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January 14, 2022 8 min read

Thanks to fitness influencers on social media, the glute bridge and hip thrust are more popular than ever.

Both men and women want to have a nice butt, but the benefits of glute bridges and hip thrusts go far beyond vanity.

Having strong glutes and hamstrings not only looks good on you, but also provides mobility benefits and injury prevention, particularly during exercises such as deadlifts. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, the glute bridge and hip thrust are two different lower body exercises. This is the difference between glute bridges vs hip thrusts.

The Importance of Glute Training

Glute training gets a reputation for the aesthetic motivations behind it. The booty is back, and fit-conscious men and women are finally starting to take this muscle seriously. That’s a good thing!

Not only are toned, developed glutes attractive, they’re also good for you. 

Glute strength training offers protection of the back, specifically the lower back. Having strong glutes helps you effectively shift the tension of lifting heavy loads from your back to your glutes. This is why poor glute activation during deadlifts often results in lower back pain.

The glute protects the muscle groups in the back. 

For example, think about the common glute-based exercise, the Romanian Deadlift (RDL). This exercise is a standard hinge movement. The hinge movement refers to the action of bending over, hinging at the hips. In an RDL, you hinge at the hips while holding weight and an RDL with proper form will result in posterior chain engagement (glutes, hamstrings).

To the untrained eye, it may look as if you are lifting with your back.

The reality is that the RDL trains you to actively lift with your glutes and hamstrings, not your back. Isolated glute training exercises such as glute bridges and hip thrusts should be an essential part of your routine, especially if you hit the squat rack and do deadlifts. Incorporating a few isolated glute exercises into your routine is a great way to improve your compound movement exercises like barbell back squats and deadlifts.

Glute bridges and hip thrusts might just be the secret sauce that gets you to your new PR. 

Glute strength training with glute bridges and hip thrusts can also reduce your risk of straining your back during everyday activities in life as well, such as picking your kids up or doing yardwork. You can improve your mind-muscle connection with your posterior chain by practicing glute activation. This will lead you to lift with your butt rather than your back almost instinctively. 

What is a Glute Bridge?


The  glute bridge is a common bodyweight exercise that you have likely seen before.

Glute bridges are an excellent non-impact glute training exercise that can help mitigate the damage caused by sitting at a desk job all day. The glute bridge is not just about building a bigger and better butt, but rather building a solid foundation of glute muscle mass and activation, which can protect your back and increase hip mobility.

The key to this movement is to concentrate on glute engagement, not just the motion.  You will want to actively squeeze your glutes and hamstrings, focusing on your posterior chain muscles to lift your hips in the air. Slow and controlled movements is best, as you will want to increase your time under tension in this exercise. 

To properly perform a glute bridge:

  1. Get on the floor in the supinated position (on your back).
  1. Place your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent, slightly more than hip-width apart. Keep your arms to your sides, on the floor.
  1. Lift your hips up to your knees, squeezing your glutes on the way.
  1. Repeat 15-30 reps, or until desired time under tension is reached.

Pro Tip: You can make this exercise more challenging with a resistance band around your thighs. A heavy duty cloth resistance band, specifically designed for glute training, is best. You can also add weight with a plate or dumbbell on top of your hips.

Glute Bridge Variations

1. Use a Resistance Band


If you don’t want to place weights on your hips, then a heavy duty cloth resistance band can do wonders for adding resistance in a comfortable way.

Sometimes these bands are called “booty bands,” and for good reason.

With proper use during squats, hip thrusts, and glute bridges, they force our bodies to engage our glutes. If you have trouble activating your glutes during the glute bridge, then resistance bands are for you. It’s sort of like a cheat code for your glutes. 

To do a resistance band during a glute bridge:

  1. Step into the resistance band and place it just above your knees. You want it resting right above the boney part of your knee, at the lowest part of the quadricep.
  1. Spread your legs out hip-width apart, just enough to create tension on the band. Various sizes of these resistance bands exists, and you may need to go smaller or larger depending on your size.
  1. Perform repetitions with a full range of motion, as you spread your legs apart gently, resisting the tension on the band as it tries to force your legs back together.
  1. Aim for 15-30 reps, or 40-60 seconds.

2. Add Weight


You can increase the weight by adding a plate or dumbbell on your hips. Some people may find this uncomfortable and clunky, but if it doesn’t bother you, then it’s a great way to progress this exercise.

3. Single Leg Glute Bridge


Work one glute out at a time with this method. This automatically doubles the load that you put on each glute.  

To perform a single leg glute bridge:

  1. Put one leg up in the air, straight and diagonal. This leg should be in a fairly comfortable position.
  1. Place the heel of the leg that you will be bridging with on the floor.
  1. Raise your hips up and down with each rep as if you were doing a regular glute bridge.

What is a Hip Thrust?

The hip thrust is one of the best exercises you can do to build glute strength.  

