“How can I firm up my bum? It’s a question that frequently comes up during training sessions. All too often we’re not happy with how we look in our jeans, we think our bottoms look too big, too flat, a bit saggy … and of course, there’s a whole array of exercises we can prescribe tohelp improve gluteal muscle strength and definition, anything from squats to lunges, deadlifts to cable kicks. But the glute bridge is one of our favourites, possibly because it also happens to be one of the most effective!
We are increasingly a nation of “sitters” many of us have to sit all day in an office, we sit in the car or on the train to commute to work and most evenings see us sitting for a couple of hours (or more) in front of the tv. Not surprising then, that our glutes, the largest muscle group in our body, get weaker and lose their shape!
The glutes consist of three muscles; the gluteus maximus (the largest and outermost muscle), the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus which are the deeper muscles of the glutes. Together these muscles are responsible for hip extension (moving the hip and leg backwards to facilitate walking or running), hip rotation, and abduction (sideways movement of the leg away from the body). Strong glutes allow us to sit, squat and stand easily and allow explosive movements like jumping and sprinting. The glutes also play an important role in posture; if they are weak you are likely to suffer imbalances in the hip, leading to poor posture and possible lower back, hamstring, groin and knee pain or injury.
So how do we do a glute bridge to help strengthen our beloved bottoms? To perform a basic bridge you need to lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Relax your arms on the floor a little away from your body. Squeeze your glutes whilst at the same time tilting your pelvis a little to lift your tailbone just slightly off the floor. You should feel your back flatten into the floor as you do this. Make sure your abs are engaged (gently pull your belly button in towards your spine). Press your feet and your shoulders into the floor and use your glutes to push your hips up creating a straight line from shoulders up to knees. It is important to focus on using your glutes to push your hips up to prevent your hamstrings and lower back from doing all the work. Keep your abs engaged, making sure your rib cage doesn’t flare out as you come up and don’t hyperextend the back. Hold this position for a few seconds before slowly releasing back down, bit by bit onto the mat. Try not to just lower the body straight down but think about the vertebrae rolling down one by one.
This may look like an easy exercise but it is not just the glutes that are working, the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus particularly) and erector spinae are working to stabilize your spine and prevent your pelvis from tilting too far forward. It is important to focus on good form and avoid hyperextending the lower back, creating a more arched position.
Once you are comfortable regularly performing two sets of 10-12 basic glute bridges, holding each one for a few seconds, you can progress to more advanced versions.
Single Leg Glute Bridge:
Start as if performing a basic glute bridge but before lifting hips off the floor, extend one leg out straight then squeeze glutes and raise hips as before, keep the leg extended so that it is in line with your body.
You can also perform a single leg bridge with one leg pointing straight up.
Glute Bridges on a Stability Ball:
Place both heels on top of a stability ball and raise hips to create a straight line between shoulders and heels. This is much more challenging with core muscles working hard to stabilize you.