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The Glute Journey – Glute Bridge to Hip Thrust!

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Hi everyone,

Since my Interview with “The Glute Guy” (Bret Contreras), I have pretty much fallen in love with the Hip Thrust exercise. Using body-weight only, I have managed to enhance the curves and the strength of my beloved behind, just by including the Hip Thrust in my workouts and learning about effective activation of the glutes ;)

Lately I have had a few questions regarding the progression of this exercise. As in where to start and how to progress. One mistake I made, was thinking that because I already exercise regularly and do not consider myself a beginner, I did not need to start at the basic level with an exercise such as this one and I skipped to a level too high for me (the single-leg Hip Thrust). So the first lesson here is understanding and accepting that regression is just as important as progression in building strength and developing good form.

In the past I have also be asked what the difference is between the Glute Bridge and the Hip Thrust. In terms of the muscles used, they are much the same, but the Glute Bridge is performed with the shoulders and feet on the floor, it becomes the Hip Thrust when either the shoulders or feet (or both) are elevated off the floor in some way.  In doing this you increase the Range of Movement (ROM) significantly by having to recruit more force to perform the exercise, allowing you to build strength.

For anyone wanting a more detailed explanation of the difference this elevation makes to the exercise’s effectiveness, then check out Bret’s post in response to our friend Bianca’s question relating to the “Single-Leg Glute Bridge vs Single-Leg Hip Thrust“. The same reasoning can be applied to the double-leg variations too, as I try to explain in the video.

The reason (btw) the Single-Leg variations of both the Glute Bridge and the Hip Thrust are considered more advanced than even the weighted Glute Bridge, is down to increased demand to the stability of the pelvis and lumbar spine, calling for greater control and rotary stability of the “core”, as Bret highlights.

Moving on, the video below is a tutorial on the “journey” from Glute Bridge to Hip Thrust and some issues we need to overcome along the way. Clearly I am not an expert in the mechanics or science behind these exercises, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot help spread the word about great results and, instruct as best as I can in good form and key pointers. My role here is as a messenger, relaying the best information I can gather (from the actual experts) about exercises, improving performance and making the most out of your training.  Given the progress I have made over the last 18 months, I want the same success for everyone else :)

To go one step further, I would gladly showcase my own glutes as walking (haha) proof that this exercise WORKS!  Any trainer who ignores the evidence and doesn’t allow their methods to evolve, is doing their clients a serious dis-service:

Another issue to note is that some people may have concerns that the Hip Thrust is not as effective as the Glute Bridge because the Hip Thrust “over-works” the muscles in the lower back. This was brought to light by Bianca’s trainer.  Even though it is clear from the video why this may occur, I ran this query by Bret (who I consider myself very lucky to have on my email list) and he had the following response:

“They all work the glutes hard as hip extensors and pelvic stabilizers. If you feel it in your low back it’s because you have shitty pelvic stability at the top of the movement near end-range hip extension and you end up hyperextending the lumbar spine and going into anterior pelvic tilt. Ignoring this dysfunction does not do any good. Just like you need to learn to control the lumbopelvic region when squatting and deadlifting, you need to do so for hip thrusting motions as well. Progress gradually from glute bridges to hip thrusts and finally to single leg hip thrusts. Think “glutes” all the way through the movement and don’t go too heavy to where you end up overarching the back and allowing the pelvis to rotate forward.”

In other words, before even lifting the glutes off the floor, squeeze them to tilt the pelvis back (or the “tail bone” forward), like you’re trying to flatten the lower back to the floor, then lift. I have found this to be very useful, as it breaks the exercise down more so you are not trying to do everything at once, which is hard to do especially if your glutes have been “asleep” for the last decade.  If your lower back is still over-extending, then work on some hip flexor stretches. The next video runs through a basic, yet effective drill to “open” the hips (by stretching the hip flexors) and activating the glutes, in all directions.  It is funny actually that my last glute activation video contained the glute bridge as the main exercise. While the glute bridge still remains an excellent activation exercise, the glutes are responsible for more than just hip extension – hence the rotations and abductions:

The Glute Bridge may look like an easy exercise, but there are a lot of things going on and usually people display many dysfunctions which need correcting before the exercise can serve you as it should. Think of the Body Weight Glute Bridge as a place to correct form and build a foundation for amazing glutes. Mine have never looked, or felt (haha) better! ;)

Regression/Progression Summary:

  • As a rough guide, once you can complete 3 sets x 12 perfect reps of your chosen variation below, consider yourself ready to progress.  Note: If the progression becomes too difficult and your form is suffering, REGRESS until your form is more consistent, or perform less reps at the more advanced version.

