I usually find any excuse to bust a bridge. Like for example, in this random contraption I found on a playground in L.A!
Back bridging is a skill I’ve been able to do since I was a kid. Gradually, as I got older the skill became harder and harder to maintain. Thankfully I found yoga and Convict Conditioning and both highly recommend bringing this exercise back to the forefront of your training. Coach Paul Wade, author of CC1 & 2 says, “No other exercise or method comes close to bridging for strengthening the muscles and tendons of the entire body. Bridging also increases lung power and flexibility!” Now that is a powerful statement! Why wouldn’t YOU want to include an exercise in your regimen that can help improve your posture and your breathing?
The back bridge is an exercise I recommend for all my clients. It can compliment your deadlift practice and any bodyweight strength routine. If you’ve had any kind of back surgery or injury in the past, or are new to bridging in the first place, it’s always good to ease into the easier variations. With practice, you might even be able to lessen your back pain! I’ll show you a few variations that can help you take your power back! 😉
The Easy Bridge is a great place to start for beginners. In yoga, this is the first step towards the full expression of the pose and can also be used as a restorative pose. I could “chill” in this pose forever!
Start by lying flat on your back with your arms at your side, and palms facing down. Walk your feet in towards your butt with your heels flat on the floor. You want your feet to be about hips-width apart with your knees pointing straight towards the sky.
Now press your hands and your feet simultaneously into the ground while lifting your hips up and squeezing your butt. Avoid letting your knees flare out, by imagining you are squeezing an invisible block between your knees. This will help create tension in the pose so you can stay in it longer.
Tuck your chin in towards your chest and roll each shoulder underneath the body while you attempt to interlace your fingers. Squeeze the palms together and hold the pose anywhere from 10-30 seconds.
The Table bridge requires a bit more “juice” than the first variation because you need more upper body strength!
Start by sitting up with your heels on the ground, feet hips-width apart and knees pointed up towards the sky. You should have about 1 foot of space between your heels and your butt this time. Place your hands a few inches behind you, with your elbows locked. You can turn your fingers completely away from you or off to the sides. Press into the soles of your feet and your hands as you lift your hips off the ground. Squeeze your butt to maintain a straight back in the position, and allow your head to drop back as your neck relaxes. You can practice these for reps or long holds.
This pose is sometimes known as the “Wrestlers Bridge,” because a lot of wrestlers practice this move to make their necks strong for grappling with an opponent.
For this move you want to start in the Easy Bridge position, lying flat on the ground with heels in towards the butt. You can place your hands by your ears to assist in lifting your head into position. Lift your hips towards the sky and press into your hands as you slide onto the top of your head.
Keep squeezing your glutes and pressing into your feet to take some pressure off your head. Eventually when you feel confident with this move you can remove the hands from the equation. Don’t rush to get to that final step as you want to avoid any kind of strain in the neck.
Full Bridge/Wheel Pose
Once you’ve conquered the above steps and can hold each pose confidently for 30 seconds or more, you can attempt the full expression of the back bridge.
Start by lying on your back, with the same form as the wrestler’s bridge. Place your hands by your ears, and press away the ground by squeezing your butt and holding the position.
Ideally for beginners you can ease into the bridge by lifting your heels off the ground in order to allow you to push your chest forward more. Gradually as you continue to practice this move, aim for heels on the ground.
At first you may only be able to hold for a few seconds and that’s quite the feat of strength. Give yourself some time to rest before attempting again. The first few bridges are always a bit brutal but the more reps you do, the easier they become. Be patient with the process as this is a very intense pose. I promise you the more your practice, the better you will feel! I’ve noticed improved posture, better breathing in my lifts, and even eliminated my low back pain!
I’ve also included an extra video below for folks who are having trouble with wrist flexibility in the full bridge! Ch-ch-check it out:
Eventually as your back flexibility and strength improves, you can work on adding a stability challenge to your bridge by extending one of your limbs in the air, like an arm or even a leg. It takes some time to progress, but your back will thank you for your effort! Stay the course! 😉
If there are any ninjas in the New York area interested in deepening their knowledge of Progressive Calisthenics, be sure to check out my Bodyweight Bootcamp class every Sunday at 10am at Momentum Fitness! Spots are limited, so sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org! Hope to see you there! Peace, <3, and Ninja Kicks!!