Generally speaking, the Bridge exercise seems like a pretty easy, less tedious movement than some other exercises, though this pose has great benefits. Not only is it good for your glutes, but your whole core. This includes your back and hips, making it especially beneficial if you’ve ever experienced a back injury.
First, let’s make sure you know exactly what a bridge exercise is and where and how it affects you.
The bridge, also known as the Hip Raise focuses on the hip abductors, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and rectus abdominis (consider these the muscles that hold your organs all in place – they’re the muscles that connect from the front of the stomach or abdomen near the sternum to the pubis and act to bend the whole body forward or sideways).
To do a Bridge –
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Raise your hips off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees
- Pause at the top and then slowly lower your body back to the floor
- *as an added benefit to your back and abdominal muscles, you’ll want to remember kegels while you’re lifting your butt, as you raise your hips. Kind of sucking in your entire lower half to the floor while lifting it all at the same time.
And don’t forget to breath. You might consider doing your research on yoga, or attending a class or two. This is a popular pose in beginner yoga while you learn how to focus on your breathing and movements simultaneously.
To give yourself a challenge, you might try adding a padded weight across the front of your hips. If you don’t have weights, there’s always a single leg lift bridge.
This is similar to a regular bridge, but instead of raising just your hips, this time you’re going to raise your hips and then instead of holding your legs still on the floor… lift one at a time, bringing it toward your chest and back down as you raise the other leg in the same motion. Be reminded to keep breathing throughout these motions and when you’re bringing your leg up and down, hold it there for just a few seconds! The more you practice, the longer you should be able to hold the pose without breaking down.
Bridges are a great exercise that you can do every day to learn how to activate the glutes. When done correctly, bridges can teach core control, hip control, how to deactivate the hamstrings and maybe most importantly, rev up the glutes.
Take note to how one writer put it, that a weak and under active “butt” is almost quite literally a prescription for back pain. As we live in this modern age where jobs are sedentary and seated, the glutes don’t get used much. This results in other muscles taking over the job that the glutes are meant for. This process of the glutes becoming less active has been termed “Gluteal Amnesia.” The result of Gluteal Amnesia is often too much movement and loading with the back instead of the hips. This has been shown to be one of the primary causes in the development of low back pain.
Furthermore, doing bridges everyday (especially after prolonged sitting) will help to ‘wake up’ the glutes and reset the pelvis. This helps the body to remember to use the hips (glutes) to create movement instead of the more fragile spine.
Otherwise, you probably didn’t know that one of the primary reasons for knee pain is a lack of control of the upper leg bone, the femur. Without a long scientifically winded explanation, the glutes play a major role in controlling the femur at the hip joint which will have an effect on how the other bones of the knee joint join together and move.
The long and short is that bridging works the posterior chain of the body. These muscles play a vital role in our ability to both maintain our balance and regain our balance when we start to fall. Strengthening the posterior chain will help improve balance when standing too. One of major benefits of the move is its ability to strengthen the core thus helping your posture.
Here’s a few more poses for you to try once you’ve had some practice:
Single Leg Bridge
To perform this pose, you have to:
- Lay flat on the back with knees bent hip-width apart and hands by your sides
- Bring right knee into your chest and keep it like that.
- Make sure your left foot is on the floor and knee is bent.
- Engage your glutes and start lifting your hips up as high as you can go.
- When you lift, you should form a straight line that goes from head to knees.
- When you reach the highest point, stay in that position for 2-3 second and slowly return into the starting position.
- Do 20 reps for each side.
You can perform this pose by following instructions below:
- Lie your back with knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
- Make sure you hold your weight on the hips and use your hands to stabilize it and keep it in place i.e. to establish a balance.
- To start lifting hips, engage your buttocks, and lift as high as you can making sure that lift comes from the glutes not lower back section
- While lifting, keep back straight and core engaged.
- Return to the starting position (balancing weight with hands) and do 10 more reps.
This exercise is performed in the following manner:
- Lay on your back making sure your feet and knees are together
- Just like in previous exercises, this one also requires engaging inner thighs and glutes while you’re lifting the hips up.
- When you reach the top (or as high as you can go) hold that position for 2-3 seconds and then return into the starting position. Do 20 reps at least.
NOTE: Make sure your legs stay together throughout the exercise.
Below, you can see instructions for this simple bridge exercise:
- Lie on the back with your knees bent and hands pressed into the mat.
- Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Start lifting your hips up as high as you can lift.
- When you reach the highest point, lower your hips an inch and then start lifting them an inch.
- Do 30 reps.
Many physical therapists recommend this exercise as it can be done laying down. Squats are generally a very popular and effective exercise for strengthening leg muscles, but there are many people who are unable to do a traditional squat due to back, knee or hip pain. The bridge allows a person to strengthen these muscles in a position that does not put pressure on their joints.
As always, talk with your doctor. Especially if you’re uncomfortable learning the exercise on your own. Your doctor can prescribe you a trip to the physical therapist… no excuses.
Give it a try – it’s really not a difficult exercise and yet you’ll feel the burn the next day…