Double Leg:

  1. Glute Bridge
  2. Shoulder Elevated Hip Thrust
  3. Shoulder and Feet Elevated Hip Thrust

Weighted Double Leg:

  1. Glute Bridge
  2. Shoulder Elevated Hip Thrust

Single Leg:

(Remembering this will provide a greater challenge to lumbar-pelvic stability ie. keeping the pelvis level and the lower back from over-extending)

  1. Glute Bridge
  2. Shoulder Elevated
  3. Shoulder and Foot Elevated
  4. Bottoms Up Shoulder and Foot Elevated (start each rep from a stop position with butt on the floor)

NOTE: If you have no way of adding additional resistance to the Double Leg Variations then, provided you can perform the Body Weight Shoulder and Feet Elevated Hip Thrust with excellent for,then there is no reason why you could not try advancing the exercise to the Single Leg Glute Bridge etc.

Finally, remember:

  • Hip Hyper-extension GOOD, Lumbar Hyper-entension NOT GOOD!
  • Master the body weight variations before adding weight.
  • Master the bilateral versions before attempting the Single-Leg.
  • When you can perform 3 sets x 12 reps with excellent form, you are probably ready to progress.
  • Think Glutes, Glutes, Glutes – this actually really helps!
  • Don’t be too proud to regress!!

After me saying I was going to do this post for SO long, I really hope I have provided you with adequate information to allow solid form and proper progression of this exercise.  I call it a “Glute Journey” because you will literally see the results within a few short weeks, so long as you include one of these exercises in your workouts several times per week.

For additional information on a progressive programme for your glutes and great exercises to ultilise then check out the following sources:

  • About half way down this article you will come to a programme with 4 phases to attain great glutes – “Dispelling the Glute Myth
  • Kellie Davis and Bret co-wrote this e-book which reveals many great secrets and helpful pointers in how to “Get Glutes

For any further information, feedback or, if you think I have left anything out, then please feel free to comment below.  I hope this article and the videos are helpful.

Cheers

Marianne

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56 Responses

  1. bianca says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I have just watched the videos and read the article and I do have to say that you have done a great job with this long-awaited and very much appreciated tutorial. Thank-you so much for it! (and of course thanks to Bret for sharing all the knowledge regarding this exercise).

    I found your advice to squeeze the lower back against the floor before starting the hip thrust a very useful one. I am going to try it and see if I can master the correct movement better. And thanks for explaining the progression so clearly and for the glute activation drill video as well!

    The Italian Inquisition is definitely satisfied. At least for the moment.

    Cheers
    Bianca

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Bianca!

      Thanks for your feedback. I am glad this satisfies the Italian and, hopefully her trainer!
      I just hope I haven’t left anything out. Of course you are welcome to ask any other questions :D

      Cheer
      Marianne

      Happy Hip Thrusting :P

  2. Squirrel says:

    Hi everyone,

    I know the glute bridge from my pilates classes, where it is called basic bridging.
    I tried to find a video that explaines it properly, but as I couldn’t, I’m trying to describe, how our trainer explaines it to us. I find this very useful for the correct form.

    When you lay on the floor, let’s call it in the starting position, you feel that there is a little space between the floor and your lower back, just above the pelvis, which is the neutral position of the spine.
    Now breathe out, engage your core muscles and press your lower back into the mat, starting from the upper end of that little space and imagine to do this vertebral body by vertebral body. It’s just a little movement and doing it step by step slows it down, but improves your form a lot.
    Imagine not to pull the spine down to the mat, but to push it from the top with your core muscles.
    After you finished this movement, don’t just lift up the whole pelvis as one, but do the movement the same way: Roll the spine up step by step, vertebral body by vertebral body, this time starting from the lower end of your back.

    To get back to the starting position, just reverse the movement. Don’t just drop your hips, but roll the spine down slowly, starting from the upper end, hold your lower back pressed into the mat for the moment when your hips touch the ground again, and then release the lower back to the neutral position with the little space between back and mat again.

    I hope this is not to confusing? :) If you learn to pay attention to every single part of your spine and work it in the correct way, it helps you to avoid damages even in the advanced exercise, the hip thrust. And it has the side effect, that you work your core muscle as well if you focus on that little movement that presses your lower back into the mat ;)

    Cheers!

