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The back bridge or lumbar bridge is one of the most complete exercises that can shape well your targeted area. It's a great exercise to keep your back strong and healthy.

Indispensable for martial arts fighters, gymnasts or acrobats. And very beneficial for anyone as a tool to combat back or neck pain.

back bridge

Benefits of back bridge

It realigns the vertebrae in their correct position, and strengthens the deep muscles of the back. Some authors, such as Paul Wade, claim that even the bones of the spine become stronger. The discs in the back are made of cartilage and have little blood flow. Instead, they receive their nutrition through the synovial fluid that circulates through the joints. 

This flow of nutrients occurs due to gradients or variations of internal pressures, which in turn are generated by movement in those joints. Therefore, through the lumbar bridge, the discs are fed with the circulation of this fluid.

It also strengthens the lumbar erectors, and its version of the wrestler's bridge strengthens the neck.

Paul Wade also concludes that with regular bridge practice, the rib cage expands, increasing lung capacity.

Then let's go for the necessary progressions to achieve this exercise. Moving from one to another will depend on the number of days we dedicate to it, and the level of flexibility and strength that each person has. It can be weeks, or it can be months. But what is clear (I say this from my own experience), is that it can be achieved. 

To adapt to the exercise, we can use a fitball, and rest our back on it, to get acquainted with the exercise. With this posture a great stretch of our back is achieved, apart from working balance and proprioception.

Progressions

Short Bridge

The short bridge is also an exercise that activates the buttock, which we have already talked about in another article,about the importance of this muscle as a lumbar stabilizer and hip extender.

Lie on the floor with your knees bent, until your tibias are almost perpendicular to the ground, your feet resting on the ground and your hands on your stomach (it can also be done with your hands resting on the ground). 

Your feet are at the same distance as your shoulders from each other or a little less. This is the starting position. From there, press your feet on the ground, and peel your hips and lower back off the ground so that only your feet and shoulders are supporting your weight. At this point, the thighs and trunk should form a straight line. 

This is the final position, which must be held for a couple of seconds. Exhale when you reach the top, and inhale when you descend. This first progression exercise is a wonderful therapy for those who have lumbar discomfort.

The goal is to achieve 2 sets of 25 repetitions. Once achieved, we go on to execute the next exercise of the progression.

Straight bridge

Also known as inverted plate by various authors. In this case, the starting position is sitting on the floor, with the legs completely stretched out and the width of the shoulders apart, or a little less. The arms are resting on the ground next to the hips, and the fingers pointing towards the feet. 

The trunk forms 90º with the legs. This is the starting position. Press down through your hands, tighten your arms, while pushing your hips up, so that your legs, torso and head form a straight line (the gaze is directed to the ceiling). This is the final position. The points of support are the hands and heels. You should always keep in mind to push with both the hips and the chest, feeling how the scapulae close.

The goal is to achieve 2 sets of 20 repetitions. If the exercise is very hard, it must be done with the legs bent. Let's say it would be an intermediate step between a short bridge, and a straight bridge.

Angled bridge

To perform this exercise is necessary an object such as a bench,which is at knee height, or greater. Sit on the edge of the bench. Lie on the bench, resting only your shoulder girdle and hands on it. The rest of the body is maintained thanks to the support of the feet on the ground, with the legs flexed 90º. The legs and torso also form 90º. 

The hands rest next to the head, at the height of the ears, with the fingers pointing towards the feet. The elbows are flexed. This is the starting position. Now press down through the hands and arms, extending the elbows, while pushing up the hips, so that the back is in an arched position (bridge). In the final position only the hands rest on the bench (the head and shoulders are left in the air), and the feet continue to rest on the ground. The elbows do not have to be fully extended.

This is the most complicated exercise of the progression (surely it will take months to execute it correctly), since it is the first exercise of the progressions, in which the support and transmission of forces through the hands is incorporated, being these adjacent to the head. This requires acquiring strength and flexibility in the wrists. Scapular control is important, to open the shoulders during exercise. It is also necessary to have a lot of strength in the triceps. Remember that the higher the support object, the easier it will be to make the angled bridge.

The goal is to perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions.

If the exercise becomes impossible at first, instead of resting our hands on the bench, we cling to the edges of the bench with our hands to make the exercise easier, and from there, bridge.

Head Bridge

Lie down with your back resting on the floor, your legs bent in such a way that your heels are 15-20 cm from your buttocks, with your feet at a distance from each other equal to the width of your shoulders or a little less, supporting the soles of your feet. Hands resting on the ground next to the ears, with the fingers pointing towards the feet. The elbows point to the ceiling. Then push your hips up as high as you can, separating the body from the ground. 

The head still remains in contact with the ground (the crown area) This is the starting position of the exercise. Then, the arms and legs push until we get the lumbar arch or bridge, where only, the hands and feet remain supported on the ground. Although Yoga practices the static stretching position, in strength programs, the dynamic work of repetitions is sought, keeping in the final position 1-2 seconds, in each repetition.

The goal is to perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Half Bridge

This is the most expendable exercise of progressions. It requires a basketball or soccer ball, on which we will support our lower back, in the initial position, which is similar to the head bridge, but in this case instead of supporting the head, what we support is the lower back on the ball. That is, we have 3 points of support: feet, lower back, and hands. 

If this position is not comfortable for you due to friction with the ball, you can put a towel on top of the ball, on which you support your back. Again, pressing down through the hands, we push with the hips as high as we can, extending both arms and legs, we will be able to arch the back and perform the lumbar bridge. Hold the final position for 1-2 seconds.

The goal is to perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Full Bridge or back bridge

This is our objective exercise, and with which we will have reached the end of the progression. Lie on the floor resting your back on the floor and your legs bent with your feet resting on the ground, leaving about 20 cm of distance between your feet and ass. The hands remain resting on the ground, glued to the ears, with the fingers pointing at the feet. 

The elbows flexed, and pointing to the ceiling. This is the starting position. Now push your hips as high as you can, lifting your body off the ground, and continue pushing through your hands, extending your elbows and knees, until your back is well arched (lumbar bridge). The head also takes off from the ground, and should be at the height of the elbows, facing backwards. This is the final position. The descent should be slow and controlled.

The goal is to perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

We will train 2 days a week the progressions of the bridge.

Once the goal is achieved, the ideal would be to perform 3-5 reps a day,maintaining the position of maximum stretch 10 seconds.

Details for the perfect lumbar bridge.

The spine must be in convex curvature. It is not worth taking off the back from the ground, and that it is straight. It must be well rounded. There is also a sensation of greater oxygenation in the back.
The hips,after detaching from the ground, must be very high,even above the level of the head.
The arms and legs should remain straight. It seems easy, but it requires a good level of flexibility.
Breathing should be deep. This posture stretches the rib cage, and puts the diaphragm under pressure. If the posture is well performed, breathing will be perfect. Never hold your breath during exercise.

In the following video we can see the realization of short bridge, straight bridge, head bridge next to the back bridge that will help to better understand the concepts discussed above.


Finally, in this other, we can observe the execution of the angled bridge.


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