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Weighted Bridging and Beautiful Badasses

By June 29, 2011March 7th, 2014Glute Training, Products

I know I’m not supposed to try to change people when I start dating them. I’m supposed to accept them as-is, right? Well, when you’re the Michaelangelo of glutes, that’s easier said than done. Looks are very important to me, and as you know, I love me some nice booty!

With every girl I’ve dated, I’ve been able to bring up their glutes and help make them even sexier. Why should I feel guilty about this…what girl doesn’t want a nicer backside? It’s not like I’m bringing them down in life by introducing them to excessive partying or drugs, I’m helping them raise their fitness, take pride in their physiques and health, and prevent future pain and injury. Sure I have a hidden agenda as I directly benefit from these physique improvements, but along with the aesthetic benefits come boosts in self-esteem, and this is something you really want for your woman, trust me! A confident woman is a sexy woman indeed.

Here’s a funny story. I trained one of my ex-girlfriends for two solid years with heavy squats, deadlifts, and lunges. Guys were always approaching her at the gym and telling her two things:

1. That she had the best form they’d ever seen, and

2. That she had the nicest legs in Arizona (seriously she got told that quite often)

The problem was, although her booty was very nice, it wasn’t quite as round as I’d expect for someone who weighted 110 lbs and could full squat 135 x 20, deadlift 155 x 20, and lunge with 30 lbs for 20 strides with each leg.

Enter the Hip Thrust

When I first thought up the different hip thrust variations, she was my guinea pig. I had her hip thrusting three days per week, once with heavy weight, once with single leg, and once with high reps. Within two months her glutes had really rounded out and added shape. At the end of the two month period she was using 115 x 20 on the hip thrust and doing 20 single leg hip thrusts as well. The loaded thrusting did more for her glutes than the squats, deadlifts, and lunges. This isn’t to say that those exercises aren’t useful; it just demonstrates that when loaded bridges are added to the mix you see much better results.

A Common Theme 

Lately I’ve been seeing videos from all sorts of girls who have dramatically improved the appearance of their glutes, and there’s something they have in common. They’re all performing weighted or single leg bridges. If you go onto the Youtube pages of all the girls from my Where My Ladies At post a couple of weeks ago, you’ll see that most of them are thrustin’. Here’s a quote from my friend Marianne from a recent blogpost:

Since my Interview with “The Glute Guy” (my friend Bret Contreras), I have pretty much fallen in love with the Hip Thrust exercise. Using body-weight only, I have managed to enhance the curves and the strength of my beloved behind, just by including the Hip Thrust in my workouts and learning about effective activation of the glutes… To go one step further, I would gladly showcase my own glutes as walking (haha) proof that this exercise WORKS!  Any trainer who ignores the evidence and doesn’t allow their methods to evolve is doing their clients a serious dis-service.

I’d agree with her. Female clients want nice booties and you’re doing them a disservice if you’re a trainer and you aren’t prescribing hip thrust variations. Do you really want to argue with this booty:

This brings me to my next point. I have many female readers, and I’m constantly getting emails from them requesting strength training routines. My friend Nia Shanks has worked very hard to put together a training manual for women. Her eBook is titled, Beautiful Badass, and you can buy it here.

I like to provide my readers with opportunities to purchase quality products, so when something comes out that I like I will certainly promote it. There are several reasons why I’m a proponent of the Beautiful Badass manual.

  • First, it contains 16 different workout programs
  • Second, the routines are centered around heavy compound lifting, which more females need to be doing
  • Third, it includes the barbell glute bridge; something else that more females need to be doing
  • Fourth, I like the message that the title conveys
  • And fifth, I love that Nia walks the walk. Check her out below!

How can you not love Nia? If you purchase this product before Friday, it’s only $40. Again, you can click here to make the purchase.


  • Nia Shanks says:

    Thanks for the mention, Dr. Bret! You’re awesome. : )

  • Mark Young says:

    Are you sure you should be using the phrase “With every girl I’ve dated” when n=1?


  • allie says:

    Great thoughts on the bootie!

