There are many reasons to do glute bridges but there are similar options too. Find out what alternatives could fit your training goals.
As the name implies, glute bridges really work your glutes (and hamstrings). Your erector spinae (lower back) will have to do some work too.
In turn, some of the benefits of glute bridges include building muscle mass, burning extra calories, improving bone density, and offering some of the more general positive effects of exercise.
That being said, some people don’t like doing glute bridges, find them too easy or hard, or want an alternative for other reasons.
If that sounds like you, one or more of the glute bridge alternatives below could align more with your preferences and training goals.
1. Hip thrusts
Hip thrusts are similar to glute bridges but they are not the same. Instead of doing glute bridges on the ground, you will need a bench or any other stable object of the right height for hip thrusts.
Take the following steps to do a hip thrust:
- Sit right in front of the bench or other object you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the object is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. If you want hold a weight on your body at the hip level.
- Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your body again.
While the muscles you work are relatively similar, there are a few benefits of doing hip thrusts instead of glute bridges. First of all, your glute muscles go through a larger range of motion.
Secondly, it becomes easier to hold extra weights on your gips to make the exercise more challenging. Both of these things are generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
One downside of hip thrusts is that they can require a good amount of time and hip thrust equipment to set up.
2. Donkey kicks
In essence, this next glute bridge alternative does not require any equipment and can easily be done at home. Take the following steps to do a donkey kick:
- Start with your face facing the floor with your hands on the ground, your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
- Move one foot upward until the upper leg of this side is in 1 line with your body. Keep your knees at 90-degree angles throughout the movement.
- Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat with your other leg.
If glute bridges are currently too hard for you, you can do donkey kicks as an easier exercise to train your glute and hamstring muscles.
On the other hand, one potential downside of donkey kicks is that most people need to use extra resistance to make the movement challenging enough for glute muscle growth and strengthening.
You can use fitness equipment like resistance bands, heavy ankle weights, or clamp weights like a medicine ball or dumbbell between the back of your upper legs and calves.
3. Romanian deadlifts
For the next substitute for glute bridges you likely need external weights, preferably a barbell. You can also use other free weights and even resistance bands.
Take the following steps to do a Romanian deadlift:
- Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
- Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.
The Romanian deadlift focuses less on your leg muscles compared to the regular deadlift.
The regular deadlift engages your glutes and lower back a good amount too but Romanian deadlifts are an alternative that comes closer to engaging your muscles similarly to glute bridges.
Squats are one of the, if not the most, popular leg exercises, and for a good reason. They are a great alternative to glute bridges if you are interested in more of a compound leg exercise.
On top of your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, this exercise will work your quadriceps and calves a good amount. Take the following steps to do a squat:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
- Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.
One potential downside of squats is that more experienced exercisers need external weights like dumbbells, a weighted vest, a barbell, etc. to make this exercise more challenging.
5. Hamstring bridges
For the next exercise you need something to elevate your feet. Examples of suited objects include a weight bench, stepper, chair, couch, etc. Make sure the object is sturdy if you plan to use extra weights.
Additionally, a yoga mat or other soft surface can be helpful for comfort reasons. Take the following steps to do a hamstring bridge:
- Lie on your back on the floor or another soft surface right in front of your object of choice. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width on the elevated object. You can hold a weight at hip level or keep your arms by your side for balance.
- 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.
- Slowly lower your body again.
Hamstring bridges look and are very similar to glute bridges but by elevating your feet the exercise works your hamstring muscles more (1).
Even with that in mind, hamstring bridges will also still work your glutes and lower back a nice amount.
6. Glute ham raises
For this next glute bridge alternative, you need a glute-ham raise bench. This is a lower back gym machine where you can secure your feet behind two pads and rest your hips on a rounded pad.
Because of this rounded pad, you can also fold your knees. Take the following steps to do a glute-ham raise:
- Adjust the settings on the bench for your body proportions.
- Take place on the glute-ham raise bench facing downwards with your hips on the rouned pad and your feet behind the foot support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and let your upper body hang downwards.
- Slowly raise your upper body until it is in a straight line with your legs. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
- Fold your knees until your upper body is in an upward position or until further would be unstable.
- Stretch your knees again.
- Lower your upper body in a controlled motion until it is in the position of step 2.
The initial steps of glute ham raises target your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back very similarly to glute bridges. With the knee folding steps, you work your hamstrings more.
Similar to glute bridges, you will likely need to hold extra weights like a weight plate, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. during glute ham raises to make the exercise challenging enough.
Lunges are an exercise with many variations. To get a lot of glute engagement you likely want to go for walking lunges. These allow your glutes to go through a larger range of motion compared to the in-place variation.
For this, you need a flat surface with enough room to do a few repetitions. Once you have that, take the following steps to do two walking lunges:
- Stand up straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart or slightly wider if you struggle with balance.
- Take a big step forward so you can achieve the desired knee angles in the next step. Your back foot only touches the ground with its front part.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want both of your knees at 90-degree angles. You can use your arms for balance if needed.
- Move the back leg forward while pushing your hips upward with the help of the muscles from the front leg.
- You can either return to the same stance as step 1 with your feet right next to each other or take the next big step.
- Repeat the same movement but with your other leg first.
While walking lunges do focus more on your glutes than the regular standing version, this is definitely still more of a compound alternative to glute bridges.
This exercise will train your glutes, quadriceps, calves, and to a certain extent hamstrings, a nice amount.
One of the specific benefits of lunges is that the bodyweight version can already be relatively challenging. This makes it an at-home-friendly exercise that can already be challenging on your glutes without equipment.
That being said, many people will still want to do weighted lunges for more and faster muscle growth and strength progress.
8. Good mornings
The good morning exercise is usually done with a barbell but you could use other free weights, resistance bands, and gym machines like the cable machine or smith machine.
Take the following steps to do a good morning with a barbell:
- Find a squat rack and place the barbell at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
- Stand under the barbell, push your shoulders up so that the barbell rests on your upper back, and hold the barbell there with your hands.
- Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room to squat. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Tilt your upper body forward as far as is comfortable with a good posture (but not farther than a horizontal line). At the same time bend your knees a small amount.
- Return to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Rerack the barbell after your desired number of repetitions.
The good morning may look similar to the classic leg exercise named the back squat but you go a lot less through your knees.
This makes it so you focus more on the lower back, glute, and hamstring training and less on leg muscles like your calves and quadriceps.
In turn, the good morning is a glute bridge alternative that targets very similar muscles.
One potential downside or upside depending on your training goals and personal situation is that the good morning exercise will be a lot more challenging for your lower back and erector spinae muscles than glute bridges.