Glute bridges hit a number of muscle groups, including your hips, thighs and -- as the name implies -- the gluteals. Strength in these key areas helps you stay properly aligned so you move more smoothly and efficiently. Ultimately, that translates into better pain and injury prevention. Cross-leg bridges are a more intense, one-legged variation of the basic bridge. They offer their own set of benefits and present certain challenges.
Bridges rank high on the list of favorite butt exercises. A basic two-legged bridge, in which your weight is centered between both feet, is effective for firming your glutes. That's good news if you crave a more shapely set of buns, but strong glutes serve a functional purpose, as well. Whether you're a runner, dancer or in-line skater, strong glutes help keep your pelvis and hips stable when you move. If your glutes are weak, other areas of your body -- including your lower back, hips, knees and ankles -- have to compensate, which can lead to pain and injury in those areas. One-legged bridging brings it to the next level. Working on one leg ups the balance challenge and increases the load to your supporting leg, which gives you more bang for your buck.
For maximum benefit, make sure your technique is up to snuff. Lie on your back with your knees bent toward the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. Let your arms rest comfortably along your sides and relax your shoulders and neck. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, near the knee, opening your right knee to the side. Pushing down with your left heel, tilt your pelvis slightly, tighten your buttocks and raise your hips toward the ceiling. When your body forms a straight line from your left knee through your hips to your shoulders, stop. Hold the position for five seconds. Slowly roll through your spine until your buttocks reach the floor. Repeat the exercise, completing three sets of eight to 12 reps. Place your left ankle on your right thigh and repeat on the other side.
If the exercise is too tough, take it down a level. Begin with both feet on the floor and move into a stable two-legged bridge. Slowly shift your weight over your left foot. When you find your balance, cross your right ankle over your left knee. Hold the position for five seconds, return your left foot to the floor and slowly lower your buttocks. If you're ready to take the cross leg bridge up a notch, increase the duration of every rep. Try holding the position for up to 30 seconds. Or try resting the heel of your base foot on a raised surface, such as a low wall or sturdy bench. Cross your other ankle over your thigh, as you would for the basic version of the exercise, and drive your base heel into the surface as you raise your hips into the bridge position.
Reminders and Concerns
Performing bridges when your muscles are cold is asking for trouble in the form of pain and injury. Before you hit the floor, warm up with five minutes of light cardio activity, such as jogging or marching in place. When you bridge, keep your hips level and your supporting knee over your ankle. At the height of the movement, you'll likely feel tension in your butt and thighs, which is a good sign. If you feel pressure in your neck, shoulders, lower back or knee, back off. Your form is likely off or you might be pushing yourself too hard, too fast. Avoid pushing your arms into the floor; they're there to help you stay balanced, not to power the movement. Be sure to follow up with a relaxing glute stretch to prevent tightening and soreness. If you have chronic neck or back problems, ask your doctor about the advisability of particular exercises, including bridges.
- American Council on Exercise: Glute Bridge
- Yoga Journal: Yoga Cross-Training -- Glute Camp
- American Council on Exercise: Take Your Workout Outdoors -- 6 No-Equipment Exercises
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: Pelvic Stabilization, Lateral Hip and Gluteal Strengthening Program
- Comrades Novice Project: Relieve Sore Knees
- Fitness: Single-Leg Bridge Up
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