The best butt exercise for this week is the glute bridge. It is a classic exercise that you’ve probably come across before, but the reason this one has staying power is simply because it is so effective.
In fact, I’m ashamed that I did not feature this exercise earlier, as it is quite literally one of the best butt exercises due to the high level of glute activation it offers.
Exercise: Glute Bridges
Muscles worked: Predominantly Glutes. Some Hamstrings, back and core (but should be minimized).
Jolie Recommends: Beginners: sets of 10 reps. Advanced: sets of 50 reps
Difficulty rating: 3
Effectiveness rating: 8
Best Butt Exercise #6: Glute Bridge
The glute bridge is an excellent butt exercise that is easy to perform and can be done with no equipment.
The trick with this exercise is proper form. It is possible to do 100 reps of the exercise and barely feel it in the glutes if you are letting other muscles (likely the back and hamstrings) take over to perform the movement.
I know this because for years I have been glute bridging incorrectly, and as a result of not ‘feeling the burn’ in my butt during this exercise, dismissed it as being not very effective.
How wrong I was!
Once I learned how to glute bridge properly – using the glutes to drive the movement – I can now say with confidence that this is definitely a great butt exercise. I even recommend it as a way to gain control of your glutes and develop a strong mind-muscle connection.
The key to this exercise is to go slowly and really concentrate on using the glutes to power all of the movement. I found that I (incorrectly) was previously using a lot of hamstrings for this move, so have to really mentally focus on relaxing the other muscles that are most likely to take over instead of the glutes while I am doing this exercise. The main culprits for taking over from the glutes during this exercise are the hamstring muscles and the back muscles.
Where to Place Your Feet
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor approximately shoulder width apart, and heels close (but not touching) to your butt.
The positioning of your feet can affect the muscles activated in this exercise. The further away from your butt your feet are, the more your hamstrings will be activated. I find that if my feet are too close to my butt, my knees experience some pain.
There are no hard and fast rules and everyone will differ due to different anatomical differences like limb length, so use a little experimentation to find a comfortable distance to place your feet away from your butt so that you feel that you get the most glute activation from the exercise.
Remember, the main goal is to actually feel this exercise in your butt muscles, so play around a little and do whatever you need to do to get that feeling!
Where to Place Your Arms
You also don’t want to be using the arms to push yourself up. There should be no weight supported by your arms at all, meaning that you should be able to take them and cross them in front of your chest without this changing the exercise at all. Once you’re comfortable that you’re not using your arms incorrectly during the exercise, then feel free to place them on the ground by your sides as shown in the video above.
How To Do The Move
- Start lying on your back on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat at shoulder with apart about a foot or so away from your butt.
- With your knees apart and without actually moving them, imagine squeezing an imaginary ball between your knees. Hold this for the entire exercise, as this can help activate your glutes.
- Clench your butt cheeks tightly together, and squeeze hard for the whole exercise.
- Keeping your core tight, drive strongly through the heels of your feet to drive your hips up in the air.
- When your hips are as high as they will go, push them just that little bit higher by giving a strong squeeze of your glutes.
- Lower back down to the starting position, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Perfecting Your Form
- As much as possible, focus on using only the glutes to execute the movement. The more you practice, the more you will reinforce this pattern and the more automatic it will become to fire the glutes rather than other muscles in future.
- At the top of the motion, really squeeze the glutes to get that extra bit of upward extension. You should feel the exercise in the glutes strongest at this point.
- Push through the heels of your feet when pushing the hips up. There should be no weight in the toes (you should be able to lift these off the ground).
- Keep the spine in a neutral position, neither arched or rounded.
To start with, perform just 10 reps slowly with absolutely perfect form and ensuring that you can isolate the glutes. You can then mix it up with pauses at the top of the motion, squeezing and holding for 2 or more seconds each time.
These are a perfect exercise to perform daily just to activate your glutes and keep those motor neurons firing like they should be. I also recommend doing drills with glute bridges to really learn how to activate your glutes correctly.
It’s easy enough to create a habit of performing even just 10 reps focusing on glute activation either just before you go to bed at night or straight away as you wake up. Sometimes I do them laying in bed, so it’s super easy! (If you’re just starting out though, just be aware that it’s more beneficial to use a stable surface under your feet to begin with.)
Once you’ve mastered the correct form, try doing a few sets of 50 reps of this exercise, or until you can really feel it. I can guarantee if you stick with this a few times a week you won’t be one of the many who has inactive glutes!
If you want to add resistance, you can do so by resting a pair of dumbells on your hips and holding them in place with your hands. Alternatively, you can try looping a resistance band around your hips, holding it down with your hands on the ground as you lift your hips up.
6 thoughts on “Best Butt Exercises: The Glute Bridge”
I’m familiar with this exercise from my yoga practice. In yoga I always think of it as a back bend. How cool to know that if I really focus on my glutes doing all the work then it will be good for them also. Thanks for the info.
This is actually my current favorite butt exercise Judith, it definitely can get those glutes firing, but you just need to use your mind-muscle connection to really focus on contracting your butt muscles. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s working, studies have shown that this kind of mental focus can actually increase muscle activation by a great deal.
I try to perform this exercise on a yoga mat but since my pelvis is not flat on the ground, i have to do a pelvic tuck in and then use my glutes to rise up. I feel some strain on my lower back. But if i do this on the bed, I dont feel there is requisite stretching anywhere. Can the former harm my low back (i already have a back issue) or should i ignore minor aches and pains on the back?
Always listen to your body! If you’re feeling any strain then I’d say definitely don’t push through it or ignore it – especially if you already have any issues with your back. Since I’m no expert, please make sure you consult with a professional like a doctor or physiotherapist to see if this exercise is suitable for your condition. The following is just my opinion and represents things that have worked for me, and should not be taken as advice.
Assuming you’re given the all clear to continue with this exercise, it’s a little difficult to tell from your description where you might be going wrong. To begin with, try doing the exercise on a stable surface like the ground rather than a bed (it’s too soft and may move around too much – not good for beginners as it just adds another thing to think about and may distract you from having good form).
Your pelvis doesn’t have to be flat on the ground, but just in a neutral position and you should have a neutral spine position also. Making sure to tense your core muscles (including your abdominals) can support your back in the move as well.
Pelvic tuck/tilt can be either anterior (forwards) or posterior (backwards). If anything, I would say a posterior tilt (rolling your tailbone down and forwards and the top of your pelvis and lower back backwards) can help engage the glutes a little more to get them firing, but if you already feel the move in your glutes, then using a neutral spine and pelvic position is preferred.
Again, please make sure you get a medical professional’s clearance to continue with glute bridges if you have been feeling any discomfort when doing them in your back – always better to be safe than sorry!
Hooray for “start lying on your back” but boo-hiss to “Lay (sic) on your back” — the former is grammatical, the latter is not! Lie on your back, for sure!!! Don’t “lay” anything on it (which wouldn’t be possible here, anyway, given you are supine). Thank you for this site, I will use this exercise every day!
Thanks for the feedback Jenny, I’m hanging my head in shame at my grammatical incompetence! Will definitely be fixing this one up!