Glute Bridges vs Hip Thrusts: Elevating Your Glute Training

In the world of strength and conditioning, glute bridges and hip thrusts stand as two excellent exercises that can complement each other. While the glute bridge primes the movement pattern and activates the glutes during warm-up, the hip thrust takes it up a notch, loading the glute muscles to foster strength development. 

This article will explore the nuanced differences between glute bridges and hip thrusts, helping you understand their benefits and key differences and how to incorporate them effectively into your workout routine for optimal lower body development.

Understanding Glute Bridges and Hip Thrusts

The glute bridge and hip thrust are known as hip extension or hip-hinging-based exercises, but their setup is the main difference between them. Hip thrusts are performed with the shoulder elevated on a bench, allowing for a deeper movement, enabling greater glute activation and the potential for adding more weight when compared to the glute bridge, which is performed on the ground with body weight. 

  • Glute Bridge:  A foundational lower body exercise, the glute bridge involves lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then lifting your hips towards the ceiling. This movement primarily targets the gluteus maximus, with secondary engagement of the hamstrings and core.
  • Hip Thrust:  Building upon the glute bridge, the hip thrust is performed with your upper back resting on a bench or elevated surface, feet flat on the ground, and driving the hips upward, often with added weight across the pelvis for increased resistance. This setup allows for a greater range of motion and more intense focus on the glutes.

Glute Bridges vs Hip Thrusts: Key Differences and Similarities

Muscles Worked

Both the glute bridge and hip thrust primarily target the gluteus maximus, with some engagement of the hamstrings and erector spinae, quads, adductor and core muscles. 

The hip thrust offers greater glute activation due to it’s larger range of motion and the potential to lift heavier weights more comfortably. 

Labelled diagram of the muscles worked during glute bridges and hip thrusts

Joints Worked and Ranges of Motion

Glute bridges and hip thrusts both involve a hip-hinging movement pattern. However, the table below highlights how the hip thrust allows for a greater range of motion at the hip joint, which can contribute to more effective glute activation and development.

JointGlute BridgeHip Thrust
Hip JointModerate to High ROMHigh ROM
Knee JointModerate ROMModerate to High ROM
Ankle JointLow ROMLow to Moderate ROM

Technique and Execution

  • Glute Bridge: Focus on pressing through your heels and squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement for maximum engagement. Ensure your core is braced throughout the exercise to protect your lower back.
  • Hip Thrust: Position the weight securely across your hips and maintain a strong, stable core. Drive through your heels, lifting your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees, then lower back down with control.

Specific Scenarios for Each Exercise

  • Glute Bridge: Excellent for beginners or those focusing on core stability, glute activation or the hip hinge movement pattern, as well as those with limited equipment. Also beneficial as part of a dynamic warm-up during lower body sessions. 
  • Hip Thrust: Best suited for intermediate to advanced athletes seeking to maximise glute strength and hypertrophy. The ability to add significant weight makes it a powerful exercise for enhancing lower body strength, power and performance. 

Other Considerations

  • Safety: Both exercises are generally safe when performed with proper form. However, as you add weight to hip thrusts, ensure you are maintaining the correct trunk position to protect the spine. 
  • Progression: Start with bodyweight glute bridges, gradually adding resistance. Progress to hip thrusts as you become more comfortable with the movement and seek further strength and hypertrophy gains.
  • Equipment: Glute bridges can be performed anywhere with no equipment. Hip thrusts typically require a bench, weights and floor space.

Conclusion

Glute bridges and hip thrusts are both excellent exercises for targeting the glutes, each with its own set of benefits and best practices.

Whether you’re a beginner focusing on glute activation or an advanced athlete seeking to maximize lower body strength, incorporating both exercises into your routine can lead to improvements in glute development and overall performance.

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Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.