What Are Frog Pumps, and Are They Worth Adding to Your Glute Workouts?

The frog pump exercise might look and sound kinda awkward, but it's a killer glute activation that's well worth potential sideways glances at the gym.

illustration of a woman doing a frog pump exercise
Photo: Getty Images

ICYDK, the term "frog booty" or "frog butt" is a not-too-kind way to describe an undefined posterior, reminiscent of the backsides that some frogs have (you know you've seen it on Twitter). There's nothing body-positive about the term when used for humans, and it should definitely be erased from your lexicon. But there's actually a frog-like glute exercise that you should get to know instead — the frog pump — though it's similarly awkward to explain.

The frog pump is a super beneficial glute exercise, according to fitness experts — but of all the exercises you can add to your workouts, it might just be the most awkward to do in public. Not only are you thrusting your hips into the air and calling it exercise, but your knees are spread eagle, making the whole thing look like a trip to the gyno rather than the gym. But don't discredit it by looks alone: The frog pump deserves a rotating spot in your workout.

More about the frog pump exercise and all its perks, ahead.

The Frog Pump Exercise, Explained

It may seem like a trendy exercise move that's a bit weird, but "the frog pump is not a new exercise — it's been used for years in strength, Pilates, and yoga classes alike," says Anel Pla, C.P.T., a personal trainer with Simplexity Fitness.

The frog pump is essentially a love-child of the butterfly stretch and glute bridge, and was created by trainer Bret Contreras, C.S.C.S. (aka the Glute Guy). Essentially, you lay on your back, bring the soles of your feet together to splay your knees, and thrust your hips up toward the ceiling, explains strength coach Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., director at ARENA and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab in New York City. It's essentially the same movement pattern as a glute bridge, but with your legs in a different position.

Benefits of the Frog Pump Exercise

The main claim to fame of the frog pump exercise is how well it isolates and strengthens your glute muscles. Specifically, it engages your gluteus maximus (the largest butt muscle, which functions to extend your hips and rotate your legs outward) and gluteus minimus (the smallest butt muscle, which lies beneath the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, and allows you to move your legs outward and rotate them inward), according to Pla. (See: The Complete Guide to Your Butt Muscles)

"When glute muscles are strong, your balance improves, you have less pain, and have the added benefit of looking good," she says. Having strong glutes will allow you to safely complete not just your workouts but everyday activities as well.

What's more, the frog pump exercise works these muscles without requiring any additional load, making them particularly useful for people with preexisting knee or ankle injuries that keep them from being able to do weighted glute-strengthening exercises such as a barbell back squat, goblet squat, or front squat. These same people might find that doing weighted frog pumps are a way to add load without triggering usual pain points.

Frog pumps also help you learn how to activate your glute muscles in the first place so you can get the most out of the movement — and any other lower-body-focused exercise for that matter. "Most people spend their day seated working in front of a computer, stuck in traffic, or sitting on the couch and not engaging their glute muscles at all," says Pla. Long term, this can inhibit your ability to properly engage (and therefore recruit) all the muscles in your butt. Colloquially, this is known as dead butt syndrome, and over time can lead to hip immobility, joint pain, and low-back aches or strains, notes Pla.

However, frog pumps can be used to retrain the body on how to engage those weak and tired glutes. Because your hips are in an externally rotated position, you're able to activate your glutes to a greater degree than you are in most other glute exercises, including the standard glute bridge, explains Pla. "There's really no choice other than to use your glutes from this [splayed] position," she says. Do sets of the frog pump exercise regularly (i.e. two times a week), and you'll be able to ward off dead butt syndrome and actually tap into your glute strength so you can lift heavier and run faster, she says.

The other muscle group frog pumps help strengthen? Your hip abductor muscles, says Pla. And because they work your hip muscles from an external rotation, frog pumps have the added benefit of helping to improve overall hip mobility — which let's face it, most people could use. (See More: The Best Groin Stretches to Ease Tight Muscles and Increase Flexibility)

How to Do the Frog Pump Exercise

Whether you're doing bodyweight frog pumps or frog pumps with weight, keep these five steps from Pla in mind to ensure proper form. Matheny recommends watching a video of the exercise that includes verbal cues (such as this YouTube video which shows Contreras explaining the movement or this one where he's cueing a bodyweight and dumbbell frog pump) before giving it a try.

A. Lie faceup and bring soles of feet together into a "frog" (or "butterfly") position, scooting feet as close to butt as possible.

B. If doing the exercise with just body weight, make fists with the hands and keep elbows on the floor so forearms are perpendicular to the ground. If using a dumbbell, hold it on either end while resting it on hips.

C. Draw belly button down toward the floor to engage midsection and press lower back into the floor.

D. Then, keeping chin tucked into neck, ribs down, and shoulders on the ground, press down into the floor with edges of feet and squeeze glutes to thrust hips toward the ceiling.

E. Pause at the top before lowering butt back down to the floor with control. Repeat.

Who Should Do Frog Pumps?

Most people can benefit from the frog pump exercise. In particular, it's great for people who have had trouble activating their glutes in the past, or who routinely do focused lower-body and glute training, says Pla.

That said, they may not be beneficial for everyone: About one-third of people won't feel frog pumps in their glutes due to their hip anatomy and gluteal structure, noted Contreras in an Instagram post. Those people could try "experiment[ing] with stance width, foot flare, abduction/external rotation, depth, and pelvic tilt in order to determine the variations that work best [for you]," suggests Contreras. Still, if the frog stance doesn't feel right, just don't do it, he says. If this is you, try a narrow- or wide-stance glute bridge instead.

One clear indication you should skip frog pumps is if your hip mobility doesn't allow you to comfortably get into the starting butterfly position. In this case, try doing basic hip bridges instead, suggests Matheny. "[These] require less opening at the hips. You can also modify frog pumps so that your hips are less open, and gradually increase the hip angle over time," he adds.

How to Add Frog Pumps to Your Workout

Exactly how you incorporate frog pumps will depend on your fitness level, training style, and fitness goals. But generally, beginners should do 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps, and more advanced athletes should aim for 3 sets of 30 to 50 reps, recommends Pla. "Another option is to make it a frog pump workout and do max reps in a minute," she says.

Once the higher volume becomes easy, you can try making the movement more difficult by adding resistance bands or dumbbells to your frog pumps, recommends Matheny. You can also add load to the movement with a mini barbell, kettlebell, or slam ball. And since the frog pump works as a good glute engager, lifters can also do them as part of an active warm-up to prepare muscles for butt day.

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