These Glute Bridge Variations Work for Every Fitness Level and Exercise Goal

Whether you want to build up butt and hamstring strength, work on your form, or fix muscle imbalances, there's a glute bridge variation that will help you get the job done.

Modify This Move: Glute Bridge
Photo: Anthony Cunanan / MUA: Tee Chavez

Welcome to Modify This Move, the ongoing series where you'll find everything you need to amend a standard exercise to meet your goals, your body, and your mood. Each story breaks down how to perform a foundational fitness move, then offers various modifications based on your current fitness or energy level, present or prior injuries, or the muscles you want to target most. So check your ego at that door and ensure every workout meets you where you're at today.

Between sitting at a desk, curling up on the couch, and driving in a car, you probably spend the majority of your day with your hips in a flexed position. As a result, your hip flexors are likely feeling like a rubber band that's about to snap.

But performing glute bridges — in which you lie on your back, press your feet into the floor, and extend your hips up toward the ceiling — can help counteract all the flexion you put your hips through on a regular basis, says Joanna Castro, an NASM-certified personal trainer and certified functional strength coach in New York. In turn, "it helps make everyday living more comfortable," she adds.

Aside from stretching your hip flexors, glute bridges help strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and pelvic floor, plus your core, which works to keep you stable throughout the movement, says Castro. Another perk? There are plenty of variations to the conventional exercise, so you can make sure the lower-body move works best for your individual abilities, needs, and fitness goals.

If you want to work on perfecting your form — or get it back on track if you've developed some sketchy habits — you might try a toned-down glute bridge variation that involves fewer bells and whistles, for example. You can also turn to certain glute bridge variations to target the specific muscle groups, such as the hamstrings or glutes, you usually overlook or want to work extra hard that day. And if you notice one side of your body is significantly stronger than the other, there's a glute bridge variation you can use to get your muscular balance back on track. Regardless of your situation, you should feel comfortable modifying, tweaking, or advancing the OG exercise to meet you where you're at today.

Ready to test the booty-building exercise? Follow the instructions below to master the traditional glute bridge, then watch as Castro demonstrates how to switch up the exercise with seven different glute bridge variations she shared that work for all abilities and fitness goals.

How to Do a Glute Bridge

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Inhale and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

7 Glute Bridge Variations

If you give the traditional glute bridge the old college try and it doesn't seem to suit your needs, don't sweat it. Rather than force yourself to stick with the classic move, try utilizing a different glute bridge variation that's as challenging (or chill) as you want it to be and helps you get one step closer to achieving your goals.

Here, you'll find glute bridge variations that scale the exercise up or down, including two options that help you build up strength regardless of the equipment you have available. Plus, Castro shares glute bridge variations that help correct muscle imbalances, as well as alternatives to target your hamstrings and glutes. No matter which option you choose, continue checking in with your body as you power through your reps and try a different exercise if it doesn't feel right.

Glute Bridge Variation to Level Up: Elevated Glute Bridge

This glute bridge variation is essentially a hip thrust, as you'll place your shoulders against a sturdy object that's about 14 inches tall (such as a plyo box or bench) rather than rest them on the floor. Because of this elevation, your hips need to travel a greater distance in order to fully extend, which helps improve mobility, ups the strength challenge, and makes the exercise "extra fun and spicy," says Castro.

A. Sit on the floor with center of shoulder blades resting against a bench or box, knees bent and feet planted hip-width apart on the floor, and arms crossed in front of chest.

B. Keeping lower back flat, chin tucked, and gaze forward, engage glutes, push through heels, and extend hips to the ceiling to come to the starting position. Knees should be in line with heels and bent at 90-degree angles and body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

C. Keeping lower back flat and knees stable, slowly lower hips two to three inches off the floor. Then, push through heels and lift hips until body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees to return to the starting position.