  • Marianne says:

    Hey Bret, thanks from me, and my booty, for the mention 😛

  • Bianca says:

    Hi Bret,

    great post as usual. After this post, you need to fly to Europe and personally convince my trainer (the one you called the “jackass trainer” in Marianne’s blog) that hip thrusts are so useful. He keeps talking about the possibile future injuries deriving from it, due to biomechanic reasons: I tried to explain to him that not only are you the Michelangelo of the glutes (this is funny!) but that you also have a deep understanding of biomechanics too. But he just won’t listen and tells me that if I want to hip thurst I have to do it on my own as he finds it too risky. I know what you are thinking: “why do you still train with this trainer”? Good question.


    • Bret says:

      Bianca, if you like your trainer’s personality, then stick with him, as good personalilties are hard to come by. I actually respect him for sticking to his guns and being firm on his stance. While I don’t think he’s a biomechanical genius and I’d respect him more if he said to you something like, “I’ll experiment with it on my own for a couple of months and then I’ll form a conclusion,” I’d rather you have a cautious trainer than a careless one. I’ve been prescribing hip thrusts for over almost 5 years now and not a single person has ever hurt themselves on them. But if he lets you do barbell glute bridges, then that’s perfectly fine! -Bret

  • Slavka says:

    I can’t wait to start doing hip thrusts and feel the benefits but first I must awake my sleepy glutes.

    I have been following glute activation exercises (from your great article Dispelling the glute myth) for a week now but no difference yet. A long way to go for me. I work in the office;I think by sitting all day long is burrying my chances and progression of my glute activation.

    Bret, you recommend to stay on Phase 1 for about 2-3 weeks before moving to the next phase. How would I know that I am ready (or my glutes) to move?

  • Karli says:

    Wow, Nia is a badass! She is super lean and lifting that much(and here I was excited that I Sumo’d 3 sets of 3×225 the other day). Plus I’m feelin the dawg just chillin there. Sweet post BC, reminds me I need to bridge more often and not just rest on my gluteal laurels.

  • Emily says:

    Thanks for the post Bret! You know how I feel about the glute bridges. Between squats and deadlifts and bridges, I have created a very strong “behind.” 🙂 No wonder my back is better….one of my next posts will be just on that…how I went from no booty to….a real one! Look for the picture to be the proof. 🙂

  • Dawn says:

    Apparently my first post did not go through. I was wondering about Nia’s video series for the Beautiful badass, it was shown on her website, but not available for sale?

  • Ty says:

    great info and fun reading as usual.

  • ALEX says:

    Dear Bret, I’m confused…
    Please, follow my logic:
    1st exercise BENCH PRESS (medium wide grip)
    PRIMARY MOVERS:Pecs-Delts-Tris (three muscles)
    2nd exercise DUMMBELL FLIES
    PRIMARY MOVER:Pecs (one muscle)
    1st exercise DEEP SQUAT (medium wide stance)
    PRIMARY MOVERS three muscles Glutes-Quads-Hams (three muscles)
    2nd exercise HIP THRUST
    PRIMARY MOVER Glutes (one muscle)
    If this table is correct:
    – BENCH PRESS (medium wide grip) X Pecs = DEEP SQUAT (medium wide stance) X Glutes
    I’ve not conducted any electromiography study, but problably:
    For PECS:
    DUMBELL FLIES (only one primary mover) more muscle activation that BENCH PRESS (three primary movers);
    For GLUTES:
    HIP THRUST (only one primary mover) more muscle activation that Medium Wide Stance DEEP SQUAT (three primary movers);
    Oservation and reflections:
    Dumbell Flies and Bench Press are neither new exercise, so for anyone training for a while is hard to believe that dumbell flies are superior to Bench Press.
    It is also true that there are people that for structural people can’t develop chest bench pressing, but is also true that the same people are unable to develop a great chest concentrating on heavy dumbell flies (A friend of mine could tell his experience about this phenomenon).
    Now, i’ve included and worked hard increasing the weigths for 5/6 months with Barbell Hip Thrust (140kgX8/10ripX5sets) and Barbell Bridge (160kgX8/10ripX5sets) – two exercise with more glute activation that squat/lunges/deadlift etc. but doing it doesn’t seem substantially improved my glutes in shape and/or muscle mass. My glutes are just not good not bad like before.
    Now i think that the true difference is made by genetic factors such as structural factors and muscle attachment that facilitate muscolar grouth in a specific area or not.
    A bodybuilder with a deep thoracic cage and good scapulohumeral mobility will develop a massive chest both with the bench press than with dumbell flies; conversely a person without these features will not get results with neither the one nor the other exercise…
    In my case I suspect that, for the reasons above, the Hip Thrust (more glute activation) delivers the same results of a Leg Press, a Squat or a Lunge…and I suspect also that phenomenon happens with too many people. In my gym there are people with much more skinny legs than mine (very large 27inches) yet their glutes are bigger and more round than mine making only deadlift and squat and with less weigth that i use.
    So i think it would be useful for you researchers to go deeper in understanding structural factors that determine an outcome of a given athete rather than another instead of measure the muscolar activity for a given exercise which in itself, does tell only half of the story.
    I hate to be negative but after 5 months of experiments I think for the disadvantaged ones there is little hope to built a great butt regardless of the chosen approach.
    Sorry for my english but i’m italian.
    a warm greeting.

