I feel that there is no such thing as an easy exercise.
There are some exercises that often get dismissed as easy because they can be performed without a whole lot of effort being put into them.
One of these exercises is the glute bridge.
If you are anything like I used to be, you can probably do sets of 1000 glute bridges. The only issue is that I was doing them completely wrong the whole time, while wondering why my back was killing me. I thought this was how they were supposed to be done when I first started working out.
Then there was a video product called Post Rehab Essentials from Dean Somerset where people were working and sweating hard just from doing some glute activation exercises. At the TPI certification this weekend, we also went through some exercises to activate the glutes. When done correctly, exercises to train the glutes are very difficult.
As a society, we spend a lot of time sitting down. We drive, work, and watch TV in a hips flexed position. When the hips are flexed and we are sitting on our butts, the glutes are completely shut off. The more time we spend in these positons, the more difficult it becomes to turn them back on.
This means that some people are not even ready to hop into a glute bridge yet. They will need to work much harder at an exercise that is simpler. By choosing an easier exercise in the progression we are able to get way more out it.
If we take an exercise that we are not strong enough for, we will only get minimal to no benefit. Take a more reasonable variation and dominate it, then we receive 100% of the benefits.
Here is how to progress the glute bridge.
- Supine Glute Activation
To perform this variation, lay on the back with the arms straight and head on the ground. Start by squeezing both glutes as hard as possible for 5 seconds. Repeat this 10 times. You can add time as you get better at this. Next, work on squeezing one glute at a time and holding independent of one another.
- Glute Bridge
Lay down on the ground. Bring the heels to the butt and lift the hips up to towards the ceiling. Use the glutes here. Nothing should be felt in the low back or hamstrings.
You can also play with arm position. Arms by the side will be easier than arms overhead.
- Bridge with Leg Extension
Take the same glute bridge that we just performed. Now extend one knee straight ahead and hold. Stop if this is felt anywhere but the glute.
- Marching Bridge
Again, get into a bridge position. Now pick one foot up and off of the ground about 6 inches. Repeat on the other leg, causing the lower body to march.
- Back Elevated Bridge
Put the back on a foam roller, or a box and perform these bridge variations. They will be much more difficult since the glutes have more distance to travel.
- Single Leg Bridge
Lastly, we can opt for single leg bridges. Bring one heel to the butt and one foot straight in the air. Lift the hips with the glutes only.
Use these bridge variations before getting into the major lifts of the day. Activated glutes will help with squatting, deadlifting, and benching. By adding some of these into a warm up, the glutes will be ready to rock and roll when it is time to get into the weight room.
I am by no means going to sit here and claim that these bridges are an exercise all by themselves. For some, they will be. People that are experience back pain may only be able to tolerate a bridge (and can potentially reduce their symptoms). There is nothing wrong with that but don’t assume a healthy person should glute bridge for an hour.
At the end of the day, we must be working towards our goals and glute activation is just a piece of the puzzle.