Maybe the most underestimated and neglected muscle in the athlete’s body is the most important one: the gluteus, also known as the glute, butt, or booty. Luckily, there are so many great exercises to correct this injustice. Basic glute bridge (or double-leg glute bridge) is a very simple, yet extremely efficient glute exercise. It belongs in the basic, multiple-joint exercise category because the hip, knee, and ankle joints are mobilized. As a result, the bridge recruits muscles in addition to the glutes: the lumbar muscles and thighs.
Exercise instructions (correct technique) for basic glute bridge
Follow these steps to execute the basic glute bridge safely and effectively for maximal and simultaneous development of both upper and lower subdivisions of a glute.
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms at your sides. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be approximately 12 inches (30 cm) from your buttocks.
ACTION (EXECUTION): Raise your hips off the floor by contracting your glutes and hamstrings and driving your heels into the floor. Stop the movement once your spine is in a neutral position. Return slowly to the start position.
Coaching points (key performance pointers)
Follow these performance pointers & suggestions to get the most out of this great exercise.
- Place your hands on the sides of your glutes to better feel them working.
- You should never turn your head to the side. Rather, look at the ceiling so that you do not damage your cervical spine.
- Do not push into the floor with your head, neck, or arms.
- Stop the movement as soon as your spine is in a neutral position.
- Do not hyperextend your back (arching your lower back). If you overextend it, you may damage your discs.
- Squeeze your glutes as you reach the top of the movement.
- Keep the top contraction for two-five seconds before returning to the starting position.
- Make sure you use constant tension by stopping each repetition short of touching the floor with your glutes.
Benefits of the glute bridge
While the deadlift, squat, and lunge activate the glutes, the basic glute bridge (and its variations) destroy the glutes without creating an additional load on the lower back. This is especially important with today’s athletes, where the glutes tend to be underactive and lead to tight hips. This can create an environment of lower back pain and weak core stability and strength. Also, stronger glutes leads to a greater vertical jump!
Furthermore, glute exercises with straight legs activate the hamstrings as well. To maximize the glute involvement, it’s also necessary to perform the glute exercises with legs bent, which keeps the hamstrings in a shortened state and stops them from assisting the gluteus.
With both feet positioned on the ground, the basic glute bridge (or double-leg glute bridge) exercise provides a stable position, allowing you to lift heavier weights to create greater muscle tension. The added stability also means that it is easy to perform. In other words, it doesn’t require a lot of coordination because you have multiple points of contact, making it a great regression for the hip thrust.
Finally. it can be performed at home without much equipment.
The only “problem” is that you will progress very quickly, which will force you to find ways to render this exercise more challenging. Fortunately, there are many variations of this exercise that are far more challenging than the basic movement. You can achieve this by adding an extra load on your body (placing a weight on the lower part of your abdomen), lifting one leg, or placing your calves or feet on a bench or chair to achieve a greater range of motion requiring a more powerful muscle contraction.
Muscles engaged in basic glute bridge exercise
When your knees stay bent as in a hip thrust or glute bridge, you have higher glute activation (both the upper and lower glutes) because your hamstrings, which are also responsible for extending your hips (referred to as a hip extensor), are less active due to the fact that they cannot produce maximal tension when they’re shortened to that degree. This means your glutes have to do the lion’s share of the work to extend your hips because they’re not getting as much help from your hamstrings.
- PRIMARY MUSCLES: gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus
- SECONDARY MUSCLES: hamstrings (back of your upper legs), core muscles
Glute bridge variations & modifications
You can perform this movement with only your heels on the floor (single-leg glute bridge) rather than with your feet flat. You can also try this with your feet or heels on an exercise ball or medicine ball (feet-elevated glute bridge). There are extremely many variations of this glute exercise so we will give short descriptions of only the most popular ones.
Single-leg glute bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms at your sides. Keep one foot flat on the floor. Your heel should be approximately 12 inches (30 cm) from your buttocks. Raise your opposite foot off the floor and flex the knee to 90 degrees. Hold the flexed leg in the 90-degree position during the movement. Raise your hips off the floor by contracting your glutes and hamstrings and driving your heel into the floor. Stop the movement once your spine is in a neutral position. Return slowly to the start position.
Barbell glute bridges
Glute bridge variations reduce much of the quad activity that the barbell hip thrust produces. The glute bridge will be your money exercise—the exercise at which you want to keep getting stronger over time. Strength creates curves, and without it, your glutes won’t grow. You can pull double-duty on your glutes by wearing a resistance band around your knees during this exercise.
Bodyweight feet-elevated glute bridge
You can also alter an exercise by changing the range of motion (ROM). For example, you can perform a glute bridge with your feet elevated on a box. To perform this technique, position both feet (or both heels) on an elevated surface, such as a box, step, chair, or bench. This shifts tension to your hamstrings, increases hip range of motion, and decreases quad activation. If you want to shift tension away from your quads or increase tension in your hamstrings, this is a great variation to implement.
Toes-elevated stance double-leg bridge
If you feel a lot of tension in your quads when your feet are flat, try positioning just your heels on the ground—or on top of the box if you’re performing the feet-elevated variation—and see if you get more glute activation.
Bodyweight knee-banded glute bridge
Adding a resistance band to the glute bridge puts a double duty on your glutes, meaning they have to work twice as hard to carry out the movement. With the band around your knees pulling your knees inward, you have to use your glutes not only to extend your hips but also to drive your knees out to resist the band, creating a deeper, quicker burn. You can place the band above or below your knees. In our experience, positioning it above the knees fires the glutes more.
Single-leg foot-elevated glute bridge
If single-leg glute bridges from the ground are challenging for you, then these are slightly more difficult due to the increased range of motion and stabilization demands. Like double-leg feet-elevated glute bridges, this variation shifts tension from your quads to your hamstrings.
The frog pump variation is different from the others in that the bottoms of your feet are touching—specifically your heels. This provides a different stimulus, which for many people elicits more glute activation than the traditional glute bridge due to the inherent hip abduction and external rotation associated with setting the feet in the frog/butterfly position.
Hip-banded glute bridge
To perform the technique properly, you need to position a bench in the middle of a power rack, hook the band around the legs of the bench, and then slide underneath the band, positioning it directly over your hips. Because there is tension on the band, the sliding underneath part is awkward. Once you get the band around your hips, you assume your glute bridge stance and elevate your hips into the band, squeezing your glutes as you reach full hip extension.
This glute & hip exercises category contains detailed descriptions of all major exercises that focus on the muscles that act on the hip (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, hip abductors, hip adductors, iliopsoas, and tensor fasciae latae).
- Cable Pull-Through Exercise
- Butt Blaster Exercise
- Mini Band Lateral Walk
- Reverse Hyperextension
- Standing Hip Flexion
- Cable Hip Adduction
- Cable Hip Abduction
- Standing Hip Extension
- Machine Hip Adduction (Standing)
- Standing Machine Hip Abduction
- Seated Hip Abduction (Machine Hip Abductions)
- Seated Hip Adduction
If you want to target your upper glutes to build what is commonly referred to as a shelf, it’s best to perform hip abduction exercises. If you want to target your lower glutes, you might prioritize more squats and deadlifts. And if you want to target the upper and lower subdivisions simultaneously, performing hip thrusts and glute bridges will give you the best results.