    • Renato says:

      Alex:”. In my gym there are people with much more skinny legs than mine (very large 27inches) yet their glutes are bigger and more round than mine making only deadlift and squat and with less weigth that i use.”

      This is what I mean.
      They lift with lighter weights but they have bigger and rounder glutes than you have.
      There it is,you have answered your own question.
      Some things in life are like that.It is not like when you put enough effort into something you will get equal results from it.
      It is more about how do you deal with these (disappointing)results in a mental way.
      Because some things are like they are.You can’t change them.How unfair they seem to be.

  • Renato says:

    Hi Alex,

    What you are saying is that the build up of the Gluteus is for a big part important part genetic and that is true.
    I have worked out with a man who did an exercise like the static lunge with 160 kilo’s.But to no avail he could make his gluteus maximus bigger or more rounded (while the rest of his body did respond well).
    The gluteus is probably not as much a genetic thing as the calves ot the forearms…but still, your genes are in the gluteus also very important.You can see this by the fact that some guys can build up a very well muscled chest doing only 60 kilo’s in the bench press.Or even only a relatively light exercise as the push-up.
    I wouldn’t focus too much on the weight anyway.Impressing others or yourself with high numbers is a way to get possible injuries.Just focuse on doing the exercise right and be happy with the results.You can only do what you can do, in life.Cheers :-)(I’m half Italian,but dont speak it actually)

    • Bret says:

      Alex and Renato,

      Great discussion. Genetics is huge for every body part. Everyone has strong areas and weak areas, and very few of us have naturally excellent shape and symmetry. Bodybuilders spend years trying to bring up lagging parts. Some are able to do so, but for some it’s always a struggle. I do know that your only hope for glutes is to hammer away at them for years using the best exercises. Will it ever happen? I’ve witnessed it take place on dozens of individuals. I’ve transformed some booties so much that you wouldn’t believe it belonged to the same person. I’ve also trained others who didn’t respond that well. But over the course of a couple of years, even the worst booties in terms of poor genetics will grow more shape.


      • Renato says:

        I agree on all of what you Bret.
        When we have a look at the tennis players.Like Roger Federer.A very slender man,but his working forearm has quite more muscles than his ‘passive’arm.

        My gluteus are not my weak part by the way.I always had a round butt,naturally.And not small either(things are like they are :-P).
        I do this hip thrust now with 113 kilo(the bar is 13 kilo’s).But I have the feeling that when I go a little lighter in weight,say 85 kilos I can control the movement much better(with no back hurt),doing it more slowly and pushing with the gluteus rather than forcing those 20×113 kilo’s up and down(I know.. 113 kilo is peanuts for you).I like higher reps by the way.I never felt good with low reps.From 8 to 20 is my preference.
        Happy training 🙂

  • Renato says:

    Bret,I saw your instructions on the hip thrust on youtube by the way.It is very informative.Thanks for that.A guy I know,via email, told me about the hip thrust to try it.And then i start looking for info on youtube and came to your videos.They are very good.I do this exercise now every time in my legs routine.It is the best exercise for the butt.Do you hear that ladies?

