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Bridge Exercise

A Few Thoughts On The Bridge Exercise

The bridge exercise is one of the most beneficial workout exercises one can have in his or her regimen, yet as simple as it is to do, it is commonly overlooked. The exercise promotes both muscle strength and flexibility, and when done properly, can be very relaxing in spite of the effort involved.

The exercise is simple to perform. Lying on one's back, the legs are bent and the feet are placed flat on the floor about hip width apart. The arms are usually held near the sides of the body, perhaps angled out a bit for stability if new to the exercise.

More Than Meets The Eye - Watching the exercise, it appears the person doing it is simply lifting his or her hip off from the floor, keeping the legs in position and the shoulder blades on the floor, until the back assumes a slanting, plank-like position. There is however, much more to it than that, and a good part of the exercise involves breathing and what goes on in the mind. A number of muscle masses benefit from the bridge exercise, including the abdominal muscles, the glutes, the calf muscles, and the middle and lower back muscles.

How The Bridge Exercise Is Done - Starting in the lying position, the abdominal muscles are first tightened or constricted. The mind should picture your belly button being pulled down towards the floor. At the same time, the mind pictures a string, attached to the belly button, pulling the stomach upwards towards the ceiling.  The glutes are then tightened and the feet are pushed against the floor, with the result that the back begins to lift off from the floor and is raised until the hips are as high as they can go. The movement is performed slowly, and the back is kept straight and not allowed to arch. The abdominal muscles and glutes are kept tightly constricted throughout.

At the top of the bridge the body can relax slightly, though the back is kept straight and not allowed to sag. Then the muscles are tightened again and the hips are lowered back towards the floor. Some recommend the abdominal muscles remain tightened throughout the exercise, others don't feel it is absolutely necessary and the muscles can be relaxed at both the top and bottom of the movement.

Correct Breathing Is Key - Breathing is also important in doing a bridge exercise. A slow, deep breath is first taken in, always breathing through the nose. One exhales, slowly as the hips are raised. Exhaling may either be done through the nose, or through slightly pursed lips. An inhale breath is taken as the hips are being lowered. Some practitioners follow a rhythmic pattern, stopping only momentarily when the hips are fully raised and again when the back touches the floor. Others will stop and rest, taking an extra breath or two in both positions. Either way is all right. The important thing is to move slowly, timing your breathing to the movement, and remembering to always breathe in through the nose.

A Complimentary Exercise - The bridge exercise will be observed in stretching and flexibility classes, mind and body classes where great emphasis is placed upon breathing and "knowing" your body, in Pilates classes, and in yoga classes. Older people who have begun to feel aches, pains, and stiffness, can benefit greatly from the bridge exercise. It is often done in combination with cat stretches. The cat stretch is performed on the hands and knees, with the back first arched as a cat would stretch, by tightening the abdominal muscles, and then allowed to sag by relaxing the same muscles. The back and abdominal muscles, and also the glutes are exercised in the cat stretch, but differently than in the bridge exercise.

Variations of the bridge exercise can be done if an exercise ball is used. These are healthy exercises, but as simple as they appear, start with only a few repetitions at first. As you progress, slow the movement, and your breathing, down, while doing more repetitions. The results can be amazing.


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