Any fitness practice, be it yoga or Pilates or weight training, will always include a glute bridge. It is the primary floor exercise that strengthens the glutes and lower back and is also great for hip mobility. And like all good moves in the fitness world, it has an array of progression steps and variations, where you eventually work up to a weighted glute bridge and even a weighted hip thrust.
The glutes are the largest muscle group in the body. Strong glutes are the cornerstone of fitness: it helps keep your posture in line, and healthy glutes help other smaller muscle groups coordinate more effectively to make sure you are getting the most from your routine. The glute bridge will help in better hip extension, which means the ability to do a better squat and a deadlift, two major compound exercises.
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“Muscle strength and power of the hips and pelvis are critical components of the overall impact of both resistance training and athletic performance in a multitude of sports. The hip thrust has been a successful exercise for its emphasis on gluteal development and hip extensor strength in sports actions,” states a research paper in the Strength and Conditioning Journal titled Single-Leg Glute Bridge. It also adds that those suffering from knee-pain had a better chance of alleviating it if they strengthened their hips.
The fact that the glute bridge is so easy to do, makes it imperative to add the move to your routine, before moving up to adding weights. The first step is to lie down on your back with the knees bent and feet firmly planted. Then squeeze and contract the glute muscles before raising the hips off the floor until your body is aligned in a way that it creates a bridge between your knees and shoulders. Hold for a few seconds at the top of the exercise, and return to the starting position. Exhale when you raise the hips off the floor, and inhale on the way back down.
The very first variation to attempt is the single-leg glute bridge. It is done with the same principles of the basic bridge, but with one leg out straight while the other forms the bridge and lowers down. Part of many injury rehab programmes, the single-leg glute bridge is an important step in the direction of doing more variations.
There are some dos and don’ts at this stage you might want to check for. The first is to not drive the movement through the heels but the entire sole of the foot and through the hamstring and glute muscles. Also concentrate on raising the hips off the floor rather than the whole torso, and avoid hyperextension of the lower back. A higher bridge is not a better bridge. This is also not an exercise you want to rep out. Instead, focus on activating the right muscles to do it.Form is everything.
Bridges can be done using a bench too: initially, by placing both feet (or one foot if you are attempting the single-leg version) on a bench while lying on the floor and executing it. You can also elevate the feet slightly on a bosu ball or a medicine ball to add a stability challenge. There are banded glute bridges as well, which add some resistance to the movement and can be done using a long band as shown in the video below. If you have a short band, try wrapping them around both thighs, just above the knees and then do the bridge.
If you want to continue training with most of your back on the floor, then weights can be added by either holding onto a plate or a barbell and setting it up in the nook where the hip flexor and pelvic bone meet. These are called weighted glute bridges and are only slightly different from weighted hip thrusts, in which your back will be supported on a bench while the hips stay elevated in line with it. During the hip thrust, one has to lower the hips (and the weights) to the ground level before pushing it back up by using the gluteal muscles. Just like in this video guide below which will help with the right form, you can start off with a plate or a dumbbell before moving onto a bar.
Adding a challenging amount of weight also means that the weighted hip thrust can be your main lift of the day. They don’t work only for strengthening and injury prevention. As a coachmag.co.uk article, titled How To Do The Glute Bridge, says, “They’re important in hip flexibility and movement, as well as looking fabulous.”
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.