels good, pull your feet closer to your hips for a deeper stretch or fold your torso over your feet.
- Return to upright with legs extended to relieve tension.
3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Get into a half-kneeling position with both legs bent to 90 degrees.
- Stay tall through the spine as you tuck your tailbone under and begin shifting your weight to the front leg, squeezing your glutes
- Shift the weight back to the knee on the ground.
- Continue gently rocking back and forth.
If this stretch hurts your knee that's on the ground, put a folded towel, blanket or cushion underneath it. Also: Think about balancing just about your knee, rather than directly on the kneecap.