When doing a lower body workout, you might focus on the classics like lunges and squats. But more complicated moves, like hip thrusts and glute bridges, have a lot to offer, too. So if you’re looking to level up your glute strength, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by incorporating one — or both — of the exercises into your routine... even though they require a bit more effort.
The glute bridge, in case you need a refresher, is a low-impact move where you lie on your back, bend your knees, and lift your hips into the air, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Shelby Stover, CSCS. “A glute bridge primarily targets the gluteus maximus — the largest bum muscle — in the process of hip extension,” Stover tells Bustle. You can hold a static glute bridge or lift and lower your hips for a more dynamic exercise.
Then you’ve got the hip thrust, which is similar but works your lower body a bit differently. According to Stover, a hip thrust is essentially an elevated glute bridge. To do it, you lean your back against a bench, chair, or step and then lift and lower your hips. “This gives the glutes a larger range of motion and develops greater strength,” she says.
While both moves work the glutes, they each have their own unique benefits, which is why you might want to focus on one over the other or add them both into your routine to take your workout to the next level. Here’s what to know about glute bridges vs. hip thrusts, according to fitness experts.
Benefits Of Glute Bridges
No surprises here, but glute bridges primarily work the glutes. Strengthening this area can make everyday tasks easier, reduce back pain, and help support the pelvic floor, Stover explains. “This is because the glutes help support and stabilize your body, but are often not as engaged as they should be.” Give them more attention, and you’ll definitely be able to tell the difference.
The movement of a glute bridge also targets the hamstrings, lower back, and hip adductors, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Avi Silverberg, MSc. Because it zeros in on these areas, a glute bridge can make for an excellent warm-up exercise before you get into other things, like squats or deadlifts. “The glutes are most activated when you lockout your hips at the top of a squat or deadlift movement,” he tells Bustle. “Therefore, if you find that these are your weaknesses or sticking points, you may benefit from adding glute bridges into your warm-up routine.”
To feel it mostly in your glutes, keep your feet planted closer together. If you want to engage the hip adductors more, you should then widen your feet, Silverberg says. To up the resistance even more, you can hold a weight in your lap or place a resistance band above your knees and push it against it as you raise and lower.
Benefits Of Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, whether you do them with a barbell or dumbbell in your lap or simply rely on your own bodyweight. Just like glute bridges, hip thrusts can be adjusted depending on where you place your feet, and also by adding more weight to a barbell in your lap.
“If you want to feel it in your quads more, keep your feet closer to your hips and focus on statically pushing your feet in the direction of your toes,” says Silverberg. “If you want to feel your hamstrings more, try to keep your feet further away and lift your feet up.”
Adding extra resistance to the move can also help you increase your muscle size. According to Silverberg, the extra weight along with the larger range of motion required of a hip thrust forces your muscles to adapt as you get used to your workout. To put it in gym speak, that means you’ll see more gains by doing hip thrusts.
Another cool perk? Hip thrusts can be used to improve your posture. “If you spend a lot of time being sedentary and in a seated position, the hip thrust is a great exercise to work the muscles that have been relaxed while seated and slouched for long durations,” Silverberg says.
Glute Bridge Vs. Hip Thrust
Clearly, the two moves have a lot in common. “The glute bridge and the hip thrust both perform the same movement — a hip extension — and use the same group of muscles,” Stover says. They’re both gentle on the body as well, but hip thrusts are more challenging (largely due to the elevation aspect) and require more equipment in the form of a bench and weights.
The position of your body also sets the two moves apart. Because you aren’t pressed against the floor during a hip thrust, you have to try a little harder to balance throughout the move. “Couple that with a bigger range of motion and the hip thrust requires a bit more strength and stability, as well as the recruitment of other, smaller muscle groups,” Stover adds. This is what gives you those gains in strength, though. Training a muscle through a larger range of motion, and in a more stretched position, is better for increasing strength and size in muscle, Silverberg says. “This ultimately makes the hip thrust superior to glute bridges for building muscles.”
Stover recommends focusing on the glute bridge when you’re first learning to engage your glutes or if you’re brand new to fitness. “It is a wonderful, low-impact exercise with a lot of support,” she says. Once you get the glute bridge down, that’s when you might want to progress to a hip thrust. “Choose the one best suited to your fitness level and needs,” Stover says, “and scale up from there.” Either way, your butt workouts will benefit.
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Schoenfeld, B. J. 2020. Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: A systematic review. SAGE open medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050312120901559.
Shelby Stover, CSCS, certified strength and conditioning specialist
Avi Silverberg, MSc, certified strength and conditioning specialist