Real talk: Fire hydrant is a weird name for a workout move. But the quadruped (or all-fours) exercise is seriously good at targeting several key areas of your body including your glutes, hips, and core, simultaneously. This allows you to strengthen and sculpt multiple muscle groups together and save time.
Focusing on this area of your body, in particular, is important because you need your core and hip complex to act as a unit in order to transfer force between your upper and lower body during total-body strength training exercises. It's the foundation for your entire kinetic chain, i.e. the muscles, joints, and nerves that make up your movement system.
As a certified personal trainer, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about the the fire hydrant—its benefits, technique, variations, and more.
How To Do The Fire Hydrant
- Start in a quadruped position with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders and hips over your knees.
- Keep your belly button drawn in toward your spine, back flat, and your right leg bent at 90 degrees. Lift your leg out to your right side, stopping at hip height.
- Return to start. That's one rep.
Form tips: Keep a straight line from the crown of your head to your tail bone. And remember—that 90-degree angle for your knees makes all the difference. Also, always think: engaged core!
Sets/reps for results: Three sets of 15 reps on each leg is a great place to start.
Benefits Of The Fire Hydrant
Being in a quadruped position mimics your most foundational gait, the crawl. When you're on all fours, you activate your core stabilizers and strengthen your base. Aside from your abs, this move primarily targets the glutes, focusing in on the medium, maximus, and tensor fascia latae, so you can sculpt your butt from all angles.
Plus, the lateral lift that your leg is doing away from your body (a.k.a. abduction) allows you to move in three dimension, which most people don't commonly do! This translates to better hip mobility and flexibility so you'll be able to perform more complex movements in this position like bird dog down the road.
Variations Of The Fire Hydrant
- Forearm fire hydrants: If you need an easier option, instead of doing this quadruped on your palms, lower down to your forearms to allow for more control and stability.
- Bear crawl fire hydrants: This version is wayyy more intense. From all fours, hover your knees off the ground and then perform a standard fire hydrant. You'll be forced to balance while stabilizing your core and glutes as you do the move.
- Weighted fire hydrant: Wrap a resistance band around your legs above your knees or squeeze a dumbbell in the crease behind your working leg. Doing so will challenge your stability and increase your strength at the same time!
Alternative Exercises To The Fire Hydrant
Work the same muscles groups in different ways by doing the exercises below.
How to: Lie on your left side and place your left forearm on the floor. Bend your knees and stack your right leg on top of your left leg, with your left hip resting on the ground. Rotate your right knee towards the ceiling, keeping your feet together. Lower your leg, keeping your hips raised throughout. That's one rep. Complete three sets of 20 reps on each side.
How to: Get on all fours, with your hands stacked directly under shoulders, and knees under hips. Keeping the 90-degree bend in your right knee, slowly lift your leg straight back and up toward the ceiling. Your max height is right before your back starts to arch, or your hips begin to rotate. Return to the starting position. Repeat all reps on one side, then switch legs. Aim for three sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.
Weighted Glute Kickback
How to: Get on all fours on top of your mat. Tuck a two to five pound dumbbell in the crease of your right leg. Keep that leg bent at 90 degrees as you lift it behind you until your knee is in line with your hip, foot flexed. Reverse the movement to return to start. That's one rep. Complete three sets of 10 reps on each side.
How to: Start on all fours (i.e tabletop position) with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Be sure to engage your pelvic floor muscles, then raise your left arm in front of you and right leg behind, engaging your glutes to form a straight line from left hand to right foot. Hold for a second, then return to start. Repeat with opposite arm and leg. That's one rep. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps total.
How To Work The Fire Hydrant Into Your Routine
- Try it as a warm-up: Doing the fire hydrant pre-workout will ensure that your hips and core are ready to go for any exercise.
- Use it as an active recovery exercise: In between sets of strength training exercises, perform a round of fire hydrants to help reinforce that hip and core unit and ensure that they're loosened up and ready to activate when needed.
Lauren Kanski, CPTLauren Kanski is a NASM-certified personal trainer based in New York City.
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