Welcome to Adjust This Action, the ongoing series where you’ll find everything you need to modify a standard exercise to meet your goals, your body, and your mood. Each story breaks down how to perform a foundational fitness move, then offers various adjustments based on your current fitness or energy level, present or prior injuries, or the muscles you want to target most. So leave your pride at that entrance and ensure every workout meets you where you are today.
Between sitting at a desk, curling up on the couch, and driving in a car, you probably spend the majority of your day with your hips in a bent position. As a result, your hip flexors are likely feeling like a rubber band that’s about to break.
But performing glute bridges — in which you lie on your back, press your feet into the floor, and extend your hips up toward the ceiling — can help counteract all the bending you put your hips through on a regular basis, says Joanna Castro, an NASM-certified personal trainer and certified functional strength coach in New York. In turn, “it helps make everyday living more comfortable,” she adds.
Aside from stretching your hip flexors, glute bridges help strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and pelvic floor, plus your core, which works to keep you stable throughout the movement, says Castro. Another advantage? There are plenty of variations to the conventional exercise, so you can make sure the lower-body move works best for your individual abilities, needs, and fitness goals.
If you want to work on perfecting your form — or get it back on track if you’ve developed some questionable habits — you might try a toned-down glute bridge variation that involves fewer extras, for example. You can also turn to certain glute bridge variations to target the specific muscle groups, such as the hamstrings or glutes, you usually overlook or want to work extra hard that day. And if you notice one side of your body is significantly stronger than the other, there’s a glute bridge variation you can use to get your muscular balance back on track. Regardless of your situation, you should feel comfortable modifying, tweaking, or advancing the original exercise to meet you where you are today.
Ready to test the booty-building exercise? Follow the instructions below to master the traditional glute bridge, then watch as Castro demonstrates how to switch up the exercise with seven different glute bridge variations she shared that work for all abilities and fitness goals.
How to Perform a Glute Bridge
A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown.
B. Maintaining a contracted core and tucked tailbone, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift buttocks off the floor. Lift buttocks up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to curve.
C. Inhale and gently lower buttocks back to the floor one vertebra at a time.
7 Variations of the Glute Bridge
If you attempt the traditional glute bridge and it doesn’t seem to meet your requirements, don’t worry about it. Instead of forcing yourself to stick with the classic move, try using a different variation of the glute bridge that is equally challenging (or relaxing) as you prefer and aids you in getting closer to achieving your goals.
Here, you’ll discover variations of the glute bridge that adjust the difficulty level, including two options that assist you in building strength regardless of the equipment you have at your disposal. Additionally, Castro shares glute bridge variations that correct muscle imbalances, as well as alternatives to target your hamstrings and glutes. No matter which option you select, continue to listen to your body as you complete your repetitions and try a different exercise if it doesn’t feel right.
Variation of the Glute Bridge to Simplify: Pelvic Tilt
This variation of the glute bridge is especially beneficial if you’re a beginner aiming to perfect the proper form and engage your core before progressing to more complex exercise options, according to Castro. To execute the move correctly, envision yourself pouring out soup with your hips on each inhale, then return them back to a neutral position on each exhale to halt the flow, she explains. “It’s a subtle movement, but when you have [the proper] breathing with it and you’re pouring the soup out, people get that pelvic tilt motion going through their head,” she says.
A. Lie supine on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and hands on hips.
B. On an inhale, draw navel towards spine to tilt pelvis.
C. On an exhale, engage core and press lower back into the floor.
Variation of the Glute Bridge to Advance: Elevated Glute Bridge
This variation of the glute bridge is essentially a hip thrust, as you’ll position your shoulders against a sturdy object that’s approximately 14 inches tall (such as a plyo box or bench) rather than resting them on the floor. Due to this elevation, your hips need to travel a greater distance in order to fully extend, which improves mobility, increases the strength challenge, and makes the exercise “extra fun and spicy,” says Castro.
A. Perch on the ground with the middle part of your shoulder blades resting against a bench or box, your knees bent, and your feet firmly planted on the floor, spread apart at the width of your hips. Cross your arms in front of your chest.
B. While keeping your lower back level, your chin tucked, and your gaze focused forward, activate your glutes, press through your heels, and lift your hips towards the ceiling to return to the initial position. Your knees should be aligned with your heels, bent at 90-degree angles, and your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
C. While maintaining a flat lower back and stable knees, gradually lower your hips about two to three inches off the ground. Then, push through your heels and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, returning to the starting position.
