Glute Bridges: 4 Variations for Low Bone Density

Exercise / July 5, 2019

Woman doing the glute bridge

Like their name implies, the glute bridge mainly targets the muscles in your backside. 

Specifically, the three muscles that make up your glutes: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. 

The maximus is the largest of these three muscles and creates the shape of your butt. Whenever you raise your thigh to the side, rotate your leg, or thrust your hips forward, your maximus is hard at work. 

And the medius and minimus are like supporting cast. They help your maximus perform!

The glute bridge exercise builds strength in your glutes, but also in your erector spinae— the group of muscles and tendons that run the length of the spine. 

Together, these muscles help you maintain proper posture. And as you may know, posture is especially important for someone with low bone density. In fact, research shows that good posture reduces your risk of injury.

What’s more, this exercise strengthens your abdominals and obliques (the muscles located on either side of your abs). This stabilizes your core which is also helpful for posture… and for feeling nice and sturdy on your feet!

So, the glute bridge improves your posture, strength, and stability— all crucial benefits if you have osteoporosis. 

Plus, you can easily do this exercise in the comfort of your home, no equipment necessary. And there are endless variations if you’re looking for more of a challenge. Here, I’ll go over the classic glute bridge and three variations if you’re ready to kick things up a notch!

Gluteal Muscles

Glute Bridge Exercises for Osteoporosis

The Glute Bridge

Why the glute bridge?

This is the traditional version of the glute bridge. As we discussed above, it strengthens your glutes, back muscles, and core. You’ll also feel it toning your hamstrings and hip muscles! 

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time sitting, this exercise is particularly helpful. Over time, it will improve your posture, and protect your back against injuries that can be caused by hunching over. 

Here’s how to do the exercise: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent hip-width apart, your hands resting on your hips, and your feet flat on your mat or floor. 
  2. Engage your core muscles and squeeze your glutes as you slowly lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 
  3. Hold at the top of your bridge for 2-3 seconds while continuing to squeeze your glutes.
  4. Slowly lower back down to the mat with control. 
  5. Repeat 10 times or however many you feel comfortable with.

Tailor the exercise to you: If this is your first time trying glute bridges, the basic version should be plenty to get your muscles working! But if you don’t feel like it’s hard enough, you can upgrade to one of the variations I’ll go over next.


The Heeled Glute Bridge

Why the heeled glute bridge? 

This is a more challenging version of the traditional glute bridge. It involves balancing on the heels of your feet while you perform the exercise. And, of course, your heels make an unstable platform, so your glutes have to work harder to stabilize your body

By performing this exercise on your heels, you’re upping the intensity without the need for additional equipment! Note that you’ll feel this exercise more in your calf muscles than in your hamstrings like the traditional version.

Here’s how to do the exercise: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent hip-width apart, your hands resting on your hips, and the heels of your feet pressing into the mat. 
  2. Engage your core muscles and squeeze your glutes as you slowly lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Keep pressing into your heels and resist the urge to lower your feet! 
  3. Hold at the top of your bridge for 2-3 seconds while continuing to squeeze your glutes.
  4. Slowly lower back down to the mat with control. 
  5. Repeat 10 times or however many you feel comfortable with.

Tailor the exercise to you: If you find it difficult to perform this variation, you may want to stick with the traditional glute bridge. You could also alternate between versions, and do a rep on your heels then a rep on flat feet, to dial down the intensity a bit!


The One-Legged Glute Bridge

Why the one-legged glute bridge? 

In the one-legged version of the glute bridge, you work your glutes one side at a time by lifting the opposite leg off the ground. Lifting your leg minimizes the work your hamstrings have to do while upping the activation of your glutes

This is slightly more challenging than your basic bridge, and a great way to target your gluteal muscles directly. But if you find this variation too difficult, stick to the basics first to build up your strength!

Here’s how to do the exercise:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent hip-width apart, your hands resting on your hips, and your feet flat on your mat. 
  2. Engage your core muscles and squeeze your glutes as you slowly lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 
  3. When you reach the top of your bridge, lift one foot off the ground and extend your leg out straight. Hold this position for 2-3 seconds while continuing to squeeze your glutes.
  4. Lower your leg back down. Then, slowly lower your body to the mat with control. 
  5. Repeat 10 times with one leg or however many you feel comfortable with. Switch and repeat with the opposite leg. 

Tailor the exercise to you: If you want more of a challenge, you can hold your leg out straight for up to 20 seconds. I recommend trying to hold your leg out for a few extra sections every time you practice this exercise!


The Pulsing Glute Bridge

Why the pulsing glute bridge? 

The pulsing glute bridge really ups the ante. By holding at the top of your bridge and performing “micro-pulses”, you’re keeping the tension on your muscles for a longer period of time. This challenges and strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and core.

Once again, this variation doesn’t require any extra equipment, so it’s easy to perform at home. Just go slow, and if this version is too difficult, don’t worry. Practice the other variations of the glute bridge first, and work your way up to this one!