    • Marianne says:

      Indeed Squirrel, this is very helpful :) The core control as you describe is important but I also want to instruct people to use their glutes, as these are one of the main muscles in stabilising the spine and the hips. But you are right to point out the role of the rectus abdominis and the Tranverse Abdominal Muscles in this exercise too, thank you :D

      • bianca says:

        Hi Marianne,

        so to sum things up, in order to engage the core muscles AND of course the glutes as well, the ideal thing would be to include Squirrel’s technique as well but to mainly focus on the glutes in the “second” part of the movement (which means “think glutes” when you actually start lifting the hips from the floor).

        I hope my question is sufficiently clear, in terms of language.

        Thanks (I knew I’d come up with another question).

        Bianca

        • Marianne says:

          Correct :) It’s like I demonstrated in my “How to Tighten the Core” post. Tighten and brace the front and squeeze the glutes. It all helps achieve the same thing, stability. Using the glutes to extend and then hyper-extend the hips from these progressing ROMs, and then weights will build up glute strength and improve their shape.

          I knew you would too ;)

      • gryer says:

        Thank you Marianne, I too found this little tidbit of information to be extremely useful — keeping the back flat through the entire movement requires that you activate the glutes and helps prevent injury to the lower back.

        Squirrel’s description is about bridges, which I do a lot of in yoga — they are designed to improve flexibility of the spine, they are a mild beginner back bend, arching the back in the opposite direction we usually go, and they are a mild inversion. They are not designed to activate the glutes as most practitioners (in yoga at least) say NOT to tighten the glutes… making them a quad exercise. Since we use our quads in lieu of our glutes too often, and become imbalanced as a result, it is good to find some way to isolate the glutes and ensure they are what you are working.

        Another example of this is with a rear lunge, where you can be using more glute or more quad, depending on what you are tightening and which foot you concentrate on pressing into the ground.

        Thanks again

        ~ Gillian

        • Marianne says:

          Thanks Gillian.For a little tidbit of info, I sure know how to drag it out LOL

          I agree about the bridging, this post was intending to focus on using the glutes as a prime mover, and emphasise hip extension into hyper-extension, which cannot be achieved just using the methods from pilates. In actual fact, I believe that, if people focused on their glutes in exercises, they would have more stable “cores”.

          Thanks for this extra information :)

          • Squirrel says:

            I like this discussion ;) of course the hyperextension cannot be achieved by just using the pilates method. I started this classes to get rid of the pain in my neck and shoulders – the glute work is up to what I learned here and Bret’s publications ;) but I think this method helps to slow down the exercise, think about what to do when and prevent injuries in the back. I don’t see this exercises in a intervall training – right?

            Gillian, is it possible that there is a difference between yoga and pilates? We of course focus on the core, as with almost all exercises, but the bridging position is the starting position for leg lifts, which get the glutes working (and our trainer always tells us to focus on core AND glutes in that exercise).

          • Marianne says:

            I think if you have a high level of skill at the hip thrust, they can be varied to use a more explosive variation, much like you can do with other exercises. Obviously the weight would be lighter. For this reason you could have them in interval training, but maybe longer intervals, so it’s not “sprint” training style tabata or the like, but maybe 45 seconds. I started including the Alternating single-leg Hip Thrusts in some intervals, and it worked quite well. But I still would prefer to use the set reps and progressive overload on these.

            Just did my first weight Glute Bridges in the gym today, they were GREAT! Got to 90kg x 5 reps. My butt was BUMPED!! haha it looked like a shelf after ;)

        • bianca says:

          Hi Gillian (aka Gryerpedia),

          could you please explain how to use the glute or the quad more in the rear lunge?

          Thanks
          Bianca

  3. Gina says:

    Marianne! This is great. I cannot wait to try these glute moves now with some of your tips and guidelines.
    I have done yoga for quite a few years, so I am used to bridging -but not elevated bridging or hip thrusting. Looking forward to new glutes! LOL.
    I am actually lucky enough to teach a class at my local gym called Kettle-Yoga. We do 45 min of KB’s followed by 45 min of yoga. I might just have to sneak in some of this glute work once I get to know it better myself.
    Your site is the BEST. Thanks so much!

  4. Great job Marianne!

    Squirrel, the method you described is not ideal for spinal stability or hip extension strength. However, I believe it can be done for spinal mobility purposes and even spinal segmental motor control, however spinal stability (and pelvic stability) and of course glute strength are paramount for preventing low back pain. The method you described uses the spinal erectors as prime movers with the glutes playing a lesser role as a prime mover. Most individuals need to learn how to stabilize their spine especially during challenging hip movements. The low abs will work with the glutes in the method you mentioned to posteriorly rotate the pelvis, and if the lower abs are drawn in (hollowed) then the TVA will be activated. The TVA issue has implications for low back pain sufferers but for normal folks this is not an issue as their TVA’s work fine (and the TVA doesn’t do much for stability anyway, and it gets worked during normal movement in its normal manners).

