Glute Bridge Vs Hip Thrust? Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

In the pursuit of a perky, round, full behind, you've probably tried a lot of different exercises. Hip thrusts and glute bridges are some of the most popular and most effective. But which one is better and which one is best for you? Let's explore both exercises in depth and determine if there's a winner in the glute bridge vs. hip thrust debate.

Hip Thrust Vs. Glute Bridge: Similarities and Differences

The hip thrust exercise and the glute bridge exercise are very similar. Both involve lifting (or thrusting) your hips towards the ceiling while contracting your glute muscles. They both work the glute muscles, as well as the hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back, abdominals, and obliques. 

But there are a couple differences:

  • Hip thrusts are typically performed with shoulders on a bench, knees bent at 90 degrees, and upper body/hips parallel with the floor. 
  • Hip bridges are usually done with the shoulders on the ground.
  • Hip thrusts often use added resistance, such as a barbell, dumbbell, weight plate, or sandbag.
  • Hip bridges are most often done with only bodyweight.

Hip Thrust Vs. Glute Bridge: Pros and Cons

Neither exercise really has cons, per se, but each one has characteristics that make it more suitable for certain people and situations.

Hip thrust pros:

The biggest pro for the hip thrust exercise is its ability to build size and strength. Because you can load this exercise with resistance, you can challenge the muscles more than with glute bridges. It's also easy to progress the exercise by adding more weight. This way, you don't hit a plateau. You also work through a larger range of motion with a hip thrust, which increases the challenge and the potential for booty gains.

Hip thrust cons:

The biggest con is that it requires equipment. To do a classic barbell hip thrust, you would obviously need a barbell. You can substitute a barbell for any other weighted object, but you'll only be able to add weight up to a certain point. With a barbell you can continue to load.

Of course, you don't have to use weight for a hip thrust, but just note that you won't be able to easily progress the exercise. Progression is key to achieving size and strength goals.

You also need a bench to put your shoulders on. You could get away with using any old bench at home, as long as you put some padding on it to protect your shoulders. However, it's probably not a good idea to use a surface that's too soft, such as a couch or bed, because you need firm support for your upper body.

You also need to make sure the surface you use is the right height to make a good hip thrust bench substitute. Your knees should create a 90-degree angle at the top of the move, and your chest and hips should be at the same height when your spine is neutral. If you decide to try hip thrusts at home, find a surface that is 17 to 18 inches tall, which is the height of a standard weight bench.

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Glute bridge pros:

Glute bridges are accessible and great for beginners. As long as you can get down on the floor, you can do a glute bridge. In fact, individuals who have never done a hip thrust should start with glute bridges to get the hang of the hip movement and build a foundation of strength.

Glute bridges are a great way to warm up for bigger lifts like hip thrusts squats and deadlifts. Many people have trouble activating their glute muscles, but it's crucial if you want to get the most out of these exercises. Starting with a dynamic, targeted warm up including glute bridges can help you warm up your posterior chain and "activate activation."

You can do hip bridges anywhere you can comfortably lie down. Typically a yoga mat or an exercise mat works best, but you can use a carpeted surface or even grass, too. And, you don't even need any shoes.

Glute bridge cons:

Glute bridges can help you build a good foundation of strength and tone your glute muscles, but at a certain point you'll max out your booty gains. You also use a smaller range of motion when you do glute bridges, which isn't as effective for building size and strength. Still, there are options for adding challenge.

Hip Thrust Vs. Glute Bridge: Which Is Better?

Both exercises are worth having in your booty-building program—eventually. If you're just starting out, do glute bridges for a while and really learn the proper technique, discussed below. Focus on getting the glute activation that is key to making both glute bridges and hip thrusts really effective.

If you've already been working out a while, you can use glute bridges as a dynamic warm up. Before your hip thrust workout do a set or two of glute bridges to activate your glutes.

Glute bridges can be a great exercise to do if you're sidelined with an injury that prevents you from lifting heavy, or if you just want to get some gentle movement in on a rest day.

illustration of woman doing glute bridge exercise

How to Do the Glute Bridge Exercise

1. Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Extend your arms alongside your body.

2. Press your entire spine firmly into the floor. Keep this neutral spine throughout the movement.

3. Press into your feet and lift your hips off the ground. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core muscles of your abdomen and lower back tight.

