06 Jan How To Master The Bridge Exercise
The bridge is a versatile exercise that can be used for developing great gluteal muscle function. Individuals with back and hip pathologies are often taught to perform bridges in the hook-lying position, elevating the pelvis off the floor. This exercise is particularly useful for facilitating pelvic motions and strengthening the low back and hip extensors. In addition, O’Sullivan et al. have demonstrated the bridges ability to enhance motor control of the lumbo-pelvic region. This article will help you improve the bridge exercise!
How to Improve The Bridge Exercise + Progressions
To Perfect your bridge, the key to is to focus on improving control of and primarily recruiting the glutes!
- Begin to elevate your pelvis initiating from your hips extending, as opposed to getting the extension from your lumbar spine! That will only work your erector spinae, which is Not the intention of a bridge.
- To help with lumbopelvic instability and low back pain, individuals should perform bridging exercises, especially females, especially if they are typically “quad-dominant”; i.e., the quadriceps femoris is the first muscle to activate in response to injury perturbations. A dominant quadriceps femoris causes poor endurance and delayed firing of the gluteus maximus muscle in subjects with lower extremity instability and low back pain. (Beckman and Deviata)
- To increase the abdominal and hip extensor muscle activities, many clinicians have emphasized using unstable devices, such as a Swiss ball, ball cushion, or BOSU ball, and applying unilateral conditions. However, studies have reported inconsistent results regarding the activation patterns of the abdominal and hip extensor muscles during these types of bridging exercises.
- If you feel like you are overusing your Hamstrings and Low back, try the next exercise below.
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Step #1 to Improve Your Bridge: Feel The Glutes!
If your hamstrings or low back extensors are overpowering this exercise, here is a great way to focus on improving the control (Mind-Muscle Connection) of your glutes.
A great way to improve control here is by performing this exercise for 3 X 30 second holds.
After you feel like you have improved your glute activation, progress into a double leg bridge focusing on driving the pelvis motion with the glutes!
Improve The Bridge Exercise With These Progressions
Far too often progressions of the double leg bridge are neglected, and simply a new exercise is chosen once someone “gets down” the double leg bridge. Once a patient develops a level of comfort and confidence with an exercise, don’t be so gung-ho to change it up for a harder exercise.
Instead, I encourage you to think of micro progressions (changes to the same exercise) instead of macro progressions (choosing a completely new exercise) when it comes to a rehab program – especially when someone is fearful of new movements/exercises.
Progressions and one (of many) rationales:
- Bridge taps for the introduction of single-limb loading and introduction of transverse plane loading through the hip as well as the core
- Single leg bridge with leg supported. While not encouraged, the patient can still derive some stability from the top leg pushing into the bottom leg
- Single leg bridge unsupported with short lever. Shorter lever is easier.
- Single leg bridge unsupported with long lever. Longer lever is harder.
Advanced Bridge Exercise Progressions!
Here is an extremely difficult version of a bridge that requires much more hip stabilization compared to a traditional bridge.
To perform this Exercise:
- Bridge Up, ideally with lifting the pelvis higher than I demonstrate & with more knee flexion than shown in this video.
- Slightly Abduct the Hips to their respective side.
- Slightly Externally Rotate both Hips as you abduct.
This is very difficult as is! To progress this you can perform this movement unilaterally. When you perform a bridge unilaterally you are now working the glutes in more than one plane of motion.
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Did you know a Single Leg Bridge Stretch’s the Hip Flexors?
Why is that so important you might ask? When the hip flexors are limited, it inhibits the glutes from working to their full capacity. It’s all about the muscle length relationship and active/passive insufficiency. Tight hip flexors will pull the pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt, affecting the glutes (and hamstrings) on the opposite side of the pelvis, making it more difficult to recruit.
If you’ve been following us, you’ll know that this anterior pelvic tilt also influences lumbar spine position, moving the spine into extension at end range, which under many circumstances we’d ideally like to avoid. So…the best way to stretch the hip flexors? By ACTIVELY using the Glutes in the single leg bridge! This will lead the phenomenon called reciprocal inhibition. The infamous glute guy, Bret Contreras, also found that the glute max exhibits maximal activation at end-range hip extension! So make sure to give your glutes a good squeeze at the top of the motion!
Improve The Bridge Exercise: Load It Up!
Once you are gaining some confidence and bridges against gravity are becoming easy, it is time to add some weight to make those strength gains! The Hip Thrust exercise is a great way to add some weight to your bridge motion and encourage even more facilitation of the gluteal musculature.
Hip Thrust Exercise
Hip Thrust 101 – How To Set Up, Execute, and Master The Hip Thrust
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The bridge is an excellent foundational exercise that has so many benefits. Furthermore, it can be progressed in so many ways, making it a continuous challenge. You can work all the way from the bottom of isolating your glute activation all the way to a barbell hip thrust! Ensure your foundation is solid rather than just going through the motions with the bridge exercise. It is easy to find the easy way out and compensate with this exercise by using your low back, hamstrings, or quadriceps. If focusing on the glutes, make sure they are firing!
- “Effects of a bridging exercise with hip adduction on the EMG activities of the abdominal and hip extensor muscles in Females” by Jang et al. 2013.
- “Ankle inversion injury and hypermobility: effect on hip and ankle muscle electromyography onset latency.” Beckman et al. 1995.
- “Effects of a functional knee brace on the biomechanics of running.” Deviata et al. 1992.