Your glutes are one of the biggest, most powerful muscle groups in your body. But you don’t need to move them very much—or for very long—to challenge them.
In fact, you can get a great glute workout by moving your butt just one inch for four minutes. That’s if you attempt a move that Nashville-based celebrity trainer Erin Oprea shared this week on Instagram.
Oprea, whose famous clients include Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini, among others, shared a video of her demoing the exercise—single-leg bridges—with a caption explaining the intense glute challenge it delivers. The move also really works the hamstrings.
“KILLER BOOTY? and HAMSTRING Tabata Workout you can do while watching TV tonight,” Oprea writes. You can check out the move, via @erinoprea, here:
The move is relatively simple—but definitely not easy.
The single-leg bridge “seems like an easy move, but if you do it correctly, it’s no joke,” Oprea tells SELF. “Those things burn…[they’re] so effective.”
That effectiveness comes, in part, from the fact that this move works multiple muscles at once, including your core, lower back (which is technically part of your core), your hamstrings, and the big driver: your glutes. But as Oprea mentions, you need to perform the move correctly to reap these strengthening benefits. To do so, you need to focus on really engaging your lower half as you push your hips up and then continue engaging those muscles as you perform micro pulses.
The move, overall, would be much less effective if you didn’t continuously squeeze your glutes, hamstrings, and core, says Oprea, and it would also be less effective—and much easier—if you lowered your hips all the way with each rep instead of performing the micro pulses at the top of the movement. These micro pulses keep the tension on your muscles for an extended period of time, which helps challenge and ultimately strengthen them.
It’s especially effective if done in a Tabata sequence.
Tabata is a style of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) that includes 20 seconds of maximum-effort work followed by 10 seconds of rest. This 30-second series is repeated eight times for a total of four minutes. Oprea is a longtime fan of this workout style—her book, The 4×4 Diet, features a daily Tabata workout plan for all fitness levels, and she’s previously told SELF that she loves the Tabata method because it’s fun, versatile, effective, and quick.
Doing this particular move in Tabata format is seriously challenging because “you are basically doing it for two [straight] minutes,” says Oprea. Though you technically get a 10-second break after every 20 seconds of work, that rest is “just like a little teaser,” says Oprea, and won’t give your muscles time to fully recover. During each 20-second round, “you never really relax,” she adds. “The tension never comes off.” That’s also why you’ll feel a serious burn in your muscles.
ICYMI, there are lots of reasons to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.
Having strong glutes, in general, is important because this muscle plays a big role in stabilizing your hips, which we rely on for so many different daily movements, including running and walking. Having strong glutes, which can translate into stable hips, will help reduce your risk of lower-body injury, particularly in the lower back and knees. “A lot of people have knee issues and don’t realize it’s coming out of their hips,” explains Oprea. That’s one of the reasons she “highly recommends” people train their glutes. Hamstrings, she adds, also help support your knees, and having strong hamstrings can help prevent certain knee-related sports injuries, like ACL tears, she says. Doing glutes- and hamstrings-centric moves, like these single-leg bridges, will help you strengthen both of these important areas.
Here’s how to do the single-leg bridge:
Though the single-leg bridge is generally safe for most people, if you feel any sharp pain and/or discomfort in your knee or back as you move through the rounds, stop and talk with your doctor or physical therapist before attempting it again.
- Lie faceup with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- Lift your left toes so that just your heel touches the floor. Press into the floor with your left heel and lift your right leg straight up toward the ceiling.
- Engage your core, squeeze your butt, and press through your left heel to raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your left knee.
- Pause for a moment at the top of the move, slowly lower your hips about 1 inch, and then slowly raise them back up 1 inch.
- Pause again at the top and then repeat the slow, 1-inch lowering and lifting movements. Keep your glutes and abdominal muscles engaged the entire time.
- Continue for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds (during this break, you can stretch your right hamstring by gently pulling it back toward your face, suggests Oprea), and then repeat for another 20 seconds.
- Continue the 20 seconds of pulsing work, 10 seconds of rest pattern until you’ve done two total minutes.
- Without resting, switch legs and repeat for another two minutes.
As you move your hips, try to relax your head, neck, and shoulders, says Oprea. “Don’t shrug up when you are trying to push yourself up,” she says. “I promise [those upper body muscles] aren’t going to help you.” Instead, relax your upper body and focus on bracing your core and using your glutes and hamstrings to power the movement.
Also, as you pulse, try to keep your lifted leg as straight as possible. “Reach it toward the ceiling,” says Oprea. If that’s too challenging, you can regress the move by bending your lifted leg and resting the ankle on top of your other quad, suggests Oprea. To make the move more challenging, you can add weight on top of your hips, or perform one full four-minute Tabata round on one leg and then switch legs for another 4-minute round, though Oprea notes that doubling the time makes this workout “pretty advanced.”
You can incorporate this Tabata sequence as a glutes- and hamstrings-isolation exercise in a full-body routine, suggests Oprea, or you can do it alongside deadlift variations as part of a specifically hamstrings- and glutes-focused workout. Or, if you don’t have the time or energy for a full-blown workout, doing this 4-minute series on its own is a really efficient way to get moving and fit in some strength work whenever you can squeeze it into your day.
No matter how you incorporate these single-leg bridges into your routine, “smile through the burn,” says Oprea, whose enthusiasm will help you do just that.