  • Renato says:

    My ‘weak’ spots are my forearms and calves.Arrggh.I do wristcurls(reverse too) and plate wristcurls.Also the wristroller(love that one).I like all of these and they definitely help.But I will never have BIG forearms. or big calves.My calves are even more stubborn.I would almost say..They reflect my character 😛

  • alex says:

    Dear friends,
    I have only sayd that my quads keep growing and not that my butt is flat, in fact it can be considered average for a person who deadlift in good style 170 kg x 10 and squats 140 kgx10 too. I personally know one guest blogger of Bret’s who’s name is Carlo B. and he can be my witness that i’m not an ectoplasmic entities nor an ectomorph nor a wimp about training! In recent years the obsession about glutes, rigth or worong, is out of control. My physique ten years ago and right now can be considered equilibrated and at the moment no one has never told me your butt is “out”, rather i’ve received some compliments from people who doesn’t train, but for me this is not enough! In the past five / six months, like i was telling, pushed by all the talk about glutes in the internet, i wanted to test on me some ideas from various experts in order to developing not only strength, but a notable increse in the muscolar mass of my volume glutes. I would have liked to say, for example,that activation work before training does it work or that this new family of exercises gives you superior results and so on…but for me it did not worked as I expected, starting from what i consider a good general genetic base. Now, personally, i couldn’t push a youg bodybuilder to invest a considerable amounts of blood and tears in something that partially disappointed me. If a specific exercise or training method has given you superior results more power to you…I was only saying that for me it didn’t happened so i was thinking if i was lonely in that situation. I suspect that many people is catched from a placebo effect when judging their own results. I do not want to be neither negative nor destructive, an i truly believe that the new glutes exercise are exceptional, but now more than ever i believe that barbell hip thrust and barbell glute bridges can give strength only to a normal butt and strength + a lot of size to a genetically gifted butt…but this phenomenon can be observed with other exercises like deadlift, squats and so on… for example i was told to have great traps and i have never done a single reps of shugs in my life. This fact must say something! If a muscle is capable of growing without any isolated amount of training it can also be that a muscle cannot grow with large amounts of selected exercises. If only we could scratch the surface of the reasons for this phenomenon …acchhhh!!!!
    You may say: look at the calves, in some people they never grow…yes it is true, but i expeted that glutes, being among, if not the biggest muscle of the body, could have had the biggest growth potential of all others making specific exercises but this time, for some reasons it didn’t work…
    The meaning of my previous post was not dictated by disappointment but rather meant as a mental challenge that I can see at hand and that we can win if we we can put together the pieces of a difficult individualized puzzle composed not only by the best elecromioghraphy activation exercise but other elements like posture? (favorable anterior pelvic tilt?-posterior pelvic tilt?neutral pelvic tilt?) stretching?(tight hams? tight glutes? tigth hip flexors?)…who does know may one or all of this or other elements can change the outcome of Bret’s exercise from so and so results and strathospheric results!
    I want only to say that if we could sufficiently understand the variable maybe genetics is modifiable.

    • Bret says:

      Alex, it mostly boils down to activation. If you carry around heavy dumbbells, do deadlifts, etc. then your traps will get highly activated and hence will be muscular (unless you have crappy genetics for trap growth). Many bodybuilders don’t do any targeted trap work because their traps don’t need it. The calves get highly activated with squats so they’ll be muscular as well (unless you have crappy genetics for calf growth). Many people could just do 4 exercises and have a pretty good physique: squats, deadlifts, bench press, and rows. But for maximum development we need more variety.

      To address your comment about the glutes. The deadlift highly activates the glutes. Many people will have great glute development from just squatting and deadlifting. But along with this comes tons of quad and back activation. Some women want to target their glutes and don’t wish to add any upper body or quad mass. For these folks the hip thrust and bb glute bridge are huge.

      Furthermore, having tested four different people in glute activation, I realized that some people don’t get a lot of glute activation with squats and lunges, even though their form looks great. These folks usually see huge gains from hip thrusts.

