Bridges: An Underrated and Underutilized Exercise
I’m often asked what’s a good exercise for the gluteus and hamstrings. Bridges are one of the most underrated and underutilized exercises for working those muscles. The bridge is an excellent exercise to isolate and strengthen the gluteus, hamstrings, core stability muscles, hip/lower back as well as improve spinal stabilization. Most people do this exercise without added resistance, but that’s a mistake (see “tip” below vid). Done with added resistance, there’s improved responses, as all muscles require added resistance (vs volume) to adapt and get stronger. And NO, they are not just for women!!! 🙂
Bridges are a highly functional exercise that can lead to both functional improvements as well as visual. For example, one practitioner of Brazilian jiu jitsu I know said “This is a key exercise for anyone who competes in jiu jitsu tournaments. Strong bridge makes all the difference in escaping. I work bridges hard.”
Bridges are an exercise that have both expected and unexpected benefits both functionally (for various sports) and visually, for bodybuilders, figure/fitness, or the average person looking shape up and strengthen the area. It’s also used for both rehab and prehab. Personally, I tend to incorporate it into lower body days. A typical workout might look like: front squats, RDLs, Bridges, and planks, or a workout I did the other day geared more toward conditioning/GPP/conditioning was a complex of:
Sand bag step ups
Slayer Barbell Bridges
High/low Prowler sprints
Did three circuits of the above then some planks and side planks. My butt was sore for days!
Tip: most people do bridges with body weight only as adding additional resistance comfortably is not always easy. The Slayer Barbell allows for as much added resistance as you could want in perfect comfort, which is one of many exercises this bar allows. If not using a Slayer, try putting a foam pad around an Olympic bar (so the bar does not dig into your hips), or try a plate across your lap, or a heavy medicine ball. None of those options are as comfortable and smooth as using the Slayer Barbell, but experiment with those options and see what works for you. As with any body weight only exercise, your own weight will only get you so far and added resistance will be needed for continued increases in strength, etc.
Will Brink is the owner of the Brinkzone Blog. Will has over 30 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.
His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.
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Is the padding on the Slayer dense enough to support and protect when doing heavy (300 to 400 lbs.) hip thrusts / glute bridges?
I have never gone that heavy, so hard to say. Approx 200lbs is as heavy as I have gone, and it was fine for me. My guess is yes, as it’s high density foam, but that’s a lot of weight to have across your lap like that. Some would depend on how much “padding” the person doing them had too 🙂
No doubt, far more comfortable than say putting an Olympic bar across your lap in a similar fashion however.
How much is the Slayer Barbell and where can I go to order it?
The Slayer is linked above in the text right were “tip” section starts under the vid. Costs, bar configurations, etc can be found at the main site.
Back in the mid to late 1950’s in an interview with pro wrestler Antonino Rocca aka Argentina Rocca he was asked how he stayed in shape. He demonstrated 1 leg squats , now called pistols and bridges from feet to top of head. I was a fit teen in those days and remember the demo well. GRRRRReat article , keep em coming. I am going back to bridges.
will, thank you for all interest in my health. in todays world, not many peaple care. as i said before, i was trained by Larry Scott. and it is nice to learn more innovations, even at my age. your illustrations are subperb. thank you, david
will once again a useful one.thanks.
Great tips on bridges, Will. They are also great for therapeutic rehabilitation, especially for older types like me. I often get back “issues”, when I feel a spasm while lifting, instead of throwin in the towel I immediately do bridges. Keeps me loose and strong.
I’m gonna look into that slayer barbell. Very interesting…..
As you can see from the other vids here using the Slayer, it an be used for an effective and efficient whole body workout or just target muscles as used for bridges in this vid.
Will, I agree these are great exercises, but it is not easy to balance the weight properly.
I discovered a great way to do these is on a leg curl machine! Lie on the bench facing up, and use the roller as the weight on your lap. Takes a little experimenting with the machine settings to get it set up right for your body size, and it’s a little awkward to get to the start position, so play around and be patient. I’m 172 cm, and on the LifeFitness leg curl I set the leg size to be L and the machine arm on the third hole from the top. I’m quite strong on this exercise, so I can do 170. Safer than using a barbell, and quick to set up once you’re used to it.