Here’s how to do the exercise: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent hip-width apart, your hands resting on your hips, and your feet flat on your mat. 
  2. Engage your core muscles and squeeze your glutes as you slowly lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 
  3. Once you’re at the top of your bridge, lower your hips 2-3 inches and then pulse them back up. Continue pulsing up and down 6 times or until you can’t maintain proper form anymore. 
  4. Slowly lower back down to the mat with control.
  5. Repeat 10 times or however many you feel comfortable with.

Tailor the exercise to you: To make this variation more difficult, you can increase the number of times you pulse up and down at the top of your bridge. On the other hand, if six pulses already feels like a lot, you can try doing just a couple to start!


Glute Bridge Takeaways

The glute bridge is a great addition to your osteoporosis workout routine!

It’s a low-impact way to strengthen your core and improve your posture. And since it involves an “extension”— you’re straightening your back out— it’s a safe movement even for those with low bone density. 

That said, your body and needs are unique, so it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before attempting a new exercise. 

Once you’re sure glute bridges are suitable for you, there are so many variations to try!

So whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, you can find the right level of intensity for you. And for those who are more advanced, you can even cycle through all four variations while you’re doing your workout. 

Personally, I like to do these while I’m watching TV. It’s an easy way to add a little exercise to one of my favorite “not-so-active” activities. Let me know which variation you like best in the comments section below! 🙂

Author: Monica Straith, BS

Comments
Jane
Jane

I do bridges with weights resting on my hips. I do them 2-3 times a week with pulses as well as full range. On off weight days I can still do these unweighted ones, right? I don’t want to overdo, but I have felt a great deal of benefit to my back with weights.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Jane, thanks for reaching out!

It’s best to listen to your body and stick with what it’s comfortable with – unweighted pulses sounds like a great way to lessen the load. If ever you find this causes discomfort, it may be best to take a rest day.

Keep up the great work! 😀

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Elizabeth Izzard
Elizabeth Izzard

I’ve done some of these at pilates class and they are very good. I sometimes get cramp in the back of my legs when doing the more advanced moves.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Glad you enjoy these, Elizabeth!

You can always work your way up to the advanced movements slowly, sticking with what feels challenging yet comfortable for you ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

elizabeth toyer
elizabeth toyer

Hello,
I’d love to do this exercises, but I have a question. I have osteoporosis and last year I had a compress fracture of my lower back. I also have RA for many years. It will be safe for me to do this exercise? I always very afraid to do something to cause me another fracture. I do walk every day for about 2 miles to keep active and I’ve been taking my AlgaeCal supplement for a year.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Elizabeth, thanks for reaching out!

We would recommend consulting a health professional who can assess your physical health to see what type of movements are safe for you at this time. When trying new exercises, remember to focus on slow and controlled movements! Feel free to take a look at some of our other exercises as well. ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Janet Drozda
Janet Drozda

Theses are all Pilates exercises which are excellent for bone health .

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Absolutely, Janet 💪 We have a great article on pilates for osteoporosis if you’re interested! You can view it here.

Hope you enjoy!

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Dr. Shanthi Nataraj
Dr. Shanthi Nataraj

Thank you for the efforts to help me

Margaret cooper
Margaret cooper

Can anyone with heart failure do this exercise?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Margaret!

As we aren’t familiar with your current health and medical history, we would recommend checking in with a doctor or exercise specialist about which movements are safe for you to do at this time.

Please do keep us updated! 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Christina Chetwynd
Christina Chetwynd

Hi. I have had 5 Spinal surgeries for herniated discs and after 3 of those, I developed Scoliosis and had further 2 surgeries to correct Scoliosis. My Sopine is fused from T9 to S1 and I find it very difficult to do the raise high to make a bridge, but of I put my heels on a gym ball or a chair and raise my hips its a little easier. Is it wrong doing it this way? I am 75 and have Ostiopenia. I work on Treadmill, static bike, and other weigh bearing exercises once a week in the gym, I also swim twice a week. I also do Grow Young Fitness exercises on line for Balance, core, stability and flexibility, yoga etc.
Thank you for reading this

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Christina,

Thank you for reaching out, and sharing a bit about yourself. ❤️ It’s wonderful to hear that you’re exercising regularly! Some people do like to use a ball for glute bridges; however, when it comes to exercises, recommendations are very much dependant on the individual. Prior to the implementation of any exercise routine, we must advise a discussion with your doctor or a physical therapist regarding your limitations.

Please let us know if you have any further questions, and keep up the great work!

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Elaine
Elaine

I applaud you. I myself was fused from L4 through S1. I am now bulging between L3 and L4. I have a slight scoliosis but though I have not had any other surgery on my back as yet. I’m Almost 82 years old. I don’t want any more surgeries if possible. I do the bridges both ways on the floor as well using a chair. I do these at home
Now if I get a late flatten my stomach four and work on my balance I think I would be in good shape for my age. I tried to do the plank but I can’t hold it as long as I used to. Happy exercising to you,
Elaine

Irene MacNeil
Irene MacNeil

I have bursitis in both my hip joints. Would this be a good exercise for me to do?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Irene, while these exercises may help it’s important to first consult a health professional who can assess if these movements are appropriate for you at this time.

