Hip Bridge Exercises for All Fitness Levels

It's no secret that the hip bridge is a good starter move for butt and hamstring. But did you know by varying this basic therapeutic exercise you can transform the hip bridge into intermediate and even advanced challenges? The secret to the upleveling lies in modifying the form.

Using modifications and variations may also help you stave off boredom, stay with the program for the long haul and move past any strength training plateau you may encounter.

That said, many people — especially those living with chronic back pain — work with the "no frills" versions of the bridge for quite some time, as well as more supportive type variations. That's because these are great ways to start when embarking on an exercise program designed for pain relief and physical functioning improvement.

But if you're eager to move along even though your back is still hurting, you might take your cue from beginners: Key to success with the bridge, or any therapeutic exercise for that matter, is to stay in a pain-free zone. Should symptoms arise, the best thing to do is stop and talk to your healthcare provider and/or physical therapist about your best course of action.

Below are a few of the many possible variations for the hip bridge. Some are suitable for beginners and people in pain, while others are more fitting for those in the post-rehab stage. Speak with your healthcare provider and/or physical therapist to be sure you're choosing the variation with the right level of challenge for you.


Supported Hip Bridge

supported bridge pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Are you just starting in on an exercise program for your back? Do you lack strength in your hips and butt? Do you get intermittent hip or back pain throughout the day?

If so, you can make the hip bridge more accessible by placing a bit of support under your sacrum bone. Located below the end of your lumbar area, the sacrum is the next to the last bone in your spine.

A yoga block makes good support, but you can also use your hands. Be sure to place whatever type of support device you're using in the right spot, which is at the level of your hip bones in back, and below the natural low back curve.

Once in the position, take a few pain-free moments to breathe and relax; then remove the support and come down. 


How High Should You Take Your Hip Bridge?

man doing Hip Bridge Exercise - Height for Beginners

Summerseason / Deposit Photos

When you're ready to move on from the supported bridge exercise, which is also a yoga pose, make your hip lifts only as high as you need so that you can feel a bit of soft tissue change. This may equate to a stretch in your quadriceps muscles in front of the hips and thighs, or work in your butt and hamstring muscles in the back.

And a general rule to extrapolate from this is that you don't have to start high to get good results from your bridge. In fact, it may be safer and more effective to remain low at first and make sure you can do 10 lifts without feeling pain.


Build Butt Strength and Get a Shoulder Stretch With This Hip Bridge Variation

Hip Bridge Arm Clasp

Wollwerth / Deposit Photos

For a great shoulder stretch that may require more work out of your hamstring and butt muscles, try clasping your fingers together and pulling your hands, arms and therefore, your shoulders down in the direction of your feet.

Of course, your hands won't actually reach your feet, but in the process of trying to get them there, you'll probably release muscle tension in your shoulders and chest. You may find that your hamstring and butt muscles have to work harder to keep your hips in the air.


Try a One-Legged Hip Bridge

One Legged Hip Bridge

SLP London / Deposit Photos

Once you're a wiz at doing the bridge with both feet planted on the floor, try it with one leg lifted.

Start by positioning yourself in a 2-footed bridge stance. Once your hips are up, lift one leg in the air.

Be sure to keep your hips level while they're up. This pointer is important if you want to develop balanced core muscle strength.


On Your Toes! Extreme Hip Bridging Variations

Hip Bridge on Toes

maxsaf / Deposit Photos

It's time for an extreme challenge — tip-toed hip bridge.

Once you're in the 2-footed hip bridge stance, lift your heels up. You will likely feel this in your calves, butt, hamstrings, and core pelvic muscles. You may also feel a stretch in your quadriceps muscles in front.

Lift and lower your heels slowly 10 times. A variation on this may be to keep your heels lifted for a count of 10.


Advanced Hip Bridge Shoulder Stretch

Hip Bridge Ankle Clasp

Shutterstock / Deposit Photos

If clasping your hands is a piece of cake (slide #3), try reaching your arms and shoulders even further by grasping each ankle with the respective (i.e., same-sided) hand. Keep your heels pressing into the floor to keep your body stable. This may help focus the stretch in your shoulders. It also helps support your body position while you're up there.

If the more advanced variations shown in this article become too easy for you, consider adding ankle weights.

Also, don't feel you have to do all the above variations in one day. Mix and match the moves, and be sure to keep everything you do in a pain-free zone.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lehecka BJ, Edwards M, Haverkamp R, et al. Building a better gluteal bridge: electromyographic analysis of hip muscle activity during modified single-leg bridges. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2017;12(4):543-549. PMID. 28900560.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.