Yet Another Reason to Include Barbell Glute Bridges Into Your Program

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Like many boys during that time in their life, I was a Boy Scout when I was 10-13 years old.

Photo Credit: freeparking

Dedicated to train youths to become responsible, altruistic citizens, building character, and self-reliance through participation in a wide variety of outdoor activities, educational programs, and community events…the Boy Scouts is definitely something I cherished when I was a kid and something I’d recommend any child today to pursue.

But here’s the kicker: I was a horrendous Boy Scout.

I wasn’t what you would call the “outdoorsy type.” Being a Boy Scout was all about starting a fire, rustling up some grub, lashing spars, setting up shelter, and being able to find your way out of the woods through unfamiliar territory with nothing but a cloths pin, duct tape, and a rubber ducky.

That wasn’t my bag if you catch my drift.

Funnily enough I grew up with a sawmill in my backyard. My step-dad was (and still is) a lumberjack (I know, pretty badass). In the winters, because we had a wood burning furnace to heat the house, me and my brother would have to cut wood every weekend. It sucked. But what are you gonna do, freeze to death?

I did it every….single….weekend.

I remember one of the badges you had to earn for Boy Scouts was to split wood for some random people as a nice gesture (and to coincide with the whole altruism thing). I also remember thinking to myself when I saw that, “eff that. I’m out.”

However, one of the highlights of the year when I was a Cub was the annual Pinewood Derby. In short it was an event where you were given a “kit” that contained a block of wood, wheels, glue, paint, and all the works to construct a car that you would race during the Pinewood Derby.

Some people went all out….constructing these spiffy works of art that defied aerodynamics and looked beautiful. Others, like myself, took the piece of wood and put the wheels on it, painted it some random color and WAH-LAH…..we had a winner.

Well, not so much. I got my ass handed to me. But the point is, my brain just didn’t (and still doesn’t) work in a creative fashion. Sure I can tell a story, relay information and write pretty sentences where I use hoity-toity words like facetious, acetabulum, and poop; and I can differentiate between your/you’re, too/to, and their/they’re/there (sometimes). But when it comes to being creative with my hands or being creative for the sake of being creative (like coming up with new exercises ALA Ben Bruno)…my brain just doesn’t work that way.

It just doesn’t.

Take the barbell glute bridge for example.

Bret Contreras has written anything and everything as it pertains to this exercise and there’s nothing I could add to the conversation that would shed some more light on how awesome of an exercise it is.

You’d be hard pressed to find any other exercise which serves so many functions with regards to building sexy-ass asses, training the hips in an anterior/posterior fashion, addressing lower back pain, posture, and helping to improve overall athleticism, to name a few.

As a coach who writes a lot of programs for athletes and general fitness clients I’ve used the barbell glute bridge as a strength exercises, as a “corrective” exercises, and as a way to build more glute hypertrophy. I’ve incorporated them into maximal strength programs, fat loss programs, and have utilized them when people are injured and I need to find a way to get a training effect.

In addition, because it’s such a versatile exercise (and because the learning curve is relatively low), the barbell glute bridge can easily be regressed or progressed to fit the needs and current abilities of the lifter. A newbie may be limited to performing 1-legged glute bridges with their bodyweight only, while a meathead or gym veteran may be performing traditional barbell glute bridges with significant weight on the bar.

And all of this doesn’t even take into account all the other things we can manipulate like sets/reps, tempo, rest periods, bands, chains, rest/pause method, AMAP, and all the other permutations and adjustments we can make.

We’ve pretty much exhausted and thought of every possible “thing” of how we can use the barbell glute bridge for. Right?

Right??

Well, not so much.

Here’s something to consider (and all the credit goes to CSP coach, Greg Robins for this).

What about using the glute bridge as a way to “potentiate” the glutes to fire to help improve bench pressing performance?

I hired Greg to take over my programming to help me address some nagging injuries, reach some goals of mine, and more importantly to allow me the luxury of not having to do any thinking for myself.

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not the best bench presser in the world. It’s my weakest lift and something I’ve always struggled with. I can coach it like a bastard, but I’m most likely never going to be breaking any world records.

While the squat and deadlift get most of the love from a coaching technique standpoint, we could make the case that the bench press is FAR more coaching intensive than the two combined. It’s MUCH more of a full-body lift than most people give it credit for.

In particular, leg drive is an important component of pressing big weight. And even more particular to that, being able to activate the glutes to not only aid with transference of force from the lower body to the upper body, but to also “protect” the lower back, is an often massively overlooked component of bench pressing.

