Back Bridges

The back bridge is a timeless exercise that can help build total-body strength and improve your flexibility along the way.

Whether your focus is strength training, calisthenics, yoga or any other type of exercise, back bridging is bound to come up in some form.

While bridges are often performed isometrically, they can also be done for reps. Like all exercises, there are many variations on the back bridge. Here are a few of the basics:

Beginner Back Bridge

Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your knees bent. Your feet will be flat on the ground. From here, push your heels into the ground, squeeze your butt and lift your hips as high as you can. You’ll also need to think about pushing your chest up and squeezing your shoulder blades together while your head stays on the ground. If you can’t keep your knees from bowing open, you might find it helpful to squeeze a yoga block or small exercise ball in between them.

Straight Bridge
This time you’re going to sit with your legs straight in front of you, almost like an L-sit except you’re not in the air. From here, lift your hips by contracting your hamstrings, glutes and other posterior musculature. Drop your head back, press your chest up and try to look behind you. You’ll wind up looking like an upside-down plank.

Neck Bridge
This starts off in the same position as the beginner back bridge except your hands are placed on either side of your head, palms down and wrists bent back. From here, press yourself off your back and onto the top of your head. You might want to place a towel or other soft object between your head and the ground when starting out. For an added challenge, try taking your hands away and supporting your upper body with just your neck. This variation is sometimes called a “wrestler’s bridge.”


Full Back Bridge
Don’t be in a rush to get to a full back bridge, as it can put a lot of pressure on your spine. If you aren’t ready for it, you could be in for a world of hurt.

However, if you are ready to try it, start by coming into a neck bridge. Next, press your hands into the ground, dig in your heels and push your chest forward. This last part is really important for those of us with tight shoulders, as pushing forward with the chest will facilitate a deeper stretch through the thoracic region.

Watch the video below for more:

)


For more information on Back Bridging, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

This entry was posted in Body Weight Exercises, Stretching. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • MDA’s Fatkid

    This is going to sound really… um…idk…impatient?… but I really with your video’s intro was shorter… every time I watch one of your videos I waste 14 seconds… well I don’t really I just skip ahead but still… …if I’m watching it on my phone (no unlimited data) that is wasted data I just loaded too… … … … still… keep up the good work, but if you made a shorter/short intro I wouldn’t mind it :D

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I hear ya, Fatkid. I’m a bit sick of the intro too, but there are a lot of new people coming to my blog every day, and if this is the first of my vids that they see, then I want them to see the intro. Like you said, just skip it if you’re over it.

  • http://www.rickseedman.com/ Rick Seedman

    Thanks man i need this!

  • Vlcarr

    Thanks for the bridge bit Al … and I love the intro each and every time.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    You got it, Rick!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Vicki!

  • Dragonmamma/Naomi

    I started doing this a few months ago when I got interested in Ido Portal’s stuff: http://www.youtube.com/user/portaldo
    Sometimes I hold the bridge for time, and sometimes I push up and down for multiple reps. The hold emphasizes the flexibility, and the multiple reps emphasize the strength. It’s a good one, alright!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Right on, Naomi. Ido is the man!

  • Caligirl

    The neck bridge could break your neck and i should now i do one for dancing(full bridge) but you have to push over your shoulders

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Definitely gotta be careful with your body.  That’s why I have that disclaimer over there in the sidebar.

  • Pingback: Al Kavadlo – We're Working Out! » Active Vacation

  • Wander

    So, I’m trying to get a sense of how uncommon it is for a guy to be able to do a backbend kickover.  I can, and I don’t know any other guys who have the spine flexibility to do it.  What is your opinion, Al Kavadlo? Or anyone else who cares to answer?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I’d estimate that less than .1% of men can perform a back walkover.  I know I sure as heck can’t!

  • Pingback: Mastering Your Body Weight | My Athletic Life

  • Pingback: Would this be a good workout? | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  • Rob White

    Hey Al,

     how long did it take you before you were confident enough to allow your brother to stand on you in the full bridge? What were some good indicators your bridge was strong enough? Its a damn cool party trick!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I’m not exactly sure, but needless to say it was a long time!  I’ve got a new piece on bridging coming out on T-Nation in which I address partner bridging.  I’ll post the link here when it’s out.

  • Michelvandenhoek

    Actually the head bridge, without hands of course, is the harder than hand bridge.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I agree.  Didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  • Pingback: Calisthenics – Full Body Weight Workout Routines « Calisthenics – Body Weight Routines

  • retro

    Hey Al, is it normal to have wrist pains at first while doing bridges? I have found doing full back bridges very easy since childhood. But I got back into it recently. So whenever I do these particular bridges my wrists hurt.
    Will it go  away in time?

    Thank you!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I wouldn’t say it’s normal, but it certainly isn’t unusual either.  If you respect your body and ease your wrists in gradually, you should get stronger with time.  Be patient and stay the course.

