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Bridge Exercise: How To, Variations, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing the bridge exercise, what will the effects be?

The bridge exercise, also known as hip raises or glute bridges, is an exercise where you start lying down on your back with your feet on the ground. You then raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

This exercise is mainly done to strengthen glute muscles but it engages other muscles too. Many people will benefit from adding the bridge exercise to their routine.

For many people the main downside of the bodyweight bridge exercise is that it is not challenging enough to build a lot of muscle. As a strength training beginner you can build some muscle with a bodyweight bridge but likely soon you will have to make it more challenging or turn to other exercises.

Whether you should add the bridge exercise or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, the equipment you have available, and training goals.

How to do a bridge

For the bridge exercise you preferably want a yoga mat or other soft surface to lie on. To do a bridge take the following steps:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor or other soft surface. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width at a distance where your lower legs are more or less vertical in the next step. If you want to, hold any weights on your body at the hip level. If not put your arms at your sides for balance.
  2. Move up your hips in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Make sure your arms are only used for balance, not for pushing yourself up.
  3. Slowly lower your body again.

You can do both a hold at the top of the bridge or do up-and-down repetitions. In most situations doing more dynamic repetitions will offer the most results for the least amount of time.

Make sure you don’t raise your hips higher than a straight line to avoid any back injuries.

How to do a bridge

Bridge exercise variations

The bridge done with just your body weight on a flat surface is the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few bridge exercise variations and modifications to make the exercise harder and engage extra muscles.

How to make bridges harder

For some exercises like a pull-up, the full version is not always an option for everyone. However, in the case of glute bridges this is likely not needed since your muscles likely have to exert more effort in your daily life than this exercise.

A bodyweight bridge is generally an exercise that becomes relatively easy, relatively soon. At this point, you may need to turn to other exercises or make bridges harder to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.

Making bridges harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up progress compared to doing the regular bodyweight variation over and over.

Doing one-legged glute bridges is the first simple no equipment way to do this. This makes it so each side has to push up double the weight. Remember to do the same number of repetitions on each side to avoid muscle imbalances.

Another option is to do weighted bridges. This is basically doing the same bridge exercise but with extra weights or resistance to make it harder.

The easiest option to do this is by holding some type of weight on your hips. Some examples of suited objects are dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, grocery bags, heavy backpack, a barbell, etc.

If you have a suited object to lean your upper body on, you can also do a hip thrust. This is a similar movement but with your upper body elevated. By doing the bridge exercise this way your glutes go through a larger range of motion which can benefit your muscle gains (1).

How to make bridges different

Besides making the typical bridge exercise harder you can also do it slightly differently to focus on different muscles or fitness components.

An option to engage extra muscles is to use extra equipment in a different way. You can loop a resistance band around your upper legs so that you have to push outward with your thighs to keep them in a straight line forward. This will train your outer thigh muscles more.

Similarly, you can put an object between your upper legs and squeeze your legs together to engage your inner thigh muscles more.

Lastly, you can also do bodyweight glute bridges faster but this is to make it more of a cardio workout. If that is your goal something like running or cycling may be a better choice.

Muscles worked with the bridge exercise

Some of the primary muscles worked with bridges include:

  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Erector spinae

Some of the secondary muscles worked with bridges include:

  • Core muscles

Although these other muscles play a role as well, glute bridges are typically done to isolate glute muscles as much as possible.

For both bodyweight bridges and weighted variations, to build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 bridges depending on how advanced you are.

Benefits of bridges

Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding the bridge exercise to your routine can offer you some amazing benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Bridges are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing bridges likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like bridges promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. Can improve posture: When doing the bridge exercise you engage muscles that can be helpful for improving your posture.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like bridges can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Slows down aging: Bridges won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
  7. Can improve athletic performance: Bridges help you strengthen important leg muscles. This can lead to an improvement in sports where you benefit from fast running.

While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than the bridge exercise, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that glute bridges can be hard on body parts like your ankle, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that glute bridges are not (yet) for you.

That being said, the bridge exercises, especially the bodyweight version, is a relatively safe exercise.

Glute bridge alternatives

While bridges can definitely be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your glutes and more generally leg muscles. Some of these bridge alternatives include:

  • Cable glute kickbacks
  • Donkey kicks
  • Fire hydrants
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Step-ups
  • (Romanian) deadlifts

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.

Conclusion

Many people will benefit from adding bridges with the right technique to their routine. One downside is that the bodyweight version can become too easy relatively fast.

At this point, you can make bridges harder or if you don’t have any suited equipment, turn to harder leg exercises.

Also keep in mind is that glute bridges can be hard on body parts like your ankle, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing bridges is a workout you love, great. If not other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more bridges make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.

FAQ

What is the bridge exercise good for?

The bridge exercise is mainly good for training glute muscles. If this is your goal you will likely have to use extra weight to make the exercise good enough for challenging these strong muscles.

How long should you hold a bridge?

How long you should hold a bridge depends on your physical strength, training goals, etc. You can hold a bridge for as long as you can. However, doing (weighted) up-and-down repetitions will generally offer more results.

Does the bridge exercise reduce belly fat?

The best way to reduce belly fat is generally to lose body fat overall. The bridge exercise can help you reduce belly fat but not by targetting that area specifically.

Are bridges a good core exercise?

Bridges engage your erector spinae a good amount. Besides that, other core muscles like abs and obliques generally don’t have to work that hard during bridges. There are many exercises that can give your core a better workout.