Glute Bridge Variation to Scale Down: Pelvic Tilt

This glute bridge variation is particularly useful if you're a beginner looking to nail down the proper form and core engagement before you move on to more complex exercise options, says Castro. To properly perform the move, imagine you're pouring out soup with your hips on each inhale, then return them back to neutral on each exhale to stop the flow, she explains. "It's a subtle movement, but when you have [the proper] breathing with it and you're pouring the soup out, people get that pelvic tilt motion going through their head," she says.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and hands on hips.

B. On an inhale, draw navel toward spine to tilt pelvis.

C. On an exhale, engage core and press low back into the floor.

Glute Bridge Variation to Build Strength: Glute Bridge with Weights

Adding a weight — such as a dumbbell or a kettlebell — is one of the easiest ways to progress a glute bridge and gain muscle, says Castro. Plus, practicing this glute bridge variation will help you build the strength necessary to carry out daily tasks (think: lifting a heavy object off the floor) effectively and efficiently, she says. ICYDK, your glutes are needed to stabilize your pelvis and ensure the proper functioning of your lower body, and if they're weak, you may compensate with other muscles (e.g. hamstrings, quads) during movements, which can ultimately lead to injury, according to the American Council on Exercise.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and a dumbbell resting across hips. Hold each end of the dumbbell with hands.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Inhale and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Glute Bridge Variation to Increase Time Under Tension: Glute Bridge with Isometric Hold

Holding the top of each bridge for three to five seconds can help increase time under tension, or the amount of time your muscles spend contracting against an external resistance. In turn, this glute bridge variation can help build strength, muscle mass, and tendon health — all without any added resistance. "If you're limited on weight options, holding your muscles for an extended period of time can get them firing," says Castro. "Oftentimes, it's a lot harder than it looks."

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Hold for three to five seconds. Then on an inhale, gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Glute Bridge Variation to Target Hamstrings: Walk-Out Glute Bridge

By walking your heels out while holding a glute bridge, you'll fire up your hamstrings — muscles on the back of your thighs that are responsible for flexing your knee and extending your hip. As do so, remember to check in with your form and core. "If you walk your heels too far where you are unable to maintain proper form and lose core stability you will feel it in your lower back," says Castro. If you're feeling any back discomfort, that's your sign to shorten your steps or take fewer of them when you walk your feet out at the top of the movement.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Take one step out with left foot, then one with right, resting weight entirely in heels. Take as many steps as possible, alternating feet, without allowing lower back to arch.

D. Slowly walk feet back until ankles are in line with knees, then lower toes to the floor. Inhale and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Glute Bridge variation to Isolate the Glutes: Frog Pump

When you want your booty to hurt so good, give this glute bridge variation a shot. During frog pumps, the bottoms of your feet will be pressed together rather than flat on the floor, which helps target the glutes more than the conventional version, says Castro.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent and arms at sides, palms facedown. Lower knees out to side and down to the floor, then bring bottoms of feet together.

B. Keeping core engaged and tailbone tucked, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Inhale and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Glute Bridge Variation to Improve Muscle Imbalances: Single-Leg Glute Bridge

While small muscle imbalances are totally normal and expected (you do have a dominant side of your body, after all), it's worth correcting ones that are more drastic, as they can increase the risk of injury, says Castro. And that's where the single-leg glute bridge — in which you're training just one side of the body at a time — can be beneficial, she says. Plus, "since you're on one foot, your core has to work a little bit harder to stabilize — it's easy to shift your weight to one side of the other," she adds.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent, feet placed flat and hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facedown. Lift right foot off the floor and bring right knee toward the ceiling so it's in line with hips.

B. Keeping core engaged, tailbone tucked, and right foot lifted off the floor, exhale and slowly push through both heels to lift hips off the floor. Lift hips up as high as possible without allowing the lower back to arch.

C. Inhale and gently lower hips back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Photography: Anthony Cunanan
Art direction: Jenna Brillhart
Model and fitness expert: Joanna Castro
Hair and makeup: Tee Chavez
Activewear: Girlfriend Collective
Workout bench: Ignite by SPRI

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