If starting a new exercise routine, remember to keep your movements slow and controlled and stick with what’s comfortable for your body! 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Jane
Jane

Irene, I have had hip surgery and this is one of the exercises I do with my physiotherapist. It helps immensely. Good luck with your healing!

Jeanette
Jeanette

I am interested in these exercises, as I need to strengthen my core. Also, Iha e a mobility problem with balance. How can I improve my balance so that I can avoid any nasty falls. Thanks.

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Great to hear you’re interested in these exercises, Jeanette 😊

That’s a good question! We have a super helpful article on balance exercises to reduce fall risk here.

Hope that helps! Let us know if you have any further questions 💕

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Dianne
Dianne

I too have balance issues use a walker everywhere! I do this bridge and the one legged one. Sit to stands with butt pushed to the back. Leg raises lift one foot up about three inches to the rear. Lift one leg outwards a little and turn ties to front hold . Walk to left a way then to right then to the back. Lift kegs high. All hel

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Thanks for sharing, Dianne! Keep up the great work 🙂

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Cathy
Cathy

I am 4 months in on a spinal and decompression! I do stretching and strengthening exercises plus treadmill and bike. I do the first glutei bridge and wonder if I should start the others?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Cathy, glad to hear you’re staying active!

If you’re comfortable with the first glute bridge and feel that you can progress to the heeled glute bridge, you may want to test out one rep first. If that feels okay, you can try a gradual progression where you alternate repetitions between the basic glute bridge and heeled glute bridge.

If you’re unsure, please do consult an exercise specialist before progressing and remember to always listen to your body! 💕

Hope this helps and let us know how it goes 😊

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Margaret
Margaret

I’m 82 and try to keep up with my yoga and walking, in good health but bones are a couple of years older than the rest of me! Am anxious to try the specific exercise for the gluten. Marg.

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Margaret,

It’s great to hear that you are staying active! We hope you enjoy these exercises 😊

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Yvonne Estok
Yvonne Estok

When I do the basic version I hold my stomach in to protect my back/spine. Is this correct?
I’ve been doing the exercise like this for 2 years.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Yvonne, great question!

The way you’ve been doing it is perfect – it’s always a good idea to engage your core muscles! Keep up the awesome work, Yvonne! 😊

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Mary
Mary

I just had my rt hip replaced. I think these exercises will help

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Mary, we’re glad you found this post!

If you’re starting on a new exercise after hip replacement, it’s best to check in with your doctor or physiotherapist first as they can make sure these types of movements are safe for you! 😊

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Joanne Gonsalves
Joanne Gonsalves

I was going to ask my doctor for a PT referral for exercises to strengthen my hips. I’ve been taking the AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium for about 3 months now and recently learned I have severe blood clots in my right leg. I’m very unstable and have been told to walk 30 min a day. Some days I just can’t walk that far. I’m going to try the Bridge exercises, starting right now. I refuse to become an invalid! Thanks for all the good suggestions.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Thank you for sharing your story, Joanne! ❤️

We’re so glad you’re taking a proactive approach to keeping your body strong and healthy – a PT referral sounds like a wonderful idea, as they can help tailor an exercise routine specific to your health and needs. We have plenty more bone-supporting exercises, all of which you can find here.

Let us know if you have any questions!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Lolita
Lolita

Loved doing this and i think i will do all the variations that you suggested. Thanks !

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

So glad to hear that, Lolita! 😊

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Susan
Susan

I have also added a “swing” variation to “the bridge” by slowly alternating left and right hip pulses, while at the top of my bridge, causing my hips to do a little “swing” action for about 4 to 8 pulses and then slowly lower my bottom. I try to do 2 to 4 of these in my exercise routine once or twice a week.

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

That’s an awesome variation, Susan! 😀

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Janet J
Janet J

We have done these Pilates bridges for years. Thanks for confirming they are good for us osteoporosis clients.
Also feels great on the lower back.

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Wonderful, Janet! Keep up the great work 🙂

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Kenda
Kenda

Question: I have SEVERE reflux and even with meds, laying flat on my back to do these glute exercises just isn’t possible without painful consequences.
Is there some way to get the benefit, while keeping my stomach acid in my stomach?

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Kendra,

Not to worry, there are plenty of other exercises you can do instead! Check out this article for other workouts specifically for osteoporosis. We also have a helpful article on how to combat acid reflux naturally. You can find this here.

Please don’t hesitate to email [email protected] or call our Bone Health Consultants at 1-800-820-0184 if you have any questions. We are always happy to help!

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

tara
tara

Thank you. Have ongoing lower back problems so will start doing these exercises.

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Tara,

Sorry to hear about your back and we hope you feel better soon ❤️ It’s great that you’ll be trying these out. Let us know if you have any questions!

– Blaire

Patty
Patty

These exercises look great! I definitely need to strengthen my core. I will try. Please continue to share exercises fore bone density!

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Patty,

So glad you enjoyed this post! We sure will, and please do let us know how the workouts go! 🙂

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Kate Rose
Kate Rose

Could you give us a whole osteoporosis workout to do?

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Kate,

We’d be happy to do that! Click here for a great list of osteoporosis workouts. 🙂 Let us know if you have any questions!

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

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