      And for those seeking maximum glute hypertrophy or sprinting speed, the hip thrust makes a ton of sense due to superior glute activation and horizontal force production. By bending the knee, the hammies are placed in active insufficiency which reduces their contribution and forces more onto the glutes.

      Anyway, low load activation work prior to the workout won’t add much mass to the glutes on it’s own, but it’s been shown in a recent study to increase power production 8% whereas control and whole body vibration groups saw no increases. So it definitely has merit for some purposes.

      And if you’ve already gained a lot of muscle from prior years of lifting, and you get a lot of activation from squats and/or deadlifts, then you might not see much growth from the hip thrust. But obviously we’re all unique and some exercises work great for certain folks and not so great for others. But the same could be said of other exercises. For example, I’m sure I could keep my glute and hamstring mass by just hip thrusting and glute ham raising. This doesn’t mean that the deadlift is no longer important.

      Moreover, if your form on hip thrusts wasn’t good or if you didn’t get much stronger, of course they’ll lead to disappointment.

      I think the best results are seen when you combine movement patterns and hit the glutes from a bunch of angles, but in my experience I can speed up a person’s glute hypertrophy significantly with the hip thrust. Before I used this exercise, it took me much longer to develop people’s glutes.

      Last, some people have great genetics for glutes and others have terrible genetics for glutes. For the genetically inferior, their only hope is tons of heavy hip thrusts with great form.

      So if you want a great overall physique with minimal variety, just squat, dl, bench, and row. But if you want to maximize hypertrophy in a particular muscle, then target it. That’s my take,


      • Renato says:

        Bret:”And for those seeking maximum glute hypertrophy or sprinting speed, the hip thrust makes a ton of sense due to superior glute activation and horizontal force production”.

        That is what I noticed when walking.This power when starting or jumping(away for cars).
        Might be a very good exercise for boxers too..

        And I also want to add just like Bret already said that the deadlift is not a minot exercise for working the traps.
        Th deadlift is known for its effectivity on many muscles.
        But i stay away from it.Too much pressure on the lower back ,yes,and I’m talking about doing it in good form.

        • Renato says:

          Sorry for the spelling faults. Minot=minor etc.

        • Bret says:

          Funny you say that Renato. I’ve noticed increased horizontal force during walking since starting hip thrusts as well. A couple of weeks ago my strength coach colleague remarked about how long my strides are when we were walking up a hill. He leaned forward more and had more knee bend, whereas I stayed more upright and used my hips more.

          • Renato says:

            I also immediately noticed this effect after the first time doing this hip thrust exercise.Just walking on the street gave me some powerful stride.So like you experienced,going uphill has even more noticable effects.Great thing :-).Another exercise you’ll notice immediate effects of and that not many people do is the anterior tibialis raise.I put my heels on a 3 inch block when sitting on a bench and then lift an ez-barbell with 40 kilos for higher reps(folden towel between bar and feet).Walking after that exercise makes your feet feel like air 🙂

  • alex says:

    Thanks for giving me an answer with a logical sense to me that give me a reason to continue experimenting the exercises tyipical of your training protocol this time checking more, in addition to the progression of the loads, the quality of the gluteal muscle contractions. In this regard, I would like to know if, in your experience, if this class of exercises, are best suited for a more explosive approach, wich i prefer, like the one used by Branch Warren or johnny Jackson (but without that much momentum and the half range of motion)or an heavy duty approach were reps are completed one by one slowly stressing peack contraction and so on…. From September i have decided to implement again your exercises to my well tested 531 routine for a longer time and being more conscious of exercise form. At the moment, i’m experimenting with heavy K.bell swings two times a week for 5×15/20 with a 32 kg k.bell to see see what will be the final training effect of this strange exercises that stress acceleration and deceleration at the same time…In tems of hypertrophy it doesn’t seem to give that much but in terms of glute activation to teach to be explosive and for improving of flexibility and posture it seems to be awonderful exercise, so i would like to keep it in my routine for a very long time. The problem will be to mix all these hip exercises (I will choose training barbell hip thrust + barbell glute bridge once each + KB swings two times over a cycle of 8/9 days along with the deadlift like prescribed by Jim Wendler). I must be careful because I will risk overtraining.

