As a personal trainer and long-distance runner, I must admit to having a favorite lower-body exercise: the glute bridge. This particular move scores high on simplicity, effectiveness, and practicality—you can even do it at home with no equipment!
The glute bridge is a brilliant exercise for firing up underactive gluteal muscles, which is a common problem for many exercisers. Over time, underactive glutes can turn into more than just an aesthetic issue and can lead to muscle tightness, dysfunctional hip movement, and eventually athletic injury—even if you’re in great shape in other ways. So before you are icing your knee or playing detective about your lower-back pain, you should give this glute-training routine a try.
There are six levels, or modifications, to the glute bridge. To assess the level at which you should start, begin at Level 1 and use the checkpoints below to determine your starting level. You are ready to progress if you can perform 15 repetitions of the move while meeting the following three checkpoints:
- You can perform the movements slowly and with full control, always pausing at the top for a glute squeeze, without using momentum or speeding up.
- Your knees do not move side-to-side at all during the movements. Instead, your knees glide minimally back and forth in a straight line.
- You feel the squeeze in your glutes and hamstrings, not in your back and/or arms.
Level 1: Traditional Glute Bridge
Start on your back, with your feet on the floor close to your hips, with your arms at your side. Smoothly lift your hips so that your body is in a straight line from knees to chest. Pause at the top, squeezing your glutes. Then, lower slowly back to the floor. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions every day for two weeks or until you can perform 15 repetitions while meeting the checkpoints.
Level 2: One-Leg Glute Bridge
Start on your back, as if you were going to perform a Traditional Glute Bridge. Before you lift your hips, however, point one foot straight into the air. Keeping that leg elevated, perform a glute bridge while keeping your hips level. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on each side every other day for two weeks or until you can smoothly perform 15 repetitions while meeting the checkpoints.
Level 3: Glute Bridge on Box
From a Traditional Glute Bridge position, put your feet up on a very secure “box,” which could be a sturdy box, a coffee table, or a chair (perhaps pushing the object against a wall so that it definitely will not move). Then, lift your hips so that your body is a straight line from knees to chest. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions every other day for two weeks or until you can perform 15 repetitions while meeting the checkpoints.
Level 4: One-Leg Glute Bridge on Box
Instead of keeping both feet on the box, keep one foot straight up in the air so that you are only performing the movement with one leg. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on each side. Perform this modification three times per week for two weeks or until you can easily perform 15 repetitions while meeting the checkpoints.
Level 5: Hip Thrusts With Deficit
Find another stable box, short table, or chair in addition to the one that you are already using. If you need to, brace both boxes against walls or other sturdy surface, so that no sliding occurs.
Place your shoulders on one box and your feet on the other box. This will create a deficit, meaning that your hips will be able to drop below your shoulders. From this position, allow your hips to slowly move all the way to the floor, and then back up into a full bridge position. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions three times per week for two weeks or until you can perform 15 repetitions smoothly while meeting the checkpoints.
Level 6: Single-Leg Hip Thrusts With Deficit
This ultimate variation of the glute bridge requires extreme strength and control, so be sure that you are meeting the checkpoints for the other progressions before adding this move into your routine!
Again, place your shoulders on one box, and place your feet on another box. Then, lift one foot into the air and allow your hips to gently touch down to the floor. Keeping that foot and leg elevated, push your hips back up through the deficit space and into a full One-Leg Glute Bridge. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.
Meeting all three checkpoints every time and progressing slowly will mean the difference between strong, stable, sexy glutes and simply stressing out your lower back and knees. Be sure to focus on form, controlled movements, and knee position throughout the routine every time you do it, and your reward will be hips that don’t quit!