What's the Difference Between a Glute Bridge and a Hip Thrust?

While the butt exercises look the same, each has its own benefits. Learn how to incorporate a glute bridge and hip thrust into your workout routine. 

These days, seemingly everyone's obsessed with building their butts in the gym (or at home). And while you might think of the squat as the holy grail move for buns of steel, both the glute bridge and hip thrust are actually way better at targeting your glutes than that barbell squat.

The glute bridge and hip thrust exercises may look the same to the untrained eye, but they're not identical — although they share some characteristics. Both exercises involve squeezing your glutes and lifting your hips up toward the ceiling. They also both engage the glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back, abdominals, obliques, and hip flexors. "The hip thrust and glute bridge are very similar in that they're both great for strengthening the gluteal muscles," says John Gallucci Jr., D.P.T., CEO and founder of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy. "But there are also a few key differences between the moves," he notes.

Case in point? The glute bridge is typically done with shoulders on the floor. In contrast, hip thrusts are usually done with shoulders on a bench or platform. And while the hip thrust is typically loaded with weight and used as a strength training exercise, the glute bridge is more often done as a bodyweight move (but can be weighted as well).

Below, learn how to do both the glute bridge (also called a hip bridge, which can make things even more confusing) and the hip thrust — and what sets them apart. Then, let the fitness experts explain which one you should be doing and when.

Benefits of the Hip Thrust

As previously mentioned, the hip thrust is done with the shoulders elevated. For the uninitiated, a hip thrust workout requires some kind of upper back support and usually includes weight, typically in the form of a barbell.

To do a hip thrust, start in a seated position with your knees and feet flat on the floor, with your shoulder blades (but not your neck!) against a bench. Add weight to your hip crease using a pad, if needed. Squeeze your glutes and core and lift the hips up until your back is parallel to the floor, explains Gallucci. Hold for three seconds at the top, then lower back down to the starting position.

Hip thrusts have a greater range of motion.

"The biggest difference between the hip thrust and the glute bridge is that because your back is elevated, there's an increased range of motion that your hips must travel for every rep," explains Jill Belland, co-founder of Barre Belle. Because you're moving through a greater range of motion in the hip thrust, it strengthens your muscles to an even greater degree, says Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault.

Hip thrusts build serious strength.

A hip thrust workout is considered one of the best butt exercises of all time and it's quite versatile. In addition to a barbell hip thrust, you can add weight in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, a weighted chain, or a medicine ball to either exercise, says Gallucci. Because of the positioning of the hip crease, you're able to add more weight with a hip thrust than you are with a glute bridge, which can lead to greater glute and hamstring gains, explains Belland.

A hip thrust works the butt better than a squat.

Want unmatched glute gains? The hip thrust should be your go-to. Research published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics studied the differences in muscle activation between the barbell back squat and the weighted hip thrust in 13 trained women. After doing estimated 10-rep maximums of both exercises, the study found that hip thrusts recruit more muscle fibers in the glutes than squats, which suggests that the barbell hip thrust is better for building glute strength.

Benefits of the Glute Bridge

To do a glute bridge, lie faceup on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep arms at your sides with palms down. Lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes and core until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for three seconds at the top, then lower back down to the starting position, explains Gallucci.

Want to add weight? First, place a barbell (or mini barbell) on top of your hips. Then, hold onto the load with both hands to stabilize it before lifting your hips off the ground and driving them toward the ceiling. (For more in-depth glute bridge instructions, check out this guide.)

There are many variations of glute bridges.

The glute bridge has tons of variations, including the single-leg bridge and the banded bridge kick — and they can be loaded or unloaded. However, it's usually used as a body-weight activation exercise instead of a weighted, strengthening exercise, says Wickham.

"While you can add weight like a barbell or dumbbell to a glute bridge, some athletes find it awkward due to the angle of your body [because] the bar can roll down your stomach if you're not holding on," notes Wickham. "And because of the angle of your hips, the hip thrust allows you to add heavier weight than the glute bridge," he explains.

That's why the glute bridge is traditionally used as a bodyweight exercise to activate the glutes in a warm-up before taking on more range of motion and weight, explains Belland.

