How to Do a Basic Bridge Exercise

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

basic bridge exercise
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Hip Raises, Glute Bridge

Targets: Glutes, abs, and hamstrings

Equipment Needed: Mat if desired

Level: Beginner

The basic bridge isolates and strengthens your gluteus (butt) muscles and hamstrings (back of the thigh). When done correctly, the move can also enhance core stability by targeting your abdominal muscles and the muscles of lower back and hip.

If you have a workout routine already, it's easy to add the bridge in or pair it with other moves to create your own full-body workout. It's also a good warm-up exercise and a basic rehab exercise to improve core and spinal stabilization.

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Watch Now: The Basic Bridge Exercise for a Better Butt

Benefits

If you're looking for a move to add to your routine that works your core and your butt, the basic bridge is a great place to start.

For this move, the target muscle is the erector spinae which runs the length of your back from your neck to tailbone. A basic bridge stretches the stabilizers of the posterior chain, including your hip abductors, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings. 

As antagonist stabilizers for the bridge move, the rectus abdominis, obliques, and quadriceps get a workout as they maintain stability.

Your overall strength will improve as these muscle groups get stronger. A strong core will also improve your posture and can help ease lower back pain. In fact, as long as you have good form, bridge exercises are generally safe for people with chronic back problems and can aid in pain management.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor under your knees.
  2. Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles.
  3. Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
  4. Squeeze your core and pull your belly button back toward your spine.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then return to your starting position.
  6. Complete at least 10 reps.

Common Mistakes

You're Raising Your Hips Too High

Avoid raising your hips too high. Hyperextending your lower back can lead to strain. Keeping your abdominals engaged will ensure you don't arch your back excessively.

Your Hips Sag

If you find your hips are dropping as you try to hold the bridge position, lower your pelvis back down to the floor. When you're first starting out, you may need to hold the bridge position for only a few seconds at a time until you build up strength.

It's better to hold the correct position for a shorter time than to stay in an incorrect position for a longer time.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If you'd prefer to do the bridge with some support under your feet, try the elevated bridge. For this variation, you'll need an inflatable exercise ball.

  1. Begin in the starting position for the basic bridge with the exercise ball at your feet.
  2. Place your heels on the top of the ball.
  3. Raise your pelvis as you would in the basic bridge.
  4. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement.

Another version is the straight-legged bridge. While performing the bridge with straight legs rather than bent knees is usually a challenge, adding in an exercise ball to support your legs can actually make it a bit easier. Remember to keep your abdomen engaged and your arms at your sides to support your weight and prevent back strain.

If you have joint problems in your hips or knees, these modifications can help:

  • If you have knee discomfort or difficulty bending your knee at 90 degrees, try placing your feet farther apart as you take your starting position for the bridge.
  • If you can't raise your hips enough to reach the full bridge position, try raising them a few inches—just enough to activate the muscles.

Up for a Challenge?

Adding an exercise band, dumbbell, or exercise ball is an easy way to increase the difficulty of the move or simply change up your routine if you're feeling bored or unmotivated.

If you want to take the basic bridge up a level, try the single-leg bridge:

  1. Begin in the starting position for a basic bridge.
  2. As you raise your pelvis up, raise your left leg.
  3. Holding your position, slowly lower your leg until it's almost touching the floor.
  4. Lift the leg back up and hold before lowering yourself back down to the floor.
  5. Switch to the right side. Aim for 10 reps on each side.

You can also perform a single-leg bridge with an exercise ball.

If you're getting bored with the basic move and have mastered the single-leg bridge, try the bridge march next:

  1. Begin in the starting position for a basic bridge.
  2. As you raise your pelvis up, lift your left leg, bringing your knee close to your core.
  3. Lower your left leg back down, then raise your right leg, bringing your knee to your abs.
  4. Start with 10 reps on each side and work up to 3 sets.

Safety and Precautions

If you have certain health conditions or injuries or are recovering from illness or surgery, you may need to avoid exercises that work your core, knees, lower back, or glutes until you're healed. Check with your doctor before you start a workout or add moves like bridges to your current routine.

It's best to avoid bridge exercises if you:

  • Are in the final stages of pregnancy, have just delivered, or have a condition known as rectus diastasis
  • Are healing from surgery or an injury involving your back, abdomen or pelvis, hips joints, knees, or ankles
  • Have an abdominal hernia or another condition or injury related to the muscles and tissue in your abdomen

Ask your doctor or personal trainer about the possibility of modifications. For example, conditions affecting your joints and spine, such as osteoporosis or arthritis, do not necessarily preclude exercises like the basic bridge as long as you do them safely and with proper guidance.

Try It Out

The basic bridge and its many variations provide a great core, glute, and quad workout that you can do just about anywhere without any equipment.

Try the basic bridge with other strength training exercises such as:

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