Build a Better Butt
Prepping for a bikini competition or wanting a nice shaped butt for summer? Looking to increase glute and hamstring activation for your lunges, squats and deadlifts? Or maybe you’re looking to reduce your low back pain and gain more glute strength? Hip thrusts/hip lifts/glute bridges are gaining a lot of attention in the fitness world right now. It is great for building glute strength, stability of your knees, & to shape a perfectly round butt!
Strong glutes can help reduce low back pain and improve the body mechanics of your hips, knees, & ankles. Many of us have sedentary desk jobs that do nothing for our butts… something we like to call gluteal amnesia. Through a process called adaptive shortening, our iliopsoas, hip flexor muscles, shorten over time causing lumbar stress. (see Workplace Workout for more information on the SAID Principle and Adaptive Shortening). Hip lifts can be used as a spine stabilizer and a core exercise, as they help to extend your legs releasing tension off your tight hip flexors. In addition, they are a great way to target your glutes and hamstrings, if you actively squeeze your cheeks together at the top of the lift (or what we like to say: “Crack the Walnut!” or “Pinch the Penny”).
Starting off with a body weight glute bridge is a great place to start building your glute strength, while opening your chronically short hip flexors.
There are many ways to perform a glute bridge. Below are several variations you may implement into your training regimen. We recommend starting with body weight, then advancing to loaded or more advance positions.
To perform a proper body weight glute bridge:
- Lie on your back on the floor with your hands beside your sides, your knees bent, and your feet completely on the floor. Make sure your feet are directly under your knees. Your heels should be in line with your hips & with your toes pointing directly forward.
- Functionally, your stomach should remain soft while you work to engage the back of your legs, glutes and hamstrings. As you increase load with other variations, core strength become increasingly more important.
- Before you lift, tuck your hips by rolling the bottom edge of your tailbone off the floor, then one vertebrae at a time raise your hips towards the ceiling. Your tail bone should be the first thing to lift, and the last thing to plant. Keep your heels and shoulder blades on the floor.
- At the very top of the bridge, squeeze your cheeks together. Remember: “Crack the Walnut!” or “Pinch the Penny!”
- See if you can hold for 5-10 seconds, then drop your hips back to the floor.
- Perform this body weight glute bridge for 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Avoid these DON’TS for Glute Bridges
- Avoid raising your hips too high as you could hyperextend your low back.
- Avoid extending your neck too far back or tilting your head forward as you progress or try different variations. Keep your head in neutral spine.
- Avoid lifting your heels, more weight on your toes will load your quads, heels will load glutes.
Performing a sound, bodyweight glute bridge is an essential movement pattern most of us should all do, daily in fact for hip/lumbar health. Perfect this movement first, and ensure you can feel your glutes and hamstrings engage before moving forward to the variations below.
Using other tools, such as a band just above your knees while pushing outward help keep your knees tracking properly, while increasing glute activation. Keep tension in the band when throughout the entire range of motion.
Other Glute Bridge Exercises
1) Body Weight Marching Glute Bridge
(From the Floor) – good for lumbar stability.
2) Banded Glute Bridge
Good for increased glute activation.
3) Dumbbell Glute Bridge
(From the Floor) – increasing load/weight.
4) Single Leg Glute Bridge
(From the Floor) – good for unilateral strength..
5) Dumbbell Glute Bridge
(On a Bench) – increases range of motion.
6) Dumbbell Single Leg Glute Bridge
(On a Bench) – increased range of motion and unilateral strength.
7) Barbell Glute Bridge
Good for increasing load.
8) Barbell Sumo Glute Bridge
Good for adductor and multiplanar glute strength.
Note: Using a pad or towel while using the barbell for glute bridge helps ease the discomfort of resting the bar on your hips.
Don’t forget to TUCK and SQUEEZE! Depending on what your goals are, try starting with 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions for hypertrophy. You may choose to implement on leg days, add to your push routine, or even with full body/core workouts. Focus on quality and time under tension, over increasing weight and power.