The glute bridge informs proper glute activation.

Don't sleep the glute bridge, though, since activation is super important. Maybe you've heard the phrase "dead butt syndrome." (Luckily, this idiom sounds scarier than it really is.) "This phrase doesn't mean you don't have glute strength; usually, it references the fact that your glutes aren't properly activating," explains Wickham. Translation: The muscle is there, it's just not being used.

And that's where a bodyweight glute bridge comes in. "The glute bridges can help teach people how to activate the glute muscles and therefore actually access and use the glute strength they have," he says.

Doing glute bridges helps ease hip flexor pain.

If you (like pretty much everyone these days, it seems) sit at a desk all day, sit in your car or public transportation for your commute, and spend your evenings sitting on the couch watching TV, your hip flexors are likely tight AF. Tight hip flexors are the result of under-utilized glute muscles: "Typically, hip flexors tighten because they're overactive as a response to something else being underactive — usually your glutes," Allison Heffron, D.C., chiropractor and owner of Adjust Your Performance in New Jersey, previously told Shape. Adding slow and controlled glute bridges to your routine can provide long-lasting relief.

How to Choose Between the Glute Bridge vs. Hip Thrust

So, how do you know when to choose the hip thrust or the glute bridge for your exercise routines? They're both beneficial, but here are some instances when one or the other may be a better choice for you.

To Warm Up: Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is an effective glute and hamstring activation exercise, so use unloaded glute bridges to "wake up" those muscles before any hip hinge exercise such as deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and good mornings, suggests Wickham.

"If you do a hip hinge exercise without first waking up your glutes, your lower back will compensate, which can cause lower-back issues over time," he explains. (If you already have lower back pain, consider deadlifting with a trap bar instead of a barbell).

To Work On Mobility: Hip Thrust

The hip thrust requires a greater range of motion than the glute bridge, says Gallucci. As such, it may be trickier for people who lack hip mobility — a common issue for folks who sit all day. But that's exactly why incorporating hip thrust into a workout can help you regain your hip mobility.

"Start by working through the range of motion of the hip thrust without weight. Get comfortable there. Then add weight; this will help you build strength within the newfound range of motion," explains Wickham.

The long-term benefits are huge: Hip flexors that function properly so you can move in all directions. You should notice a benefit within two weeks if you do three sets of 10 to 15 reps every other day, says Wickham.

If You Run: Glute Bridge

Runners, in particular, struggle to activate their glutes. "Many runners get knee and hip pain because those parts of the body are compensating for sleepy glutes," says Wickham. Try two sets of 10 to 15 reps of glute bridges before a run to help "turn on" your glutes so that you're actually using them when you're running. This will translate to more power per stride and, thus, faster times.

To Build Strength: Hip Thrust

If you're looking to strengthen your glutes and make gains, the hip thrust is the move for you. As previously mentioned, the exercise activates your glutes to an even greater extent than a squat. And the fact that there are so many ways to load a hip thrust makes the exercise endlessly customizable, so you can keep making it harder as you progress.

With No Equipment: Glute Bridge

The best part of the glute bridge is that it requires zero equipment or set-up, while a hip thrust workout requires a bench or box for back support, says Belland. If you want to add weight, you can do the move loaded and reap some extra benefits. "The strength gains will be less due to the shortened range of motion and the fact that it's generally easier to load a hip thrust than glute bridge, but you'll still get stronger," says Wickham.

Just keep in mind: Because glute bridges are often done as bodyweight or with less weight, you'll likely need to up the rep count to fatigue your muscles, says Belland.

For an equipment-free booty burn, try a glute bridge to a single-leg glute bridge, which has been shown to be effective in strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, hip abductors, and core. Or try holding the contraction at the top of the rep for thirty seconds.

So, Which Is Better: Glute Bridge vs. Hip Thrust?

You can (and should!) incorporate both glute bridges and hip thrusts into your workout routine. "Variety is key to a well-rounded glute-building exercise regime," says Belland. "I recommend utilizing both," she adds. (And make sure you're not only doing butt exercises.) But, more generally, think of glute bridges for warming up and hip thrusts as part of a strength circuit.

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