Hip Bridges Are One of the Best Glute-Burning Moves—Here's Why

hip bridge

Marlene Martinez

If you're sick of squats but still want to feel the burn in your backside, there's good news for you yet: meet the hip bridge. You may have encountered this exercise in a number of fitness classes, from HIIT circuits to gentle yoga, and that's because the benefits of a hip bridge are twofold—it targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously to build strength as well as stretch the body, all while lying down. So, what are hip bridges, and how can you add them to your fitness routine?

Below, trainers share intel on this glute-burning exercise, why it's so great for your body, and how you can modify it to suit your fitness routine.

Meet the Expert

What Are Hip Bridges?

To perform a basic hip bridge, start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground, says personal trainer Cam Countryman. Then, push down through your heels and squeeze your glutes to press your hips up. Hold your hips high for a count, then lower them back down to the ground and repeat, he says. And now you've just done your first hip bridge.

Though you perform the entire exercise while lying down, don't be fooled—hip bridges pack a punch by working multiple major muscle groups all at the same time, according to fitness instructor Jenny Leigh. "This is a fantastic exercise if you’re wanting to take the pressure off of your lower back but still gets the work done without doing a squat," she says. Depending on your hip bridge variation, you can work most or all of the following muscles:

  • All three muscles of the glutes: maximus, medius, and minimus
  • Hamstrings
  • Core
  • Lower back
  • Calves

An added benefit, hip bridges stretch as they strengthen. While your back, core, and glutes are working hard to lift and hold your hips in the air, the front line of your body is open, which stretches out your quad muscles, hip flexors, and (with some variations) even your shoulders and chest.

Benefits of Hip Bridges

Hip bridges are a versatile part of any fitness routine, says Vince Alessia, a NASM-certified personal trainer. Incorporate fast-paced, high-rep bridges in your HIIT-style workout, slow down the movement to really feel your muscles burn, or try supported variations of the exercise to open the front line of your body. Regardless, you can reap multiple benefits from working hip bridges into your sweat session, says Countryman.

  • Build strength: Hip bridges work the muscles in the backs of your legs, low back, and core all at once to build muscle and power, says Leigh. And strengthening your legs and core improves your ability to function, says Countryman, by making everyday movements like climbing stairs, picking things up, and running a little bit easier.
  • Boost stability: Strengthening your core goes hand-in-hand with building stability, which is your ability to brace yourself against unwanted movement. And better stability means you can go about everyday activities with more ease.
  • Improve posture: Building a stronger core can also enhance your posture, says Alessia, because you'll have the strength you need to hold your spine in alignment. That work-from-home slouch you may have developed? Exercises like hip bridges can counteract rounding in your shoulders by reinforcing the opposite position.
  • Stretch: Gently press your hips upwards to stretch out the front line of your body or clasp your hands behind your back and wiggle your shoulders beneath your back for a chest and shoulder stretch. If you'd like some extra support, place a yoga block or pillows beneath your hips to hold your body at the top of the movement so you can bask in the stretch.
  • Reduce the risk of injury: Boosting strength in major muscles like your glutes and core is crucial to avoiding injury down the road, says Alessia. Resistance training exercises like hip bridges can likewise strengthen your connective tissue and joints, all of which can prevent overuse injury.

Hip Bridge Variations To Try

Hip bridges come in all shapes and sizes so that you can do different variations based on your preferences, fitness level, and mobility. Try holding weights on your hips to spice up a basic bridge, pulse, or keep your hips up high for as long as you can to build strength through a more isometric hold. For even more variations, check out the trainer-recommended hip bridge options below—many with no equipment necessary. For most variations, keep your head and shoulders flat to the ground and stare straight up at the ceiling to keep your spine in alignment, says Leigh. And of course, don't forget to breathe while you get your sweat on.

Hip Bridges With a Calf Raise

hip bridge with calf raise

triloks/Getty Images

If you want to challenge the entire backside of your leg, then this new twist on the old favorite is for you. Reap all the benefits of a classic hip bridge, plus feel the burn in your calves while you do.

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips.
  3. When your hips reach the top, press into your toes to lift your heels off the ground.
  4. Lower your hips back down to the ground.
  5. Repeat for three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

Single-Leg Hip Bridges

woman doing a single-leg hip bridge

undrey/Getty Images

If basic hip bridges don't feel like enough of a challenge for you, try isolating one leg at a time. Taking one leg out of the equation will test your balance and force you to dig deep to keep your hips lifted as high as they were when you had two feet on the ground.

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Stick your left leg straight up. If your hamstring is tight, bend your knee or extend your leg forward rather than up.
  3. Lift your hips with your leg extended.
  4. Lower your hips back down to the ground.
  5. Repeat for three sets of 10 to 12 reps each for each leg.

Hip Bridge Marches

woman doing hip bridges

dolgachov/Getty Images

If faster-paced exercises more your speed, then these marches might be up your alley. Literally march in place while your hips are lifted to isometrically challenge your leg muscles while also working up a sweat.

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips.
  3. Lift your right knee up and towards your chest, then return your right leg to the ground.
  4. Repeat on the left side.
  5. Alternate your right and left legs 10 times per side.
  6. Lower your hips, rest, then repeat two more times.

Elevated Hip Bridges

woman doing elevated hip lift

gilaxia/Getty Images

Level up your bridges by elevating your back. Your glutes will work extra hard to lift your hips, building strength and stability with every rep.

  1. Sit with your back against a chair, bench, or platform with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Optional: place weights on your hips.
  2. Press into your heels to lift your hips until your hips are in line with your knees.
  3. Lower your hips back down to the ground.
  4. Repeat for three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

Hip Bridge With Resistance Band

woman doing hip bridge with resistance band

Ilona Shorokhova/Getty Images

Add resistance to your hip bridges to make your muscles work a little harder, says Alessia. This resistance band pulse will light your outer hips and glutes on fire.

  1. Wear a resistance band above your knees.
  2. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  3. Press your hips up.
  4. Hold your hips at the top, press your knees to either side, and then return them to their original alignment.
  5. Repeat those knee presses 10 more times.
  6. Lower your hips, rest, and repeat two more times.
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Lauersen JB, Andersen TE, Andersen LB. Strength Training as Superior, Dose-dependent and Safe Prevention of Acute and Overuse Sports Injuries: A Systematic Review, Qualitative Analysis and Meta-analysisBr J Sports Med. 2018;52(24):1557-1563. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-099078

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