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Glute Bridges: 4 Variations for Low Bone Density

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

Monica is the PR and Outreach Manager and Fitness Lead at AlgaeCal. She’s an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist, and has a B.S. and B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she played varsity soccer for four years. Monica pulls from her experience in athletics and health to contribute to AlgaeCal and has also been featured on myfitnesspal blog, Prevention, and Huffington Post.