A common fitness goal amongst women is building stronger (and rounder) glutes. Although most think of the squat as the go-to move to build a stronger peach, hip thrusts and glute bridges are superior at targeting the glutes. This doesn't mean you should remove the barbell squat from your workout routine, instead incorporate glute bridges and hip thrusts on your leg day to help you strengthen your glutes and entire posterior chain!
To someone new to strength training, the glute bridge exercise and hip thrust might look the same, and although they share some similarities, they're not identical. They are key differences between these exercises and knowing those differences will help you better determine which one you should be prioritizing and when you should be doing them.
Below, we'll be detailing the differences between the glute bridge and hip thrust, plus how and when to do them! That way you can grow your glutes effectively, and get those strong legs you've been dreaming of!
What's the difference between a glute bridge and hip thrusts?
Both of these glute exercises share a similar movement pattern in that they involve lifting the hips towards the ceiling and squeezing the glutes at the top. They also engage the same muscle groups – the entire gluteal region, hamstrings, core, lower back, and hip flexors.
So, what's the difference?
The glute bridge is done laying flat on the floor, this places a greater focus on activating the glutes, but it has a smaller range of motion. This means that you're only able to work your hips through a limited range of motion which reduces the overall functionality of the move. It's also a bodyweight exercise that can be done at home with no equipment. It's typically done with a resistance band, dumbbells, or a barbell. However, it's difficult to make progress with a glute bridge so barbell glute bridges aren't as popular as barbell hip thrusts.
On the other hand, the hip thrust is performed with the shoulders and upper back on a bench or any platform. This allows you to push your hips from full flexion to full extension and work your glutes harder. Unlike the glute bridge, it requires some equipment, like a bench, a pair of dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a barbell. They're much easier to make progress because you're able to load the barbell, opposed to the glute bridge which has a limited range of motion.
Although the muscles worked are the same, the glute bridge exercise has a limited range of motion which reduces the functionality of the movement and limits the amount of weight you can push. While the hip thrust involves a full range in motion and the weight can easily be increased to continue making progress. This doesn't mean you should remove the glute bridge from your workout routine, instead learn when to implement each exercise.
How to do a glute bridge
Before we go into the when we have to discuss how to do a glute bridge with proper form and technique. Since the glute bridge exercise is a home friendly exercise, we'll be giving instructions on how to do it with a resistance band. But you're able to add a dumbbell for those that want to increase the resistance for better muscle activation.
How to do it:
- Wrap a short resistance band around your thighs, slightly above your knees. Lie on your back and bend your knees. Bring your heels close to the glutes, but not so much that they’re touching. Keep your feet hips-width part with your arms flat on the mat.
- Engage your core so your back presses into the floor.
- Press your heels into the mat and lift your hips up toward the ceiling until they’re aligned with your knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the stretch, hold for a few seconds, and lower your hips back down. Make sure your shoulders and arms aren’t lifting off the mat.
Although you can't increase the weight as you would with hip thrust, there is a more advanced variation that can isolate the glutes for a greater challenge and muscle recruitment – the single leg glute bridge.
To do a single leg glute bridge, simply follow the instructions above, except instead of having both feet planted on the floor, you'll isolate one leg. This means one foot is on the floor, while the other is extended so that its pointing towards the ceiling. Perform the desired amount of reps and repeat the movement on the other leg.
When to do a glute bridge
Glute bridges are low-impact and beginner-friendly making them a perfect hip thrust alternative for beginners or those who can't push heavy weights due to hip pain. They can also be made more advanced by adding a weight or doing the single-leg variation. So, you can do it in your usual workout routine, but we suggest doing the glute bridge for...
Active recovery: Active recovery is typically done in place of a rest day. It involves doing light exercise to improve muscle recovery. An active recovery exercise you can do is stretching! Adding glute bridges in your stretching routine will help relieve tight muscles, improve your recovery, and flexibility.
Glute activation: Before you start your leg day, do a few glute activation exercises to fire up your glutes! Activating your glutes before your workout will ensure that the glutes are active and working as you perform heavy hip thrusts and squats.
Home workouts: Home workouts are huge lifesaver when you can't make it to the gym, or you just want to avoid the crowd. Most don't have a full home gym set up, so if you're unable to implement hip thrusts because you don't have a bench or heavy weights then opt for glute bridges! You can do bodyweight glute bridges but if you have resistance bands or dumbbells, we suggest adding that for more intensity.
How to do a hip thrust
To reap the glute building benefits of hip thrusting, we highly suggest doing barbell hip thrusts. The heavier weight allows for more muscle activation and recruitment which reaps better results. However, beginners should start with dumbbell hip thrust to get adjusted to the movement.
We'll be giving a directions on how to do a barbell hip thrust, but beginners can replace the barbell with a dumbbell and follow the same steps. We also suggest using a barbell pad to avoid adding pain and bruises to the hip bones, plus having one will allow you to push heavier weights comfortably!
How to do it:
- Load your barbell and wrap a barbell pad around the bar for comfort. Place your back against the bench, making sure that only your shoulder blades and upper back are touching it. Plant your feet flat on the ground a few inches ahead of you and roughly shoulder-width apart.
- We suggest having a spotter place the barbell comfortable and safely on your hips, but if you're alone, then roll the barbell into the crease of your hips. Just be careful when doing this.
- Make sure that your back is neutral and flat, brace your core, and squeeze your glutes. Before you push the bar up, maintain a forward gaze with your neck slightly tucked into your chin. This will prevent lumbar hyperextension and an unwanted strain on your neck.
- Now, using your torso as a lever push your hips up towards the ceiling driving through your heels until you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Lockout at the top of the movement and pause for a second or two.
- Begin to decent slowly back to the starting position before bracing for your next rep.
If you need more help, we have 8 tips that will help you perform hip thrusts with excellent form and technique for better results!
When to do hip thrusts
Hip thrusts are higher-impact than glute bridges, and not really beginner-friendly. So, this is not a warm up exercise! You can do bodyweight hip thrusts, but you're better off doing glute bridges.
Hip thrust training is better for advanced lifters who are used to hinging at the hip and have a good amount of leg and core strength. So, stick to doing them at the gym (or at home if you have the equipment) in the beginning of your lower body workout. They are a compound exercise which means they recruit multiple joints at muscles at once, and since its a heavy and challenging exercise, you want to do it at the beginning when your performance is at its highest.
In summary, both glute bridges and hip thrusts are great for targeting and strengthening the gluteal muscles. To make your leg days more effective stick to glute bridges for glute activation and home workouts, and implement hip thrust training for your heavy leg days.
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