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Understanding the Distinction: Glute Bridges versus Hip Thrusts

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

These days, it seems like everyone is fixated on sculpting their buttocks in the gym (or at their residence). And while you might consider the squat as the ultimate exercise for firming up your glutes, both the glute bridge and hip thrust are actually far superior in targeting those muscles compared to the barbell squat.

The glute bridge and hip thrust exercises may appear similar to the untrained observer, but they are not identical, although they share some characteristics. Both exercises involve contracting the glutes and raising the hips towards the ceiling. They also engage the glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back, abs, obliques, and hip flexors. “The hip thrust and glute bridge are very much alike in that they are both excellent for strengthening the gluteal muscles,” says John Gallucci Jr., D.P.T., CEO and founder of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy. “However, there are a few key distinctions between the two movements,” he points out.

For example, the glute bridge is typically performed with the shoulders resting on the floor. In contrast, hip thrusts are usually done with the shoulders supported by a bench, platform, or plyometric box. Additionally, while the hip thrust is often done with added weight (such as dumbbells) as a strength training exercise, the glute bridge is usually done as a bodyweight movement (but can also be weighted).

Below, discover how to properly execute both the glute bridge (also known as the hip bridge, which can cause confusion) and the hip thrust, as well as what distinguishes them. Then, let the fitness experts explain which one you should prioritize and when to incorporate them.

Advantages of the Hip Thrust

As mentioned earlier, the hip thrust is performed with the shoulders raised. For those unfamiliar, a hip thrust workout requires some form of support for the upper back and typically involves the use of weights, usually in the form of a barbell.

To perform a hip thrust, start in a seated position with your knees and feet flat on the floor, with your shoulder blades (but not your neck!) against a bench or plyo box. If necessary, add a cushion at your hip crease for added support. Contract your glutes and core, then lift your hips up until your back is parallel to the floor, explains Gallucci.

Maintain for a duration of three seconds at the peak, then descend back to the initial state.

Hip thrusts offer a wider range of motion.

“The main distinction between the hip thrust and the glute bridge is that, due to the elevation of your back, each repetition requires your hips to travel a greater distance,” elucidates Jill Belland, co-founder of Barre Belle. As the hip thrust entails a more extensive range of motion, it enhances the strength of your muscles to an even greater extent, affirms Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault.

Hip thrusts build significant muscular strength.

A hip thrust workout is acknowledged as one of the most effective exercises for the glutes and is highly adaptable. Besides performing a barbell hip thrust, you can incorporate additional resistance using dumbbells, kettlebells, a weighted chain, or a medicine ball, as stated by Gallucci. Due to the positioning of the hip crease, a hip thrust allows for a greater load compared to a glute bridge, potentially leading to more notable gains in the glutes and hamstrings, as explained by Belland.

A hip thrust targets the buttocks better than a squat.

Desire incomparable glute development? Look no further than the hip thrust. Research published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics examined the variation in muscle activation between the barbell back squat and the weighted hip thrust in 13 trained women. After performing estimated sets of 10 repetitions for both exercises, the study revealed that hip thrusts engage more muscle fibers in the glutes compared to squats, suggesting that the barbell hip thrust is superior for strengthening the glutes.

Advantages of the Glute Bridge

To execute a glute bridge, lie on your back with knees bent and feet firmly planted on the floor. Keep your arms at your sides, palms facing downwards. Elevate your hips off the ground, contracting your glutes and core until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Maintain this position for three seconds at the peak, then return to the initial posture, as described by Gallucci.

Interested in adding resistance? First, position a barbell or dumbbells on top of your hips.

Then, grasp the load with both hands to stabilize it before raising your hips off the ground and propelling them towards the ceiling. (For more comprehensive instructions on glute bridge, refer to this manual.)

There are numerous variations of buttock bridges.

The buttock bridge offers a multitude of alternatives, such as the single-leg bridge and the banded bridge kick utilizing elastic bands — and they can be loaded or unloaded. Nevertheless, it is generally employed as a bodyweight activation exercise rather than a weighted strengthening exercise, states Wickham.

“While it is possible to add weight like a barbell or dumbbell to a buttock bridge, some athletes find it uncomfortable due to the body angle [because] the bar can roll down your stomach if you’re not gripping it,” notes Wickham. “And because of the hip angle, the hip thrust allows for the addition of greater weight than the buttock bridge,” he explains.

That is why the buttock bridge is traditionally utilized as a bodyweight exercise to stimulate the muscles in the buttocks during a warm-up before engaging in more extensive movement and weight, clarifies Belland.

The buttock bridge facilitates proper activation of the glutes.