So, why not perform a few sets of barbell glute bridges prior to benching in order to activate or “potentiate” the glutes????  It’s brilliant, right? And something that I haven’t seen many people discuss as to how the glute bridge can be useful.

As an example, here’s what I’ve been doing (through Greg’s programs) for the past few weeks on my heavy bench days.

Four sets of barbell glute bridges (2×10,2×5) done with SPEED in mind. These aren’t ball busting sets.

2×10 can range from 135-185 lbs (for women, 85-135lbs).

2×5 can range from 205-225 lbs (for women 115-185 lbs).

** These numbers will obviously depend on one’s ability in terms of a starting point, and will also be PROGRESSED as time goes on.

All I’m worried about here is QUALITY reps, and fast reps! With a TWO SECOND pause at the top of each rep.

So there you have it: Yet, another way to incorporate barbell glute bridges into your training repertoire. Give it a try and let me know if you notice an improvement in how your bench press feels.

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  • Kyle Schuant

    I find it interesting that the barbell hip thrust only ever seems to be programmed by male trainers for slim young women clients. No women trainers seem to programme it, and nobody gets ugly old guys to do it. It’s just slim young women placing a big weight in their lap, thrusting their hips in the air and grunting and sweating.

    I’m sure there’s nothing in it. Just a coincidence.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Uhhh, where in this post did I allude that I was suggesting only slim, young women do this?

      Or maybe you’re just making a general comment as a whole. And if that’s the case, I “guess” I kinda agree. Although I know women like Kellie Hart Davis (who’s pictured in this post) programs them for people, as do women like Nia Shanks, Molly Galbraith, Neghar Fonooni, Alli McKee, Sohee Lee, so on and so forth.

      And I assure you that if you stepped foot into Cressey Sports Performance you’d see plenty of guys doing them. Even the ugly, old guys….;o)

      • Kyle Schuant

        Interestingly, images of ugly old guys are never used to illustrate articles about this exercise.

        The same is not true of squats, bench, deadlift or any other exercise we care to think of.

        • TonyGentilcore

          Indeed, it is. I guess I’m somehow objectifying women despite all the posts I’ve written on the contrary?

          I kinda feel like you’re making an issue out of nothing.

          Note to self: post more pics of dudes doing hip thrusts.

  • Alicia

    Ahhhhh, childhood wood chopping memories. Only romantic to those that didn’t actually do it, right? I am smack in the middle of 6 brothers and was often relegated to kindling duty for our wood stove. I thought my tiny hatchet was badass only until about the age of 10. I do, however, think the glute bridge/hip thrust is pretty badass. I can testify to it being DIRECTLY related to alleviating lower back pain. I am looking toward a goal of 350 for reps this year and think it’s a great excercise for everyone. Try it, people!

    • TonyGentilcore

      I think you and I should be BFFs Alicia.

      • Alicia

        Done and done, Tony! Former wood choppers, unite!

  • Katie Turner – Live Fit Now

    Trying this today — today is my BASS Building Plyo Day! So excited to add this to the plan! Thanks!

  • I love glute bridges/hip thrusts and I use them with our sprinters… a lot. I have noticed thought that you really need to be careful when doing it along with the other hip extension exercises like deadlifts etc. I say this because you can easily overload the hamstring muscle group and can cause injuries in my opinion. Oh and I have read Bret’s pdf on the glutes = amazing!

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  • Avinash Dhameliya

    i am interesting . Amazing workout .. Thanks this for share ..!

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  • Paul Bruce

    I found doing feet elevated, single-leg hip thrusts allows for better glute activation pre-workout. All my lifts are improved because of it. You can probably do bilateral, but I do a lot of single-leg work, so I like having my external rotators fire off.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Same effect more or less….;O)

  • Jesse

    Hi Tony, I’ve read some of your other articles that address training and back pain. I was wondering if the barbell glute bridge was a safe exercise to do for someone with extension based back pain? I was planing on doing lunges, step-ups, etc. but wanted to throw in an exercise to hit the hamstrings and was wondering if this was okay to do. Thanks for your feedback!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Jesse –

      I do feel these would be a nice match, assuming you’re not performing them while in excessive APT. I good cue I like to use with people is to tell them to “bring their belt buckle towards their chin,” which helps to posteriorly tilt the pelvis. Then, and this is important, you have to MAINTAIN that position throughout the set.