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Innovative Glute Activation – Get Stronger and Fix Your Posture

Innovative Glute Activation

Get Stronger and Fix Your Posture

In today’s article we are going to discuss a unique glute bridge and hip thrust variation.

I’ve been reading a ton of information from Bret Contreras about his research involving hip extension and glute activation.  Especially his EMG work for exercises activating the glutes including; glute bridges, band hip abductions, lunges, foot position on seated hip abductions and hip thrusts.   I would even credit Bret with re-popularizing the hip thrust within the last couple of years.  Bret is on a mission to dispell the myth that lunges are one of the best glute activation exercises out there.

Tight hip flexors typically weaken or inhibit gluteal function.  Weak glutes force the hamstrings to take on a more active (instead of synergistic) roll in hip extension.

As always, I tried to blend the science with practical innovation and have come up with something pretty cool.  But first, let’s look at what Bret says about gluteal function.


“The lower gluteus maximus is involved in three distinct actions; hip extension, hip hyperextension, and hip transverse abduction.” (Reference 1)

“The upper gluteus maximus is involved in five different distinct actions; hip extension, hip hyperextension, hip abduction, hip transverse abduction, and hip external rotation.” (Reference 1)

Conventional Glute Bridges | Hip Thrusts

Photo courtesy of Bret Contreras

What do you notice about Bret’s hips (and legs in general) with this hip thrust pic? I’m not talking about them being athletic like a cheetah. I’m talking about their spacing. Exactly like the typical positioning for glute bridges; they are equi-distant apart or a bilateral stance. This neutral position is only one plane of motion that they glutes have the ability to a cause movement. If we strengthen hip extension in a different plane of motion, we’ll be able to better strengthen the glutes.

But remember what his EMG research stated about the muscle action of the glutes. They are responsible for not only hip extension and hip hyperextension, but also external rotation and hip abduction.

Photo courtesy of Bret Contreras

So what happens when we externally rotate and abduct the hip?  We get a kick ass variation to both the glute bridge and the hip thrust that provides us with a comprehensive strength profile for the glutes.

Over the last 3 weeks we have been incorporating this variation and you will immediately feel a very different contraction during hip extension.

So far we have overloaded this movement with; chains, sandbags, plates and an axle.

High Intensity Variation

During the last several workouts we’ve been experimenting with an elastic band double looped across the lower quads (right above the knee) in addition to an external load (Olympic plate or sandbag).  This variation is very advanced and very difficult, especially as your try to maintain the distance between the knees in hip abduction.

HAER* Glute Bridge

*HAER – hip abducted | externally rotated

Taking your feet off the floor and placing them on the side of a hex head dumbbell or dual angled plate (or simply just placing the bottoms of your feet together), you will be able to perform this variation and maintain the position.  Most lifters | athletes won’t have a special angled plate, so the hex dumbbell is a perfect alternative and puts us in this new position.

HAER Hip Thrust

Coaches and trainers are always looking for new alternatives to keep training fun.  Here are two new exercise variations that will give you some new tools to develop the posterior chain and strengthen the glutes.

By on January 7th, 2011


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Comments (17)

  1. Posted by - Cory on January 7, 2011


    I use the hip thrust religiously for both myself and my clients. I love the concept of this variation and can’t wait to try it out (likely in the next 10 minutes). Great stuff as usual.

  2. Posted by - Woody on January 7, 2011

    Awesome! I know what I’ll be doing this evening!

  3. Posted by - Shawn on January 7, 2011

    Gives a new meaning to “Buns of Steel” thats for sure!

  4. Posted by - Mark on January 7, 2011

    My hips are an area that I need to work on and this is just the thing.

  5. Posted by - Bill Jones on January 7, 2011

    Excellent. Can’t wait to try this out. One thing I do add is “heel drive/toes up” position. Also bring in the hams and glutes a bit differently.

  6. Posted by - Ben Bruno on January 8, 2011

    Awesome stuff Smitty!

  7. Posted by - Scott Jones on January 8, 2011

    I’m going to try this. Thanks, Jim

  8. Posted by - Cory on January 9, 2011

    I just sent an email asking about hip flexor rehab and you post this great info! Thanks!

  9. Posted by - Rodrick on January 9, 2011

    Smitty I use these for my roadmarch conditioning and it works great. Gonna get my wife in on some next week too.

  10. Posted by - blake on January 9, 2011

    Are we supposed to be forcing the knees out while pushing up? If I do that, I can’t get as much height, probably due to inflexibility. I if don’t do it, my knees come naturally in and I get more height. I also realize height of your pelvis is not the goal here. Since the glutes are external rotators, it feels better when forcing the knees out.

    • Posted by - Smitty on January 10, 2011

      Yes, definitely try to maintain the distance between your knees. Thanks for trying them out Blake!

  11. Posted by - David Frost on January 10, 2011

    Try it using a foam roller. The instability of the roller makes it more difficult and requires more muscle recruitment. That’s a good thing, right?

  12. Posted by - nicholas liu on January 11, 2011

    awesome as heck buddy, nice exercise!!

  13. Posted by - Blake on January 13, 2011

    feet on foam roller + band around knees + prolonged contraction on last rep = burning glutes

  14. Posted by - Todd on January 14, 2011

    Tried these twice this week on a hex DB, very good! Did make me cramp a little, I guess since it’s a new angle? But definitely activated the glutes.

  15. Posted by - Donny on January 15, 2011

    Fantastic variation Smitty!

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