4. Raise your hips until your pelvis is in a straight line with or just past the height of your knees. Don't allow your back to arch—keep that neutral spine.

5. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.

Ways to Progress the Glute Bridge

When you can do about 20 glute bridges with perfect form, you're ready for something a little more challenging. Single-leg glute bridges are just the answer. It's the same exact exercise, but you start with one leg extended. The foot of the extended leg never touches the floor, and all the strength is coming from the single leg and glute.

Start your single-leg glute bridge workout by alternating each rep. Then, increase the challenging by doing a full set on one leg, then switching and doing a full set on the opposite leg.

You can also hold a dumbbell or a medicine ball to add resistance. Hold it resting on your pelvis as you do the exercise.

Progress a single-leg glute bridge by placing your grounded foot on an unstable surface such as a wobble cushion.

How to Do the Hip Thrust Exercise

Select the weight you'll be using. Start with something light, like a medicine ball or a 10- to 25-pound dumbbell. You can also use an empty 35- or 45-pound barbell.

Position the bench lengthwise and sit down with your back to it. Place the weight in your lap in the crease of your thighs and lower abdomen.

Place your feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart with your knees bent. Squeeze your glute muscles and press through your feet to raise your hips up. At the top of the move, your spine should be in a neutral position with your hips in full extension. Note: do not overextend so that your back begins to arch.

Make sure that your shins are perpendicular to the floor, your knees are bent to 90-degrees and pointing straight ahead. If you're positioning is off, come down and readjust; don't try to do it at the top of the move with weight on you.

 

Ways to Progress the Hip Thrust

The most obvious way to progress a hip thrust is to simply add weight. However, if you don't have a lot of equipment, or you don't have a spotter to help you lift very heavy weight, you can do single-leg hip thrusts. This is the same as the single-leg glute bridge. Keep one foot on the floor and extend the other leg out straight while you complete the exercise.

Even if you have the equipment and the spotter, it's a good idea to include single-leg hip thrusts in your routine. Single-leg exercises improve balance and stability and they can help with muscular imbalances. Everyone has imbalances, where one muscle group tends to be stronger than the same muscle group on the other side. In those cases, the stronger muscle tends to take over. Single-leg exercises help you isolate those weaker muscles to strengthen them.

Tips:

If you don't have any equipment, you can use a milk jug filled with water, or anything else you can easily hold and that has a flat enough surface to balance evenly on your pelvis.

Work with lighter weights until you perfect the move. Concentrate on getting full extension and contracting your glutes for a full second at the top. Make sure you're lowering down with control.

When you are using a heavy barbell, you might need a spotter to place the barbell on you before you start the exercise. If you're using large bumper plates, you can probably slide your legs under it.

With a heavy barbell, you'll likely want some padding between your hips and the bar. You can use a foam pad or a folded towel.

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Hip Thrust Vs. Squat

The squat is the gold standard when it comes to the best glute exercises. And squatting is a great exercise. But the hip thrust may actually have a slight edge over the squat.

A 2015 study compared the surface electromyographic (EMG) activity of the barbell back squat and the barbell hip thrust and found that the hip thrust activated the glute muscles more than the squat. How much a muscle group is activated during a particular exercise typically correlates to how well it stimulates hypertrophy (muscle growth) and increases strength.

That doesn't mean you should only do hip thrusts, though. In fact, you should be performing both of these exercises as part of a well-rounded lower-body strength-training routine, in addition to other exercises. 

But what's the best way to organize your leg-day routine?

Both squats and hip thrusts are compound exercises, meaning they use multiple muscle groups at once. Typically, you'll want to start with your biggest compound move first, which in this case is squats. Squats activate muscles throughout your body, while hip thrusts are more focused on the glutes and hamstrings.

Start your workout with a dynamic warm up including glute bridges, air squats, leg swings, butt kicks and high knees. Perform your weighted squats and then the other exercises in your routine, including hip thrusts. Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and there's no reason you can't do hip thrusts before squats if that feels better to you and gets results. 

Bottom Line

In the debate Hip Thrusts Vs Glute Bridge there isn't a winner, because it's kind of like comparing apples to oranges. Both exercises have pros and cons, and both exercises are worth including in your workout routine.

This article was written by PIXIBU founder Jody Braverman, RYT200, NASM-CPT. Read more about her and PIXIBU here.

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