The two exercises may look the same, but they each have their own benefits. Here, learn when to use each.

By By Gabrielle Kassel
Updated: April 15, 2019
Photo: Vitalii Vitleo/Getty Images

Is it just us, or has the peach officially overthrown the eggplant as the most-used (food) emoji? Lately, everyone's been obsessed with building their backsides.

While the squat may be the OG move for buns of steel, the glute bridge and hip thrust are officially rivaling the barbell squat for the spot of Best Glute Exercise. (BTW, here's Why It's Important to Have a Strong Butt-Besides Looking Good)

To the (ahem) untrained eye, the glute bridge and hip thrust may look the same, but they're not identical exercises: "The hip thrust and glute bridge are very similar in that they're both great for strengthening the gluteal muscles," says John Gallucci Jr., M.S., A.T.C., D.P.T., CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy. "But there are also a few key differences between the moves."

Below, learn how to do both the glute bridge and the hip thrust–and what sets them apart. Then, let the fitness experts explain which you should be doing and when.

TLDR: Glute Bridges vs. Hip Thrusts

  • Both exercises involve squeezing your glutes and lifting hips up towards the ceiling. They both engage the glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back, abdominals, obliques, and hip flexors.
  • The glute bridge is typically done with shoulders on the floor, while hip thrusts are typically done with shoulders on a bench or platform.
  • 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.

What exactly is a hip thrust?

This move is a fit-fluencer fave (even Chelsea Handler does it!) so you've probably seen it on your social feeds. But for the uninitiated, the hip thrust 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 and with your shoulder blades against a bench (note: not your neck!). Add weight to your hip crease using a pad, if needed. Squeeze your glutes and core and lift 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 start. (Check out this guide on the barbell hip thrust for more detailed instructions.)

"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.

Okay, so what's a glute bridge?

You've probably done one of these before: Lie face-up on the floor, with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep arms at your sides with palms down. Lift 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 start, explains Gallucci.

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

The glute bridge-which has tons variations, including the single-leg bridge to the banded bridge kick-can be loaded or unloaded. However, it's usually used as a body-weight activation exercise, as opposed to weighted, strengthening exercise, says Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault, a mobility and functional movement program.

"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-the bar can roll down your stomach if you're not holding on," he says. "And because of the angle of your hips, the hip thrust allows you to add heavier weight than the glute bridge."

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.

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 have no 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. (Here's everything you need to know about glute activation and how to do it.)

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.

Which should you be doing?

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

To warm-up: glute bridge

Because the glute bridge is an effective glute and hamstring activation exercise, Wickham suggests using unloaded glute bridges to "wake up" those muscles before any hip hinge exercise like the deadlift, kettlebell swings, and good mornings.

"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. Yikes. (If you already have lower back pain, consider deadlifting with a trap bar instead of a barbell).

If you're working on mobility: hip thrust

The hip thrust requires a greater range of motion compared to 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. (Guilty!) But that's exactly why doing hip thrusts 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 new-found range of motion," explains Wickham. (Related: The 7 Mobility Exercises You Should Do Before Every Workout).

The long term benefits are huge: Hip flexors that function properly so you can move in all directions. Wickham says you should notice a benefit within two weeks if you do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps every other day.

If you're a runner: 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 therefore faster times.

To build strength: hip thrust

The hip thrust is one of the best butt exercises of all times and it's quite versatile. In addition to a barbell, you can add weight in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, a weighted chain, or 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.

And because you're moving through a greater range of motion in the hip thrust, it strengthens your muscles to an even greater degree, says Wickham. In fact, research done by Bret Contreras (aka the "Glute Guy") found that hip thrusts recruit more muscle fibers in the glutes than squats do, which suggests that the barbell hip thrust is better for building glute strength. (Watch Kate Upton Do 225-Pound Hip Lifts for Motivation?)

Bu, if for some reason you prefer the glute bridge, you can do them loaded and reap some extra benefit. "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.

If you have no equipment: glute bridge

The best part of the glute bridge is that it requires zero equipment or set-up, while the hip thrust requires a bench or box for back support, says Belland.

For an equipment-free booty burn try a glute bridge to 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. *Insert chili emoji here*.

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