Exercise Spotlight: Glute L-Bridge

Truly develop your butt by strengthening your glutes from all angles.

Getting past the Instagram barrage of glute-centric workouts for a “squat booty”, we  have to acknowledge that glute training is important – whether we’re male or female.  The glutes are the true powerhouse to developing plenty of function-based strength, and have the greatest reach to health in other areas of the body, especially when coupled with a strong, functionally sound core.

The thing is, most glute training exists in the sagittal plane. Movements like squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges, glute kicks, RDL’s, pull throughs and lunges all generally orient the lifter’s direction in mostly the same way, despite all their variety.

In truth, that just means that as a lifter, you’re zeroing in on the gluteus maximus, and ignoring the fact that the glutes actually serve more functions than simple hip extension (and have two other muscles involved, for a total of three).

Taking things out of the sagittal plane to involve lateral forces is a great place to start, and can be very telling as far as muscular imbalances, weak links, and actual glute strength.  Like I mentioned, the glutes have more roles than simple hip extension. They’re also a posterior tilter of the pelvis, and a lateral rotator of the thigh. Squats and deads will hardly hit those functions. It’s a good testament to the fact that chasing muscle soreness isn’t always the answer, nor an indicator of a thorough workout.

Enter the Glute L-Bridge

If you’re looking for a true and HONEST challenge to your glute activation and strength, use these.

I like them to address and fix people with anterior tilting issues, or overactive low backs and hamstrings. Most of these people can easily do a bilateral bridge and say they feel their glutes working, but when loaded or made dynamic in nature, their glutes begin to drop out of the lift. The single-leg aspect of the glute bridge alone may feel rudimentary, but creating a lateral component to the exercise via the hip rotation/abduction you see here makes the glute maximus and medius of the planted leg have to work much harder to maintain their contraction and (with the help of the QL and obliques,) prevent the body from twisting out of position. It’s much more difficult than it looks.

Chances are, it will never require added load, as one’s leg is typically heavy enough – but the easiest way to progress this movement is to increase the lever arm (in English: I’m using a bent knee here; to make it harder use a straight leg instead).

Glute L-Bridge: Coaching Cues

  • Lie on your back, with the feet planted. The knees should be at 90 degree angles.
  • Remove excess space from under the small of the back, so the body is flush to the floor.
  • Raise your hips by contracting the glutes and pressing through the heels. There should be a straight line from knees to shoulders.
  • Maintaining position, raise one knee into the chest. Keep that knee bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Still maintaining position, slowly rotate the entire raised leg, outward until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Once there, slowly return to the starting position.
  • As you perform this movement, ask yourself the following questions: Can I make it to parallel with my moving leg? Are my hips twisting? Are my hips sinking? Do I feel my glutes, or only my low back and hamstrings? Each answer is crucial!
  • Focus on sets of 6-10 very controlled reps. Each rep should take 3-5 seconds to complete. That’s a long time.

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