Like a bridge over troubled water, the Shoulder Bridge targets several areas of the body to take fitness enthusiasts exactly where they want to go.
Pilates has a reputation for being a system of exotic exercises that border on the bizarre, but that’s one reason they’re so appealing and so effective. The Shoulder Bridge is a Pilates exercise that looks unusual, certainly, but it’s also got a comforting element as it uses the floor for support. It looks like something you might have done when you were a kid, rolling around on the living room floor.
All that being said, this exercise is more than playtime. It’s easy enough for beginners to engage in and is also effective to build the abs and the glutes while improving stabilization.
The Opposite of a Push-ups
One way to think of the Shoulder Bridge is as the exact opposite of a Push-up. With a Push-up, you’re pushing your chest off the floor with your arms. With the Shoulder Bridge, you’re pushing your bottom off the floor with your legs. Leave it to fitness pioneer Joseph Pilates to come up with something this unique but effective.
To perform a Shoulder Bridge, the steps are simple.
- Lie flat on the floor, knees bent and arms by your sides with palms down.
- Tighten the glutes, then raise your hips off the ground. Stop when the knees, hips, and shoulders are aligned.
- Inhale at the top, tightening the core muscles while you pause.
- Release down to the ground.
For a more advanced version of the Shoulder Bridge, add leg movements to improve stability and develop leg and core strength.
- Lift and straighten one lower leg, so that now there is a straight line between the shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle. Point the toe.
- Draw the entire leg up towards the ceiling, then slowly lower it back to the starting position.
- Change legs and repeat.
If you need some additional support for the lower spine, you can place your hands under your lower back.
Breath is an integral part of all Pilates exercises. Whether they’re done at home on the living room rug or in a studio class with an instructor, even mat Pilates exercises must incorporate deep breaths.
Getting the Good Stuff
The best part about this exercise is that it targets areas of the body that are notoriously hard to strengthen, but that are essential for spinal health. Namely the long muscles that run down the length of the spine. It also develops support muscles for spinal health like the quadriceps, the obliques, and the lower abs. Core stability and spinal health are definitely the good stuff here.
The flexibility that comes in with the Shoulder Bridge can transfer to all kinds of other exercises, improving stamina and control. It also does a great job of shaping the glutes and the quads. Simple and easy to learn, it’s a perfect exercise for beginners or experienced fitness enthusiasts. There is this incredibly satisfying stretch at the height of the Shoulder Bridge. It’s relaxing, even though the core muscles are being worked hard. The pelvic floor strengthening is amazing with this move, which is important for both men and women for overall health. The Shoulder Bridge effectively fights stiffness in the back, rejuvenating the whole body from the center on out.