Best Glute Exercises That Aren’t The Squat: Glute Bridges
As we talked about in the previous blog post, your glutes are responsible for (or play a roll in) a whole lot of different movements. They help support and stabilize your pelvis, externally rotate the hips, drive the hips and pelvis forwards, extend the hips, and more. But, today we’ll be looking at the glute maximus, and it’s primary function – hip extension.
The glute maximus is one of the largest muscles in your body, and it’s the main muscle people think of when they picture training their glutes. The glute maximus, or glute max, is primarily responsible for hip extension. What is hip extension? It’s when your leg extends behind your body. Think the back leg driving you forward as you run, or the pulling up action as you flutter kick during swimming.
Regardless of your starting point, you need to train your glute max. I don’t care if you want to stand up and down out of a chair with ease, increase your broad jump length, sprint faster, or maybe just walk longer without pain – you need good hip extension and a strong glute max for all those goals.
A great place to start is by training an exercise called “the glute bridge”. It’s simple and in it’s basic form requires no equipment. For those who are de-conditioned, new to training, or working on recovering from an injury – starting with just your body weight alone will be enough. The goal should be to comfortably perform 3 sets, of 10 reps, with a 2 second hold at the top of the movement, before you ever consider adding external resistance, such as bands or weights to the movement.
How you you perform the glute bridge?
1.) Lay on the floor on your back, you may want a mat under you for comfort. A yoga mat works best but if you’re using a more padded mat, have your feet on the floor and your body on the matt – this will increase the ability to dig your heels into the ground.
2.) Arms are at your sides, the arms can be straight or the elbows can be bent at 90 degrees.
3.) Allow the head to be natural, not crunched to the chest or tilted backwards
4.) Legs are kept at hip width apart, about a fist and a half of space between the knees give or take.
5.) Knees are bent, heels are dug into the ground, the pressure should not be through the toes.
6.) Brace your abs, engaging your core, and squeeze your glutes (butt muscles)
7.) Press through your heels and push the hips towards the ceiling, using your butt muscles. The goal is to press upwards until the torso is in line with the hips and thighs – creating a straight line from the knees to the neck and chest.
8.) Slowly lower down, with control, until your back and butt gently touches the ground.
9.) Repeat another rep
While performing this exercise, there are some things to consider.
1.) If you feel this in your knees, or in your quads, it means your knees are bent too much (your heels are too close to your butt). Walk your heels away from your butt slightly, until you feel the majority of the work in the glutes (butt muscles). It may take a few reps to feel the glutes working. Conversely, if you feel this movement too much in your hamstrings (back of the legs) it means your heels are too far away from your butt, walk them towards your butt a bit. The foot position may take a few tries to get right for your individual body.
2.) Keep your core and glutes engaged. Do not, at any time during the active phase of this exercise, let your core or glute take a break. If you absolutely have to, only allow them to rest when you’re laying on the floor, and fully re-engage them again before performing another rep. They should always be engaged during the raising and lowering phases of the movement.
3.) Only press as high as you can without pain, or discomfort. In time your ability to extend from the hips will improve, and you’ll be able to press higher without discomfort – but don’t push it.
4.) The spine should stay neutral (natural curve in the spine) during the movement. Many people arch the spine (spinal extension) during this movement because they lack actual hip extension, so they compensate by pushing the movement through their spine. Only press as high as your hips will allow without arching through the spine, good core engagement shouldn’t allow you to arch the spine.
Once the body weight glute bridge has been mastered, meaning your comfortable with the movement and can easily perform 3 sets, of 10 reps, with a 2 second hold at the top, you can feel free to move on to loading the exercise. This can be done by resting a dumbbell on your hips and steading it with your hands. You could also lay a barbell across the hips quite easily. Start slow, make sure the form is great, and don’t be a hero with the weight – make sure you can control it with perfect form.
The glute bridge is a fantastic movement, that will give you big bang for your buck. If you want strong glutes, that look great too, this one should be a staple of your training program.
Next week, we’ll be looking at another glute exercise, that will not only make your butt look great but help you perform great in life and athletics.