Glute Bridge Variation for Developing Strength: Glute Bridge with Weights
Including a weight, such as a dumbbell or a kettlebell, is one of the simplest ways to advance a glute bridge and gain muscle, according to Castro. Moreover, practicing this glute bridge variation will assist you in building the strength necessary to effectively and efficiently perform everyday activities, like lifting a heavy object off the floor. Your glutes are essential for stabilizing your pelvis and ensuring proper functioning of your lower body. Weak glutes may cause you to rely on other muscles (e.g., hamstrings, quads) during movements, potentially leading to injury, as stated by the American Council on Exercise.
A. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, spread apart at the width of your hips. Place a dumbbell across your hips and hold each end with your hands.
B. Engage your core and tuck your tailbone, then exhale and gradually push through both heels to lift your hips off the ground. Raise your hips as high as possible without allowing your lower back to arch.
C. Inhale and gently lower your hips back to the floor, one vertebra at a time.
Glute Bridge Variation for Increasing Time Under Tension: Glute Bridge with Isometric Hold
Holding the top position of each bridge for three to five seconds can enhance the concept of time under tension, which refers to the duration that your muscles are actively contracting against an external resistance. Consequently, this glute bridge variation can contribute to strength development, muscle growth, and tendon health without the need for added resistance. As Castro explains, “If you have limited weight options, holding your muscles engaged for an extended period can activate them. Often, it’s more challenging than it appears.
A. Recline on the ground with bent knees, feet positioned level and separated by the width of the hips, and arms resting at the sides with palms facing downwards.
B. While keeping the core activated and the tailbone tucked, exhale and gradually exert pressure through both heels to raise the hips off the ground. Lift the hips as high as possible without allowing the lower back to curve.
C. Maintain this position for a duration of three to five seconds. Then, while inhaling, gently descend the hips back to the floor one vertebra at a time.
Targeting Hamstrings with a Variation of Glute Bridge: Glute Bridge Walk-Out
By extending your heels outward while performing a glute bridge, you will engage the hamstrings – the muscles located at the back of your thighs that are responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. As you do so, remember to monitor your posture and the engagement of your core. According to Castro, if you extend your heels too far to the point where proper posture is compromised and core stability is lost, you may experience discomfort in your lower back. If you feel any discomfort in that area, it indicates that you should shorten your steps or take fewer steps when extending your feet during the peak of the movement.
A. Recline on the ground with bent knees, feet positioned flat and separated by the width of the hips, and arms resting at the sides with palms facing downwards.
B. While keeping the core engaged and the tailbone tucked, exhale and gradually exert pressure through both heels to raise the hips off the ground. Lift the hips as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.
C. Take a step with the left foot, followed by a step with the right foot, shifting the entire weight onto the heels. Take as many steps as possible, alternating between the feet, without allowing the lower back to arch.
D. Slowly walk the feet back until the ankles align with the knees, then lower the toes to the ground. Inhale and gently descend the hips back to the floor one vertebra at a time.
Isolating the Glutes with a Variation of Glute Bridge: Frog Pump
When you desire an intense glute workout, give this variation of the glute bridge a try. During frog pumps, the soles of your feet will be pressed together instead of being flat on the ground, which effectively targets the glutes more than the traditional version, as explained by Castro.
A. Recline on the ground with bent knees and arms resting at the sides, palms facing downwards. Lower the knees out to the sides and towards the floor, then bring the soles of the feet together.
B. While keeping the core engaged and the tailbone tucked, exhale and gradually exert pressure through both heels to lift the hips off the ground.
Elevate hips as utmost as feasible without enabling the lumbar region to curve.
C. Breathe in and softly lower hips down to the floor one vertebra at a time.
Glute Bridge Variation to Enhance Muscle Imbalances: Single-Leg Glute Bridge
While minor muscle disparities are completely normal and expected (you do possess a dominant side of your body, after all), it’s worthwhile to correct ones that are more dramatic, as they can heighten the chance of harm, states Castro. And that’s where the single-leg glute bridge — in which you’re training solely one side of the body at a time — can be advantageous, she remarks. Additionally, “since you’re balancing on one foot, your core has to work a little bit more diligently to stabilize — it’s simple to shift your weight to one side or the other,” she adds.
A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet positioned flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown. Raise right foot off the floor and bring right knee toward the ceiling so it’s in line with hips.
B. Maintaining core engaged, tailbone tucked, and right foot lifted off the floor, exhale and slowly push through both heels to elevate hips off the floor. Raise hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.
C. Breathe in and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebra at a time.
Photography: Anthony CunananArt direction: Jenna BrillhartModel and fitness expert: Joanna CastroHair and makeup: Tee ChavezActivewear: Girlfriend CollectiveWorkout bench: Ignite by SPRI