I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I’m a marathon runner with lazy glutes. Like many runners, I struggled to utilize the biggest and strongest muscle in the body when I run — that is the gluteus maximus. While I think about it, I’m pretty sure my gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are similarly lazy. I’m sure this is partly due to the amount of time I spend sitting down behind a desk, but in an attempt to change things, I added this simple glute exercise to my routine every day for a week.
The glute bridge is a relatively simple-looking exercise, that targets all three muscles in the glutes — the maximus, medius, and minimus. Like squats, they also work the backs of your legs, so your hamstrings will feel the burn too, as well as your core and abductor muscles, however unlike squats, they make it easier to isolate your glutes. If you struggle to understand what it means to ‘activate’ your glutes during a gym class or running session, this is the exercise to try. But what would happen if I did 70 weighted glute bridges a day for a week? Read on to find out more.
As a reminder, what works for me might not be right for you and your body. If you’re a beginner, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s a good idea to start with the bodyweight variation of this exercise and to check your form with a personal trainer before increasing the number of repetitions. I would never normally work my lower body every single day — it is important to give muscles time to recover, repair and grow.
How to do a weighted glute bridge
Ready to get started? Here’s how to do a weighted glute bridge with perfect form. For the ‘weight’ part of this exercise, you can use a barbell and position it across your hips, one of the best adjustable dumbbells, or a weight plate. When it comes to selecting the right weight, remember that the exercise should feel challenging, but not impossible, by the final few reps. The weight should never compromise your form.
- To do a weighted glute bridge with correct form, you’ll need to start by lying on your back on an exercise mat, with your feet pressed into the floor about hip-width apart, and a weight across your hips.
- Engage your core (think about sucking your belly button into your spine) and squeeze your glutes together as you raise your hips and pelvis to the sky.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top, before slowly lowering your hips back to their starting position. That’s one rep.
- Make sure the entire movement is slow and controlled.
When performing the glute bridge, be mindful of your lower back — don’t push your glutes up too high and hyperextend the lower back, as this can lead to injury. You also want to ensure you keep your hips level in this move — the movement should be coming from your glutes, and your hips shouldn’t be rocking from side to side.
Finally, be sure not to rush the movement as this will minimize the effectiveness of the exercise.
I did 70 weighted glute bridges every day for a week — here’s what happened
On the first day of this challenge, I grabbed one of my Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells and got to work. I opted to do five sets of 14 reps to reach my goal of 70 repetitions per day, taking a short break in between sets to re-set. I noticed I was feeling the exercise in my hamstrings, not my glutes, so really had to focus on squeezing my glutes at the top of the exercise. 70 reps later, I could definitely feel a twinge in my glutes and thought this challenge might be harder than I initially thought.
Glute bridges aren’t just a lower body exercise — when done correctly, you’ll also work your deep core muscles, including your pelvic floor, and transverse abdominis. As I didn’t really notice my core working on day one of this challenge, on day two, I really thought about squeezing my core and my pelvic floor as I raised my hips toward the ceiling.
Of course, a strong core is far more than just an aesthetic goal. A strong core can help protect your spine from injury, help improve your posture, and reduce lower back pain. If visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on reducing your overall body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters.
By day three of this challenge, I could really feel the move in my glutes from the first few reps. Again, far from being an aesthetic goal, studies have shown that the gluteus maximus is prone to weakness, which contributes to chronic pain and numerous types of injury. As a runner, I know that strong glutes can help me run faster, and with better form. Finally, glutes are crucial for balance, so strengthening your glutes is important even if you don’t play sports.
Days four and five
Like most of the week-long challenges we put ourselves through on the Tom’s Guide fitness desk, by day four, I was getting bored of the endless glute bridges. To mix things up, I decided to try a typical Pilates variation and raise up onto my tip toes during the glute bridges. This helped me work my calves too, making it a full lower-body workout.
For day six, I opted for one of my least favorite lower body exercises ever — single-leg glute bridges. Keeping the weight in place across my hips, I raised one leg up to the ceiling and kept one flat on the floor. Confused? To do a single-leg glute bridge, plant your left foot on the floor and raise your right leg up at a 45-degree angle. As you lift up, squeeze your glutes and keep your hips level. Think about keeping a straight line from the outstretched foot, through the hip, to the head.
I immediately noticed my dominant right-hand side was a lot stronger than my left, which was a lot wobblier. I found it much more difficult to keep my hips straight when focusing on my left leg, so this definitely gave me something to work on in the gym.
Of course, a week isn’t long enough to notice any visible difference in the body — sadly, building muscle takes a lot longer. That said, I definitely noticed my glutes felt stronger after a week of glute bridges and that when I went out for a run, I found it easier to activate my glutes when I was running. This is definitely an exercise I’ll be incorporating into my strength sessions in the future.