Bridge Pose is a key stretch for targeting the posterior chain — the series of muscles that include the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. If done correctly, this pose can help to strengthen the muscles used for hip extension, which protects you from low back and hip issues, and promotes better posture and performance.
However, if done incorrectly, Bridge Pose can encourage over-recruitment of the spinal erectors and hamstrings, which can lead to lower back pain.
While Bridge can be practiced in a number of ways, the set-up should stay fairly consistent. You should always feel your glutes burn before your hamstrings.
Try the following tips to get the most out of this foundational strength move!
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Your feet should be hip-width apart and parallel. Your pelvis should be neutral. To find this, let your hips settle into the place where your pubic bone lines up with the top of your hipbones.
Once you're set up, push your feet into the floor to activate your glutes and slowly lift your hips up towards the ceiling. While the bottom part of your rib cage will lift off of the floor, you want to focus on keeping your torso still as you open through the front of the hips. Pause at the top and then slowly release the glutes as you lower your hips back to the ground.
You know you've mastered this move if you feel your core and glutes activate first and then your hamstrings second. If you feel the work primarily in your lower back or your hamstrings, it means that you are not engaging your glutes enough at the onset of the lift, and you may be performing lower back extension instead of hip extension.
If this is the case, try moving a little slower and focus on keeping your ribs heavy as the hips lift up. You can also try foam rolling or stretching your quadriceps before bridging, since tight quads can inhibit hip extension and encourage excessive motion in the lower back.
This fundamental pose gives a whole new meaning to "burning bridges."
Photos courtesy of the author