At first glance, spending most of the day sitting doesn’t seem to stress the body. But the truth is that a sedentary lifestyle takes its toll. In particular, it can impact the glutes, causing muscle weakness or imbalance.
If you want to show your glutes some love, bridge exercises can be especially effective. “Bridge exercises work your hamstrings, lower back, core, and glutes,” says Megan Murrie, personal trainer and yoga teacher. These exercises can also be beneficial for anyone who wants to strengthen the lower back or increase hip mobility.
“If you’re a runner, the bridge exercise is a great exercise to incorporate into your training regimen as it will increase the strength of your glutes, which means more power in your running stride. Strong glues also help support your back while running,” says Murrie.
Obviously, there are many reasons why bridge exercises can be helpful. But how do you do them? Here, personal trainers share the best way to try them out safely and offer variations.
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How to do a bridge exercise
Below, personal trainer, yoga and Pilates teacher and health coach Bernadette Henzel shares the steps on how to do a basic bridge exercise correctly:
1. Lie on a mat with your legs bent and your feet hip-width apart.
2. Look up at the ceiling and place your hands flat on the mat beside your hips.
3. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips while squeezing your glutes. Avoid overextending your back and don’t let your knees collapse.
4. Do 15-30 reps, depending on your fitness level.
Watch a video on how to do this bridge exercise below:
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Bridge Exercise Variations
The basic bridge exercise can be its own workout; Murrie recommends doing three to four sets, resting between sets. You can also incorporate some variations, such as the ones below:
1. Bridge exercise with yoga block
To really make sure your core and inner thighs are engaged all the time, Henzsel says to grab a yoga block and place it between your knees. Your abs and thighs must be activated to hold the block in place or it will fall.
2. Elevated Foot Bridge Exercise
Murrie says another way to change up a standard bridge exercise is to elevate your feet on an elevated surface, like a couch or chair. It’s another way to activate your glutes, thighs and abs. When doing a raised bridge exercise, make sure your weight is still on your heels. This will help keep your body stable.
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3. Weighted Bridge Exercises
If the standard bridge exercise isn’t challenging enough for you, both experts recommend picking up a weight. Place the weight on your hips and perform the exercise normally. Weight adds resistance, making movement more difficult.
4. Single Leg Bridge Exercise
Murrie says another way to make the standard bridge exercise more difficult is to lift one leg in the air while moving across. This forces the core to commit even more. Remember to switch sides, lifting the other leg, to keep the exercise steady.
5. Straight Leg Bridge Exercise
“Perform [with] legs straight rather than knees bent is more of a challenge,” says Murrie. To do this, lie on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you, hip-width apart. Then lift your hips. You will find that your hamstrings and core have to work harder than if the legs were bent at the knees. If straight legs are too difficult, you can bend your knees slightly for an exercise that falls between the standard bridge and the straight leg bridge.
“A bridge exercise can really help with posture and daily movement, and it can help strengthen your core and back,” says Murrie. While almost anyone can try bridge exercises, both Henzsel and Murrie say pregnant women in or after their second trimester should skip it. Anyone with pain in the back, abdomen, hip joints, knees, or ankles should also avoid bridge exercises.
In general, bridge exercises are a great way to help undo the damage that sitting all day can do. (Although it’s still important to move your body in other ways, too.) Doing them regularly will keep your abs, glutes, thighs, and hamstrings strong. The best part? They can be done anywhere without equipment. That’s a lot of benefits of an exercise movement!
Next, find out what 12 trainers say is their favorite weight loss workout.
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