However, do not underestimate the significance of the buttock bridge, as activation is crucial. Perhaps you have come across the term “inactive glute syndrome.” (Thankfully, this expression sounds more intimidating than it actually is.) “This phrase does not indicate a lack of gluteal strength; usually, it refers to the fact that your glutes are not being appropriately activated,” explains Wickham. Translation: The muscle exists, but it is not being utilized.

And this is where the bodyweight buttock bridge becomes valuable. “The buttock bridge can assist in teaching individuals how to activate the glute muscles and therefore effectively utilize the strength they possess,” he suggests.

Performing buttock bridges helps alleviate hip flexor discomfort.

If you (like almost everyone these days, it seems) spend the entire day sitting at a desk, sitting in your car or using public transportation for your commute, and spend the evenings sitting on the sofa watching TV, it is likely that your hip flexors are extremely tight. Tight hip flexors are a consequence of underutilized glute muscles: “Typically, hip flexors tighten due to their overactivity in response to another muscle group being underactive — usually your glutes,” stated Allison Heffron, D.C., chiropractor and owner of Adjust Your Performance in New Jersey, previously mentioned to Shape. Incorporating slow and controlled buttock bridges into your routine can provide long-lasting relief.

How to Decide Between the Buttock Bridge vs. Hip Thrust

So, how do you determine whether to choose the hip thrust or the buttock bridge for your exercise routines? Both are beneficial, but here are some situations when one may be a better choice than the other.

As a Warm-Up: Buttock Bridge

The buttocks raise is an efficient buttocks and hamstring activation exercise, so utilize unloaded buttocks raises to “awaken” those muscles before any hip hinge exercise such as deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and good mornings, suggests Wickham.

“If you perform a hip hinge exercise without first rousing your buttocks, your lower back will compensate, which can lead to lower-back problems over time,” he explains. (If you already experience lower back discomfort, contemplate deadlifting with a trap bar instead of a barbell).

To Enhance Mobility: Hip Thrust

The hip thrust necessitates a broader range of motion than the buttocks raise, says Gallucci. Hence, it may be more challenging for individuals lacking hip mobility — a prevalent issue for those who sit all day. However, that’s precisely why incorporating hip thrusts into a workout can assist in regaining hip mobility.

“Commence by working through the range of motion of the hip thrust without resistance. Get comfortable in that position. Then incorporate weight; this will aid in building strength within the newfound range of motion,” explains Wickham.

The long-term advantages are substantial: Hip flexors that operate correctly, allowing you to move in all directions. You should observe a benefit within a fortnight if you perform three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions every other day, says Wickham.

If You Engage in Running: Glute Bridge

Runners, especially, encounter challenges in activating their glutes. “Many runners experience knee and hip pain because those areas of the body are compensating for dormant glutes,” says Wickham. Attempt two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of glute bridges before a run to help “activate” your glutes so that you genuinely utilize them when running. This will result in more force per stride and, consequently, faster times.

To Develop Strength: Hip Thrust

If you aim to strengthen your glutes and make progress, the hip thrust is the exercise for you. As previously stated, the exercise activates your glutes to an even greater degree than a squat. Additionally, the flexibility to load a hip thrust in numerous ways grants endless customization possibilities for the exercise, enabling you to continually increase its difficulty as you progress.

Without any Equipment: Glute Bridge

The most appealing aspect of the buttocks raise is that it requires no equipment or setup, while a hip thrust workout necessitates a bench or box for back support, says Belland. If you desire to incorporate resistance, you can perform the exercise with added weight and reap additional benefits. “The strength gains will be lesser due to the reduced range of motion and the general ease of loading a hip thrust compared to a glute bridge, but you will still grow stronger,” says Wickham.

Just bear in mind: Because buttocks raises are typically performed with body weight or lighter resistance, you will likely need to increase the number of repetitions to exhaust your muscles, says Belland.

For an equipment-free buttocks burn, attempt a buttocks raise to a single-leg buttocks raise, which has been demonstrated to be effective in fortifying your glutes, hamstrings, hip abductors, and core.

Or attempt holding the contraction at the pinnacle of the repetition for thirty seconds.

Hence, Which Is Superior: Glute Bridge vs. Hip Thrust?

You can (and ought to!) integrate both glute bridges and hip thrusts into your workout regimen. “Diversification is pivotal to a comprehensive glute-building exercise program,” declares Belland. “I suggest employing both,” she includes. (And guarantee you’re not merely performing buttocks exercises.) However, on a broader scale, consider glute bridges for priming and hip thrusts as a component of a potency circuit.