Hello everyone! Well, here we are post-Easter and we’re still in the lockdown. How are you all managing? I found solace in a little chocolate indulgence, but am pleased to now be back in the swing of things and keeping moving by runs or dog walks outside and Pilates inside. This week’s exercise is a Shoulder Bridge.

I LOVE bridges they are my favourite exercises and tend to include them – or a variation of them – in most Pilates  classes I teach! The bridge is a powerhouse of an exercise that can benefit people with back pain, strengthen core and glutes and stretch hip flexors which you need after sitting at a desk.

Here are 9 reasons you should do bridges every day

1. It tightens your bum, pelvic floor and leg muscles
Did you know that stronger glutes help contribute to your overall health. Many people with lower back, hip and knee pain have weak gluteal muscles. The bridge is one of the best exercises to help target and isolate these important muscles.

2. It improves posture
You are most likely reading this on your computer or mobile device right now. That means you are probably leaning forward, rounding your shoulders and your back. Most of us sit this way throughout the day, which can cause headaches, weakness and tight muscles from our poor posture! Bridging strengthens the back extensors, which can help us stand up straighter.

3. You can do it lying down
Squats are 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 doesn’t put pressure on their joints.

4. It decreases back pain
Back pain many times can be caused by poor movement of the spine. It can lead to weak hip and abdominal muscles. All of these issues are addressed with a bridge exercise. The focus on the core and surrounding musculature can help support and strengthen the low back, leading to decreased pain. Regular strengthening with bridges can help prevent back pain in the future!

5. It enhances sports performance
Most physical activities – including running, hiking, cycling, sprinting, skiing and jumping – require strong gluteal muscles. Most people don’t realise they have weak glutes until an injury sidelines them from their sports. Bridges can help strengthen all the posterior chain muscles, which can lead to decreased chance for injury and improved sports performance.

6. It helps prevent knee pain and injury
Knee pain can be a direct result from muscle imbalances in the hips, including weak inner and outer thighs and glutes. Bridging helps strengthen these muscle groups without putting added pressure on the knees. This muscle balance can lead to better tracking of the kneecap and a decreased chance of osteoarthritis in the knees.

7. It helps with scoliosis
Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine and causes an imbalance in movement of the vertebrae and the muscles that surround the spine. Bridging not only strengthens, but also can return proper movement to the spine, which can help the pain associated with scoliosis. I especially love the variation that involves moving one vertebrae at a time. This can be seen in the video.

8. It feels good
A bridge is considered a type of inversion exercise because your heart is lifted higher than your head as you lift your hips. Inversions have been shown to increase blood flow, which can help balance hormones and release endorphins. All of this can lead to peace of mind, better sleep and improved mood! Also massaging the spine as you press into the floor and it releases tension in sympathetic nervous system. 

9. It improves balance
Bridging works the muscles of the posterior chain of the body. These include the back extensors, gluteals and hamstrings. 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. It’s great for your pelvic floor and transverse abdominus – helping you strengthen your engagement with a balanced pelvis. 

HOW Set -up Lie on your back, spine in neutral, knees bent feet hip width apart, heels a foot away from your bottom, head relaxed nothing under your head. Toes pointing forward, ball or pillow between knees. 

Before you start on your out breathe contract pelvic floor and gluteus maximus (bottom). Breathe out and Move segmentally slowly through the back lifting inch by inch as if the spine is a bicycle chain trying to lift and move between each vertebrae- to help mobilise the back. Push through feet and lengthen the knees away. Use your gluteals not your hamstrings. To Lift the hips so they in line like a slope – head shoulders hips knees don’t flair rib cage. Breath in Lengthen arms over head then breathing out slowly lower the back down link by link. 

Want to challenge yourself and make it harder? Whilst in bridge lift, lift leg to table top, straighten leg and lower in line with knee, lift so toes pointing up to ceiling lower in line with knee and repeat 5 times. Hips / pelvis stay stable using glutes and core to stabilise.  You can also add a hand weight to your hips while carrying out the bridge, or put your feet on a stability ball to challenge your core even more.

Here’s a video to show you the shoulder bridge in action.

Want to do guided Pilates at home? Try Pilates Community Online membership!

You can sign up to monthly membership of Pilates Community Online here for only £9.99 per month. No commitment required, you can cancel at any time (or only £49.99 for 6 months). Once you sign up you’ll get a code to login. From there you can access a library of videos on the membership site. You’ll also receive several emails for the first few days, with tips and links to Beginner’s videos, to help guide you through the beginning of your online Pilates journey.

Squeeze and breathe, until next week!

Love Hannah x

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