The glutes are king, no ifs, ands or butts (<—-see what I did there) about it! And one of the most popular exercises recently to strengthen the glutes is the Elevated Hip Extension with weight, in fact a whole lot of weight. I do love this exercise, but in everyones quest for a strong behind, one very important factor is being left out! Do your glutes actually work when and how they are supposed to?
In order to address that question, in today’s Monday Rehab we are taking a look at the baseline exercise to the Elevated Hip Extension, the Glute Bridge!
Here is what a basic Glute Bridge looks like:
We use this exercise as an assessment of glute function in our office in addition to an actual progressive exercise. Seems simple enough right? It is amazing how often a client comes into our office having done this exercise for months in physical therapy, and somehow the goals of it are not being achieved. The assumption being made is that by simply doing this exercise, the glutes are being worked. I find that 99.9% of the time though, this is not the case.
What are the goals of a Glute Bridge?
- Use the glutes to extend the hips
- Initiate with the glutes
- Feel the glutes throughout the entire exercise
- So basically build a strong butt and teach the body that hip extension is gained through glute function
There are other muscles involved in this exercise which have importance, but typically this exercise is performed using the low back and hamstrings. And in some cases, due to anterior hip tightness, the desired position is unattainable and as a result the glutes are inhibited. Here are a few examples of what can go wrong:
In the first picture, the hips are being extended too high. That means the low back has taken over and you are now doing more back extension than hip extension. The end result shuts the glutes off and places the cervical spine in an awkward position. In the second photo, the hips are not raising high enough. This could be from anterior hip tightness as I mentioned above, or even weakness in the muscles. But don’t fear, there is a way to correct this, but before we do that, let’s find out if those butt muscles are actually working!
Here is a test: Set up for a standard Glute Bridge, but with hands up to the ceiling. Lift your hips as high as you are able and then extend one foot out. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Ask yourself, what do I feel?
If you are able to keep your hips elevated with the glutes firing full force, without any drooping, sweet!!
But if you are like most of the clients I assess, those 10 seconds felt like an eternity. You may have felt your low back, quads, hamstrings, shaking and even cramping! These are all signs that we need to go back to basics and rebuild the Glute Bridge.
Here is what we can do about correcting this exercise and achieving the strong, powerful glutes you have always wanted!
The Segmented Bridge
I use this to help retrain the order in which muscles are firing and to build better tension in the glutes throughout the entire motion.
A few keys:
- Find a good set up position, heels under knees, arms by your side and shoulders relaxed
- Start first by arching your lower back
- Then flatten it back to the floor
- Now check in on the glutes, make sure you can feel them activated before lifting the hips
- Keeping the focus on the glutes, slowly raise the hips off the ground
- The knee, hip and shoulders need be in a straight line at the top
- Hold for 5 seconds still squeezing the glutes
- As you lower, still keep your focus on the butt, imagine it decelerating you back to the starting position
Once you can successfully maintain glute function throughout this exercise, you can start advancing to versions such as this:
Glute Bridge Marches
- Same set up as the basic bridge
- Once you reach to top, slowly extend one leg out
- Alternate your legs, ensuring that you can maintain hip height and still feel the glutes
- Start with just a few and work up from there!
There are so many other variations on this exercise, but the key that must be mastered is knowing the glutes initiated the motion and getting proper hip height. If those two components are accomplished, progressing to the Elevated Hip Hinge will be way more fun. And remember, there is nothing wrong with regression. Sometimes it’s essential to revisit the basics or even use them as warm ups to make sure you getting the most out of each exercise.