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Strengthen your glutes and reduce low back pain with the fire hydrant exercise

This one move tones the glutes and core without any equipment.
Fire hydrants tighten and tone the glutes and core, which helps reduce back pain.
Fire hydrants tighten and tone the glutes and core, which helps reduce back pain.Courtesy Stephanie Mansour

Whether you suffer from low back pain and want to strengthen your entire core (not just your abs!) or you want to build a well-rounded booty, adding the fire hydrant to your regular workout routine can help.

The fire hydrant exercise specifically targets the glutes, outer hip, low back and core to improve stability and strength in the body. Since it requires you to balance on just three limbs, it is challenging. So it’s important to be aware of common mistakes and check your form. 

What are the benefits of the fire hydrant exercise?

Fire hydrants target the gluteus medius and outer hip. Without equipment, you can tighten and tone the glutes and core, preparing you for more advanced exercises and improving your overall fitness level.

This isolation exercise is sure to give you a great burn while opening up the hips, improving posture and strengthening your upper body.

The common mistakes people make when doing fire hydrants

Stabilizing your core is key and will make the exercise much more effective. Tightening your core takes the momentum out of the movement and also promotes proper alignment. Without core engagement, your lower back will dip toward the ground. This can cause pain in the low back. So make sure that you pull your naval in toward your spine at all times. This will help protect your back while preventing momentum from overriding glute muscle engagement.

It’s also important to keep your hips square with the ground as much as possible. Your body will twist slightly when you open your leg out to the side, so try your best to keep the hips in line with one another. Another common mistake in the lower body is kicking your leg up too high, which can also cause your low back to arch. To avoid these common mistakes, follow these tips:

  • Make sure the knee remains at 90 degrees and doesn’t go above hip height at the top of the movement.
  • Clients have a tendency to overarch the back and dip into the opposite side to raise the leg higher. Height is much less important than control and engagement.
  • Squeeze the glute, not the low back, throughout the whole movement.
  • Be aware of your neck. It should be neutral and in line with the spine.

How to do a modified fire hydrant exercise

The fire hydrant is a comprehensive movement that requires a lot of core balance, mobility, wrist strength and hip flexibility. Don’t feel bad about starting with the modified version! It is very close to the full movement, with just a slightly smaller range of motion. This will ensure that your low back doesn’t compensate for imbalances and endure excessive pressure.

modified fire hydrant exercise

Set up on all fours the same way you would for the regular version. When raising the working leg, only raise it up about half way between the floor and hip height, still keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees. Lower with control and repeat for ten reps on each leg.

How to perform the fire hydrant correctly

fire hydrant

With proper form, this exercise is extremely effective at tightening the outer glute and the core. Master the proper form by following these 5 simple steps:

  1. Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders, fingers spread wide, and knees directly below your hips. Press evenly into both hands and maintain this balanced pressure throughout.
  2. Keeping your back straight, abs tight and knees at 90 degrees, lift your right knee off of the ground slightly.
  3. Maintaining the bend in your knee, reach the right knee out and up to hip height (or slightly lower for a modification).
  4. Return back to the starting position. This is one repetition.
  5. Perform ten reps on the right side then lower the knee to the ground. Adjust to make sure your spine is in alignment and hips are even before lifting the left knee.
  6. Repeat for ten repetitions on the left side.

4 exercises that will help you perform fire hydrants better

If this feels too difficult for your wrists, core or back, no worries! Try these other exercises that can strengthen the glutes and surrounding muscles, and make it easier to perform the fire hydrant.

Side lunge

Side lunge

Standing with your feet as wide as your hips, step your right foot out to the right and lunge into the right glute. Reach the right glute backward as you keep the left leg straight. Press down through your right heel as you come back to center. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.

Clam

Clam

Lie down on your left side and prop yourself up on your elbow and forearm. Bend both of your knees, bringing them closer to your torso. Keep one leg on the floor while lifting the other into the air, opening your hips. Keep your feet glued together. This should activate your right glute. After ten repetitions, switch to your right side and repeat the same process.

 

Standing side leg lift

Standing side leg lift

Stand with your feet as wide as your hips. Then lift the right leg out to the right and up as high as the hip (or lower for a modification) to work the outer right hip and thigh. Place the foot back down. Repeat 10 times, then switch to the other side. 

Bridge pose

Bridge pose

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and open as wide as the hips. Raise your hips to create a straight line from your neck to your knees, being careful not to hyperextend your hips. Clasp your hands underneath your back for a deeper stretch or keep the arms extended straight out on the floor, fingers pointing to your feet. Hold the pose for 10 seconds. Don’t let the knees splay out or in. Slowly lower down.

More ways to master the move