The fire hydrant exercise is a relatively simple and easy bodyweight exercise that can be performed anywhere. In this article, we’ll talk all about this seemingly innocent exercise. At first glance, it seems like the fire hydrant can only be included as a complementary exercise to your main workout routine but there is more to it.

Can this exercise be used in a strength routine? Can it tone your glutes? Can it make you more flexible? Join me as we uncover these mysteries.

What is the fire hydrant exercise?

First things first, the fire hydrant exercise is more of a mobility exercise which can be best fitted in a yoga style workout or a mobility workout. This is because the nature of the movement itself has its own limitations and its own perks.

Source: Vicky Justiz

The exercise, done unmodified in its pure form, trains your gluteus muscles and hips but does not offer enough resistance to be included in a strength routine. Your body will soon get used to the movement and the fire hydrant exercise will not be able to provide the necessary stress to the muscles to make them work hard.

What does the fire hydrant exercise do?

In order to determine if this exercise is suitable and useful for you or not, we need to put it into context. The fire hydrant mainly works on your hip muscles and legs. It slightly affects your lower back and, even less, the rest of the core.

Strength & Hypertrophy

If your goal is to gain strength and hypertrophy, this exercise is not the best you can do. It will never be enough challenging for your legs or hips.

Mobility

If your goal is mobility, then this exercise can be an addition to your stretching routine.

Tone

If your goal is toning, now we’re talking. For women who want to tone their buttocks, this exercise can be gold. But to achieve this it’s not enough to stay on the 3 sets of 15 reps range. You need to step it up, ladies. I would suggest even aiming for an end goal of 6 sets of 15-20 reps.

Rehab

Another way to utilize this exercise is to use it for rehabilitation. When you come back from an injury, you want to gradually get back into action. The way to do this is by starting slow and then working from there.

My personal suggestion would be to use this exercise as a mobility exercise the same day you work on the “superman exercise”. If your fitness level is good enough, perform the fire hydrant after each set you perform the superman exercise. I suggest this combination because the fire hydrant exercise slightly targets the lower back and, thus, can be a nice touch in your lower back training.

How to do the fire hydrant exercise?

Now let’s dive into the details of how to perform this exercise. While I describe the steps, please don’t picture yourself as a dog peeing the bush because it will be the wrong form of execution.

  • Drop on the floor and stand on your hands and knees. Shoulders stay above the wrists on the same vertical line and the hips above the knees.fire hydrant exercise starting position
  • Lift your left knee and move it on your side away from your body. Stop your lifting knee at a 45-degree angle and return it down to complete one rep.
  • The part of the leg below the knee lifts together with the knee- leaving the ground and maintaining a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your body stable. Don’t move your whole body while you move your leg.
  • Repeat for the other leg.fire hydrant exercise end position

As I mentioned earlier, aim for high reps and sets to make sure you reap the benefits of this exercise.

How to make the fire hydrant exercise harder?

We can make some adjustments to the fire hydrant exercise to make it work even better for us. This can be done by the use of external force- resistance- and leverage manipulation- in our case stability.

External resistance

Resistance bands

To make this exercise harder and more efficient you can use short looped resistance bands. You need short looped resistance bands because you will need to get into them and they are easier to work within our case.

The way to perform the exercise is the same but this time you will have the resistance band wrapped around your thighs or a little bit lower, just above the knees. Place it however feels more comfortable and safe for you.

Resistance bands are color-coded. Each color represents the amount of resistance the band offers. If you have access to them, use them to work progressively through the exercise.

How are resistance bands color-coded?
  1. Yellow: Light resistance – easy to pull and stretch.
  2. Red: Harder than yellow. Medium resistance.
  3. Green: Even harder. Medium to hard resistance.
  4. Blue: Even harder. Heavy resistance.
  5. Black: The heaviest resistance of all.

If you come to love the fire hydrant exercise, then you can really progress through it and tone your thighs and buttocks with the help of resistance bands.

Ankle weights

Ankle weights come by their own resistances and weight so you can progress with them the same way we talked for the resistance bands.

If you ask me, I’ve seen better results in women toning their legs using the resistance bands in comparison to ankle weights.

Decreasing your leverage

Now let’s talk about how to make the fire hydrant harder without using any external resistance. To do this, we will create our own version of the exercise. Let’s call it the advanced fire hydrant.

We will be doing it while raising our knees from the floor. Everything else is the same but the knees are not touching the floor. This adds a stabilization factor because now the core has to work hard to keep you balanced. Also, the arms now need to get more involved and actively support the rest of the body.

The starting position of the advanced fire hydrant exercise:

planked fire hydrant exercise starting position

The ending position of the advanced fire hydrant exercise:

planked fire hydrant exercise end position

What can you add to the fire hydrant exercise?

Let’s now list a couple of exercises that are similar to the fire hydrant that you can do along with it to construct a booty building and toning routine.

The donkey kick

Although donkeys don’t kick that way, this is a good exercise that’ll work along with the fire hydrant.

donkey kick fire hydrant exercise

  • Get into the standard fire hydrant starting position.
  • From there, keep your knee bent into its 90-degree angle at all times and lift your leg upwards like you want to show the bottom of your shoe to the ceiling.
  • Bring it back down to complete one repetition.
  • Repeat for both legs.
  • Do 4 sets of 15 reps.

The back kick

back kick fire hydrant exercise

  • Get into the starting position.
  • Now imagine that a character you hate from a movie is reaching behind you to grab you. Extend your leg and kick backward preventing him to come closer. Don’t kick too hard as you may injure your knee. I made up the story for illustrational purposes.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
  • Do 4 sets of 15 reps.

The back kick circles

  • Drop into the starting position.
  • Extend your leg back and keep it hanging. Your leg is straight.
  • Now draw circles with your leg in a clockwise direction.
  • Return and repeat with the other leg.
  • Do 4 sets of 20 reps each

In its pure form, the fire hydrant exercise is a light and simple exercise. But you’ve learned how to work on it and how to manipulate it to fit your fitness level. If not used for advanced strength, it can be a great exercise to tone up your lower body and work on that mobility.

Conclusion

In short, the fire hydrant exercise can be a nice complementary exercise in your workout routine. Depending on your goal, it can be more or less useful to you as it doesn’t put too much stress on the muscles and joints.

A clever way to incorporate this exercise into an advanced routine is to use it as a cool down at the end of the routine. A light exercise like the fire hydrant can be a good starting point for untrained beginners. I would also include it in a list of great exercises for seniors who want to stay in shape in old age.

If it’s not hard enough, check out our One Punch Man workout to get a toned body.

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Andi Rafmani CCT
Andi Rafmani is a certified cross-training coach and possesses a Master's Degree in film writing. He combines the two loves of his life into writing articles around fitness topics and building his own training method. In his spare time, he loves watching movies and working out.

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