According to a Journal of Sports Medicine, “the barbell hip thrust exercise and its variations are expected to demonstrate higher GMax excitation levels when compared to any exercise that includes simultaneous knee and hip flexion/extension movement, such as squats and their variations” This means that the barbell hip thrust is superior to squats for glute activation.

The hip thrust and glute bridge look very similar at first glance.

They both involve the supinated position (abdomen facing up) and thrusting your hips upward. Perhaps the hallmark differences between a hip thrust vs glute bridge is that the  hip thrust uses a bench.

The hip thrust also lends itself better to the use of the barbell. The technique, however, is mostly the same. Many consider the hip thrust to a progression of the glute bridge because of the increased range of motion due to being off the floor. 

To perform a hip thrust:

  1. Grab a bench and sit down on the ground with the edge of the bench touching your shoulder blades.
  1. If you are adding weight, place the barbell over your waist.
  1. Thrust your hips upward until your reach the apex of the movement. Squeeze your glutes on the way up.
  1. Repeat 10-20 reps, depending on your training goals.

Hip Thrust Variations

1. Glute Drive Machine

Some gyms have a glute drive machine. The glute drive functions like a hip thrust, because it provides a greater range of motion. In the glute drive, the rep happens below the starting position. You start at the top until you remove it from the rack. 

To use a Glute Drive:

  1. Load the machine with the desired weight. Most of them have a starting resistance of about 15 lbs.
  1. Strap yourself into the machine, making sure the belt is secure and over your hips.
  1. Keep your feet near the middle of the platform. Depending on your height, you may need to move your feet up or down. One telltale sign that you need to adjust your feet is if you are feeling the tension primarily in your quads. The glutes and hamstrings should be the prime movers here.
  1. Thrust your hips up towards the ceiling gently, removing the rack and letting the bench drop to the floor.
  1. Go nearly all the way down to the floor and come up to the top as high as you can go on each repetition. Use the full range of motion to your advantage.
  1. Perform 10-20 reps, depending on your training goals. 

Glute Drive Variations

Paused Lifts

Try pausing at the top of the lift for 3-5 second on each rep. This will increase the time under tension that your glutes and hamstrings go through. By Adding several seconds to each rep, you can easily reach 60 seconds of TUT with just 12-15 reps.

Pulsing with a Glute Drive

Pulsing, in this particular exercise, simply means doing shallow, quick reps up near the top. In a pulse, you do not use a full range of motion. In fact, you intentionally reduce the range of motion to increase the TUT. By staying up near the top of the lift, you keep a constant tension on the glutes and hamstrings.

Try this Booty Blasting Hip Thrust/Pulse Superset:

  1. Set up the glute drive as if you were doing a normal set of 10-20.
  1. Do 3 repetitions with a full range of motion
  1. Immediately after the third repetition, start pulsing 3-6 times at the top of the lift. It will look like a very shallow movement at top.
  1. Repeat that pattern 2-3 times.

Pro Tip: When trying something new like pulsing, it may look like sloppy form. Don’t worry about it! The limited range of motion in this exercise and is intended to be complimentary to the full ROM reps.

Glute Bridge vs Hip Thrust (FAQ’s)

1. What are the pros and cons of a hip thrust?

The hip thrust allows for a greater range of motion than the glute bridge. The hip thrust has more potential to increase training volume, because it’s easy to use a barbell with this exercise. It is, however, easier to fall victim to synergistic dominance. Synergistic dominance is when the prime mover muscles of a particular exercise experience minimal activation, and the synergists end up taking over to complete the movement.

In the barbell hip thrust, glute activation is key. If you’re trying to work out your quadriceps, there are better exercises for that than a hip thrust, such as leg extension or lunges. In the case of the hip thrust, the quadriceps are synergists. The glutes and hamstrings are the prime movers for this exercise.

2. What are the pros and cons of a glute bridge?

The strength of the glute bridge is in its limited range of motion. When you are lifting something off of the floor, it’s hard to have bad form. If you need a reminder of this, just try performing a bench press off of the floor instead of a bench. The floor forcing you to end the movement. This results in less quadricep activation.

For beginners, the glute bridge is an essential exercise to do before the hip thrust.

A hip thrust is arguably a progression of the glute bridge. The glute bridge forces us to rest for a second between each rep, thereby reducing the TUT of the set. If you want to avoid this, you will need to avoid coming all the way down on each rep.

Getting Through Leg Day

How do you focus on glute activation when your legs are already exhausted from the squats, leg presses, deadlifts, leg extensions, calf raises and hamstring curls. When your legs run out of gas, synergistic dominance takes over. That’s not good. On your leg days, muscle activation and endurance is key

The glute bridge and hip thrust are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different glute exercises for you to incorporate into your lower body strength training workout routine.

The glute bridge and hip thrust are excellent non-impact exercises for building your glutes and hamstrings.

A glute bridge can be done anywhere, and a hip thrust can be done most places. The hip thrust is a progression on the glute bridge, and it is best to master the glute activation with a glute bridge first. The glute bridge and hip thrust are just two of the many glute exercises that you can do from the comfort of your own home.