  • Pingback: Al Kavadlo – We're Working Out! » Assessing Your Fitness (Part One: Strength)

  • Rob White

    Hey Al, i notice you have your feet pretty close together during the bridging, indicating you have excellent anterior hip mobility. Do you think ultimately this is something people should strive for when mastering the bridge?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Rob!  I think keeping your feet hip width apart is ideal – I just have narrow hips!

  • Darealest5642

    How often should one practice a bridge. Daily?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Listen to your body.

  • Pingback: 3 best exercises to strengthen back muscles (to prevent back injury) - Page 3 | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 3

  • anonymouse

     when i do full bridge, i have very painful strech in my left thigh. what should i do?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Seek the guidance of an experienced trainer who can work with you face-to-face.

  • Rob White

    I used get this in my right thigh when bridging because my anterior hip muscles were so tight. If its muscular i wouldnt be to concerned. Its because both the knee is bent and the hip is being extended simultaneously, which puts a really strong stretch and eccentric contraction (i.e. it is being lengthened and contracting at the same time) on the rectus femoris muscle. Once your rectus femoris gets stronger and more flexible you should get less pain. 

  • Pingback: Al Kavadlo – We're Working Out! » Kip-up Tutorial

  • Pingback: Al Kavadlo – We're Working Out! » Twist Holds

  • simzy

    I have been doing them but this article is scaring me
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/171874-dangers-of-back-bridge-exercises/ What do you have to say on that?

  • Pingback: CrossFit: in progress, variations, and decisions | The Writers Block

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    There is inherent risk involved in everything we do! A careless person is going to hurt themselves no matter which exercises they choose. I stand by my position that (when implemented properly) back bridging can improve spinal strength and overall health/fitness.

  • simzy

    Thank you for replying man. So basically, you haven’t encountered issues I guess.

  • soop

    Hi. I’m starting a kung fu class and they use the back bridge as a part of warming up. I’ve never done the back bridge before and I have weak upper body strength so I can’t push myself up into the bridge. But when helped (by the instructor) I do a wonderful back bridge so my back is flexible enough for it. What can you suggest I do to strengthen my arms to be able to push myself up into the bridge on my own?

  • RobbyTaylor

    What I would suggest is to simply go through the progressions listed in this article. Pushing up into a back bridge doesn’t require tremendous amounts of strength, so it shouldn’t take you too long to build up to that point. Do bridges outside of your class, as well; good times to do it would be before you go to bed, after you wake up, and/or before/after school/work. This would be the safest way to do it. Besides that, I find there to be a pretty good carry over for shoulder strength between bridges and handstands. If you can *safely* do handstands against a wall, that can help as well. If not, you may consider holding the top of a pike push up position for time
    http://www.alkavadlo.com/2011/05/handstand-push-ups/.

    Don’t be in a rush because that is how injuries happen; even though you have the flexibility for a bridge, you can still hurt yourself if you try to exceed your strength.

  • RobbyTaylor

    Correct; what that article is warning about is haphazardly trying to increase the flexibility of your bridge without doing any ancillary training (notice where it says “especially if you have weak abdominals”). There are bridge variations where people can actually touch their heads to their feet :S! That is something that I have no interest in doing. The “trick” is to simply maintain proper muscular tension throughout your body so that you don’t hurt yourself, and to not push your flexibility to the limit. As Al said, you can hurt yourself doing anything if you aren’t careful. He once wrote of a guy who threw his back out getting a beer out of a cooler…I know a guy who tore his bicep tendon trying to carry some stuff in his garage at a weird angle; he’s a big strong guy but I know he doesn’t really work out much. My theory is that his muscular strength was greater than his tendon strength, and at the angle he was pulling, there was too much torque on it and…snap…scary stuff.

  • Rushil Xev

    Good day Al,
    I find it easy to do full back bridges. But my question
    is, will bridges and their variations build muscle on my back?
    Calisthenics is already showing the muscle definitions on my arms, legs
    and neck, but not for my back. Are they enough to build a strong looking
    back?

    Cheers!

  • RobbyTaylor

    Hey there Rushil, it’s always great to see someone discovering the benefits of calisthenics! To answer your question, I would first direct you to an article that Al recently put up, ‘Bodyweight Deadlift Alternatives’ http://www.alkavadlo.com/2012/09/bodyweight-deadlift-alternatives/. Back bridges are a fine exercise in their own right, and will help to develop a baseline of strength and mobility in the back, and protect the spine. Even though, like you, I don’t find the standard bridge to be particularly challenging from a strength aspect, its benefits go beyond that, and I personally feel it is a superb exercise to use as part of a warm up and cool down, or even as a stretch at any time in the day (as long as it’s appropriate; you would probably get some funny looks doing a back bridge in line at the grocery store!). Pull ups are another fantastic exercise for the back. In fact, I would say pull ups are the gold standard for bodyweight back training; Arnold Schwarzenegger is an avid fan of them! However, of course, there is something more valuable than gold…if you are looking for higher level strength training targeting the back, I would highly suggest that you start training the supinated grip back lever, and then the front lever. These moves will take your back strength and muscular development to another level!