    So when doing Pilates, do it in the manner they suggest (but don’t believe everything that Pilates and Yoga instructors say as most aren’t aware of the research), but if performing bridging movements for the purpose of functional strength or hypertrophy, then perform them with a stiff core (which by the way requires decent erector spinae activation but not much abdominal coactivation, indicating that learning this pattern is due to motor control in the lumbopelvic region and especially increasing glute activation), and move mostly at the hips and not the spine.

  5. Mickela says:

    Love this post. I have been using the hip thrust a lot in my worokouts lately and yes as you say it has made a big difference.
    It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but now I find that it is really effective in strengthening the glutes. I actually really enjoy this exercise and I will be adding weights soon.
    The tutorial is very helpful to remind me of keeping my form.
    Thanks a gain to you and Bret for introducing this one to me.

    Cheers

  6. Slavka says:

    Hi Marianna

    I have been following your website for a while now. And I must admit you inspired me to cancel my ridiculously high gym membership, falling in love with kettlebels and buy some.

    Currently I am working on my glute activation and noticed that my left ‘cheek’ is lazier than my right one. How would you balance it? Should I do more reps/sets for my left cheek.

    Also when I do glute bridges, I tend to wobble when lowering. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for your time and great website.

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Slavka,

      Ah the love of the Kettlebell, music to my ears ;)

      Firstly I would not recommend doing more reps on the weaker side, or less reps on the stronger side. The left cheek amy just need a little extra time to “catch on”. I would start with that side during any activation drills and ensure the hip flexors are well warmed up and stretched too (both sides). Really focus your mind on that glute and practice throughout the day trying to clench each side individually. It sounds silly, but it will constantly reinforce that mind-muscle link and awareness.

      My left glute was very sleepy for ages and honesty I think KB Swings helped them a lot. Now, it is the inclusion of glute bridges that have helped.

      When you say you wobble, are you doing single leg glute bridges or bilateral? If you are wobbling with bilateral, then I guess you could take a slightly wider stance with your feet and place your arms out on the floor to provide more of a base for stability, until your glutes get stronger and can stabilise you better. It could be this imbalance that is causing the wobble. But practice makes perfect, so don’t give up :)

  7. [...] ago, you’ll see that most of them are thrustin’. Here’s a quote from my friend Marianne from a recent blogpost: Since my Interview with “The Glute Guy” (my friend Bret Contreras), I [...]

  8. Miriam says:

    Thank you, Marianne. I had been looking for a progression just like this, because as a fitness beginner I am not able to start with weighted hip thursts, but I really want to work my way up to those. This is perfect!

  9. [...] some more great info on how to successfully build a great booty, check out my friend Marianne of MyoMytv.com. She’s been implementing glute bridging exercises for only a short while and her backside is [...]

  10. Beata says:

    This was very helpful, as always. Thank you!

  11. tempest lowe says:

    you are so cute. i just have to meet you in person, and workout together.

  12. tempest lowe says:

    ok i have a question, two questions actually, one i always thought if you legs only were elevated that was good, so first ? first step after floor raises, is elevated shoulders? Also once i progress to both benches, which one should be slightly higher, the shoulder bench or foot bench? does this make sense?

    • Marianne says:

      For your first question – you can elevate the feet first too, but this will get the hamstrings more. The shoulder elevation gets the glutes more. You can mix it up if you need both :)

      Next, Both benches can be the same, or shoulders slightly higher. If the feet are higher, then you are going to be activating the hamstrings more again, if that makes sense?

      Hope this helps :)

  13. Jonathan says:

    Fantastic post. Well put together information and demonstrations. Thank you so much for all your hard work and for sharing it with all of us. And congratulations on your achievements over the past 2 years – well earned and noteworthy.
    I use many of these corrective and strengthening techniques with my clients, and I can vouch for their effectiveness as well. :)

  14. [...] Marianne of “girls gone strong”  Has an amazing post (highlighted there) if you want to learn more about the single leg hip thrust. [...]

  15. Dush says:

    Nice post, especially the tip about flattening the back on the floor. When I first started thrusting I felt it entirely in my low back. But I figured out that if I didn’t want to get into extention I should flex my back and lock that first and try and keep that position all the way though.

    This really helps but because of my posture I just cannot get as far up as most people do on the hip thrust so I stop short otherwise I use my low back to finish the movement.

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks Dush for the feedback. I think that initial flattening is a very helpful cue for everyone. It also helps people engage their abs properly.

      Cheers!