    • Bret says:

      Alex, I like to utilize both methods. In fact, I review several methods in an upcoming journal article on the hip thrust technique. Not to add more decisions to your plate, but I also think that back extensions and reverse hypers should be added to the mix (if you have access to the equipment) if seeking maximal deadlift strength. I think that if you’re performing hip thrusts or glute bridges you can drop the kb swings as the bridges utilize more loading on the hips (but the kb swings involve simultaneous knee extension which may be more specific to the dl). I think you should just pick one or two of the following: hip thrust, bb glute bridge, back ext, rev hyper, ghr, pull thru, or kb swing, for each session.

  • alex says:

    My gym perhaps is one of the best equipped in italy (olympian’s gym of Figlie valdarno – FIRENZE). Only for legs we have two pro squat cages, two deadlift platforms, one pro reverse hypers, three 45° hipers, one parallel hypers, one pro calf-hams-glute raises machine, two 45° new generation leg presses, two orizontal leg presses, one zane leg blaster machine, one Tru Squat of Southern Xercise, one Powertech Leverage Squat Calf, two quadra bar,and an enormous machine with handes to do guided deadlifts, plus seated and lying leg curl machine. I’m training in this gym for 1 + 1/2 year but i prefer and stick almost exclusively with classic free weigth exercises like back squats, front squats, deadlift, romanian deadlift,stiff leg deadlift, leg extensions, lying leg curls, standing and seated calf raises; sometimes, only for short cycles, i use medium heavy good mornings and split squat. I have noted also that the only two exercises that make my glutes sore for days and that i use only for short periods are bulgarian squat and plain simple split squat. How important are sore glutes for you, just curious because everyone has a different theory regarding this argument. Years ago i used very frequently the back hyper for medium to high reps loaded with 20 kilos plates (12/15 reps) but with a very different techinque you use in youtube. At the time we used hypers for low back and hams training only and the style you are now using, here in europe, will be considered wrong and dangerous. I would like to know more about this exercise, like wich part of the glutes is more stressed from contreras style hypers! Recently,i’ve read from an article of a famous fitness blogger that he once assisted to a dissection of a cadaver and he remained shocked by the size of gluteus medius, he concluded later that if you want a round butt, you must train these puppies seriously. Problem is, on the web we see only toy-activation exercises like lying bodyweigth clams, band seated resisted abductions and so on… May be the single leg path to glute greatness is worth a trying, so somethimes i wish you could team with the king of singleleg exercises Ben Bruno to tell us readers his observations & reflections about superheavy single leg exercises in merit to glute,hams and quads hypertrophy and other general training effects.
    thank you, bret.

    • Bret says:

      Awesome! Sounds like a dream gym.

      I’m actually working on a journal article on this very topic. We look at the hip torque throughout the entire range of motion for different exercises. The exercises that get you the sorest have the most torque in the stretch position and create the most damage to the sarcomeres. Research on whether muscular damage is important with hypertrophy is equivocal; some studies show it’s critical, others show it’s negligable. The exercises that have more torque at end range have the highest activations and are good at creating a pump. Research on the pump (cell swelling) is intriguing, and I have some researcher friends who are going to publish something in the next year showing considerable satellite cell activation through occlusion/hypoxia. At the end of the day, both types of exercises are good. So squats and lunges, deadlifts, hip thrusts, back extensions, etc. are all good for glute growth. As for the glute med, I’ve always trained them hard with band seated abductions and band standing abductions.

      I speak to Ben on the phone quite frequently and enjoy his thoughts on single leg training. His front squat increased significantly just by focusing on single leg work for a year.

    • Renato says:

      Yes the Bulgarian split squat is a great gluteus maximus exercise too.I almost forgot about it.
      And I’ve done it for years ,used weights like 10×100 kilo.And I payed the price.ain’t doing them without hurt anymore.Threw them out.Single leg exercises ,I think , give more easy hip problems than two legged squats, deadlifts etc.Just my experience..

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