Pop quiz: What lower body exercise works and tones your buns, strengthens your core, helps you run faster and jump higher, and has lots of variations to keep things interesting?
If “squats” were the first thing to come to mind, you’re not wrong. All of those benefits can be associated with the stand-up-sit-down style exercise. However, the answer we were actually referring to is “glute bridges.”
What Are Glute Bridges?
If you’ve never done one before, a glute bridge is an exercise where you lie on your back with your arms flat on the ground at your sides. Your knees are bent and your heels are about a hand-length away from your butt. Lifting your toes slightly off the floor, you begin the effort by powering through your heels to lift your butt off the floor and raise your pelvis toward the sky so that your front body from your knees to your collar bones is nearly one flat plain. After contracting your glute and ab muscles and holding at the top for a few seconds, you then slowly lower down to complete one rep.
How Glute Bridges Make for a Better Body
Any exercise done while lying down is A-OK in our book, but don’t let the relaxed position fool you. In addition to the glutes (as the name implies), glute bridges are a great way to strengthen and tone your hamstrings, lower back, and abs. And because so many people spend so much time hunched forward–working on the computer, texting on a phone, or driving in a car–glute bridges also double as a mobility exercise to help open and stretch your hips and front body, while also preventing lower back pain.
Beyond a better body, another advantage of glute bridges is they can be done just about anywhere at anytime without the need for any equipment (unless you want to up the challenge level, that is). Even better? With the number of glute bridge variations available, it’s a versatile exercise of which you (and your body!) won’t bore.
Best Glute Bridges Beyond the Basics
Since we already covered how to do a basic glute bridge, let’s add some fun to your fitness and cover the variations you can add in with ease. On your next lower-body or full-body workout day, pick one or two of the following, and complete three sets of 15 reps each (15 reps on each leg if the variation is single-leg based).
- Single-Leg Glute Bridges: Keeping your knee bent, lift one leg off the floor so that the shin is parallel with the floor. Complete the up-and-down motion powering through the grounded heel until all reps are complete. Repeat on the other side.
- Marching Glute Bridges: Using the same motion as the single-leg glute bridges, after one rep, switch the raised and grounded legs so that your are doing the next rep on the opposite side. Keep alternating back and forth, completing 15 reps on each leg.
- Medicine Ball Glute Bridges: Instead of your feet being flat on the floor, place your feet on top of a medicine ball. (Note: You don’t need to lift your toes up for this version). To help with balance, spread your arms out wider on the floor, going as high as making a T-formation with your upper body. Complete the lifting-and-lowering reps, engaging your core as you go for best balance.
- Exercise Ball Glute Bridges: Using a large exercise ball, bend both legs at a right angle and place the back of your heels on top of the ball. Raise up and lower down, in the same motion as the basic exercise, but using your abs and core to help steady your body on the ball. To up the intensity level of this version, complete the reps on a single leg before repeating on the other side.
- Weight Glute Bridges: Go beyond body weight by placing a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell plate on your pelvis (with padding from a towel or folded yoga mat, if needed). You can also add resistance with a band, anchoring it at your sides under your hands so that tension is created across your pelvis before lifting into the bridge position. Start with a low weight or resistance, and work your way up as the effort becomes easy.
With so many choices from which to choose, don’t just find the one glute bridges exercise you like best and stick with it. For a better body, your muscles will grow best if you keep them guessing with different movements–and that goes for glute bridges or any other exercise you make part of your strength-training and fat-burning program.
What is your favorite way to work your lower body? Tell us in the comments!