  16. Bianca says:

    Hi Marianne. Could you please tell me how tall your stepper is?

  17. Gina Gallagher says:

    Hi Marianne,
    Loved your tutorial on glute bridge progression to hip thrusts. I am trying to build my glutes so this is great info. Today did 3 sets of each progression of glute bridges. WOW that was a workout in itself. How often should I do these and when should I progress to weighted hip thrusts? I train legs 2x/week and am going to dedicate one of those days to glutes/hams focus. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Gina,

      You can do them say 3 times per week. You can tell you’re ready to progress the weight/variation when you can perform 3 sets of 12 – 15 reps with relative ease and good form.

      I currently do bridges and hip thrusts twice a week, but I have done them more in the past. So whatever works best for you at this time :)

  18. Joe says:

    How do you know if you are hyper-extending the lower back while hip thrusting or performing a glute bridge?

    • Marianne says:

      This is something you need to really focus on to know what your body is actually doing, and might even benefit from having someone film you so you can see what’s happening.Often times we think we are doing something correctly, but we ain’t. You can also feel your low back at the top and feel if the pelvis has sunken down or if the glutes are tight at the top. Go to a point where you feel the front of your hips tighten and no further … that is generally you end range. Over time, this range will naturally increase.

  19. Joe says:

    I wish I could get Bret to train me. I have my hip thrust up to 285lbs and I still do not have any glute development.

    • Marianne says:

      Wow, that’s great! Though do you mix this with higher rep Hip Thrusts too?

      • Joe says:

        I was just doing 3 sets of 12.

        • Marianne says:

          Okay, try mixing it up a bit and start going heavier with lower reps. Add a Iso-hold or don’t let the bar touch the floor between reps, putting the glutes under constant tension – change things up and you’ll see some change :)

          • Joe says:

            How long did it take before you started seeing results? Also, what is your heaviest hip thrust and bridge?

          • Marianne says:

            Only a few weeks before I saw results. Here is my heaviest Hip Thrust from last week!

          • Joe says:

            Congratulations! I saw a video on youtube where you did a set of 12, two sets of 8, a set of 5, and a set of 2. Is this your normal rep and set range?

          • Marianne says:

            No, normally I choose a weight that I can do 12 – 15 reps and do 3 sets. Or, on a different day, I will choose a weight I can do 5-6 reps and do 3 sets and then a lighter “bonus” set with 12- 15 reps to kill it and the end ;)

            In choosing a weight for 5 reps – your 5th rep should still be good form. So you should technically be able to do 6 or 7 with that weight before your form goes. That way, you have a safety net and will know each rep will count and give you full benefit, because your form is still good.

  20. Amber says:

    Hi! I just found your website and love it. Thank you for sharing your expertise and your passion. You are inspiring!

    On a side not, what sort of shoes are you wearing in this video! I love them!

    Thanks!

  21. [...] If you are new to this exercise, I highly recommend you read through my tutorial on proper progressions for the Hip [...]

  22. [...] Alternating Single-Leg Hip Thrust (remember to check out my post on proper Hip Thrust Progressions/Regressions) [...]

  23. [...] is a post on myomytv talking about her interview with Bret and some progressions to the hip thrust: Glute Bridge Progression to Hip Thrust | The Glute Journey | myomytv.com | Free Fitness Blog Certainly you have to do what works for you! Just passing along a few links. These were also [...]

  24. Phil says:

    Marianne,
    I enjoyed your article, but I feel it was lacking the way many other glute bridge articles do. The cues for these exercises are so completely different from coach to coach. In some places you mention “thinking glutes” in other places you mention “squeezing glutes” I’ve also heard just think push through heels, push through heels and lift hips, lift hips but don’t push through heels, don’t push through heels and just squeeze glutes, squeeze glutes and push through heels but don’t lift hips… and on and on… for those who have working glutes I think they translate almost any of these above cues into the correct action, so my question is, what is the correct cue?

    Thanks for your post, very informative stuff!

    • Marianne says:

      Phil, great question. To be honest, the answer differs from depending on the client. So the best cue (for that person) is the cue that they understand. Often I will describe the same exercise in different ways to the same person and something will “click” with *them*. While “think glutes” works for me, I would not be a good trainer if all I used were the cues that I responded to when i first learned.

      The “pushing through the heels”, or not, will depend on the exercise and the client’s experience/awareness etc. It may seem very confusing for some to hear all these different cues, but in my experience, very few are wrong, they just might seem that way if left not clarified to the trainee wanting to use them.

      Hope that helps :)

  25. […] out this article from Marianne Kane on bodyweight versions of glute bridges and hip […]

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