Friday 10 April 2020

Back Bridge

The bridge, also known as the back bridge, is a simple and basic but effective lower back strengthening exercise that can be done anywhere.

The bridge also targets your inner core and gluteal region, helping improve your posture and your posterior chain.

Table of contents

Classification and muscles used

  • Type: Bodyweight
  • Action: Isometric extension
  • Plane: Sagittal

(Click image to expand)

Primary (inner core greens, gluteal region blues)
  • Erector spinae
  • Multifidus (inner core)
  • Quadratus lumborum (inner core)
  • Transverse abdominus (not shown)
  • Pelvic floor
  • Gluteus maximus (buttocks)
  • Gluteus medius and minimus
  • Rectus abdominus (abs)

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How to perform

Simple back bridge

The basic bridge. Photo from liveaboutdotcom.

  1. Lie flat on the floor or exercise mat.
  2. Place your hands by your side, bend your knees with you feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Have the legs bent roughly to a 90 degree angle.
  3. Brace your core.
  4. Breathe in and then exhale as you raise your butt upwards until your body is in a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
  5. Ensure you keep your head and shoulders relaxed.
  6. Do not overextend your back. You do not need to raise up as far as possible, unless doing more advanced yoga style poses. If done correctly you will feel it in your lower back muscles before over-extension.
  7. Hold position for desired time and then lower back down in a controlled manner, breathing in whilst doing so.
  8. Keep your breathing rhythmic.

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Common mistakes

With an exercise so simple and basic there are not too many mistakes that can happen. However the following tend to occur:

  • Feeling it more in your hamstrings. This exercise is meant to focus on the lower back. Engage your back and inner core more.
  • Over-extending your back. This puts stress on your lower spine.
  • Under-extending. Fails to adequately target your lower back and gluteal muscles.
  • Arching the neck backwards or forwards. The neck and head should be flat on the ground in a relaxed state.
  • Putting pressure on your head or shoulders. Use your arms to bear the load of your upper body.
  • You hold your breath.

If you feel pain in your lower back when performing the bridge then you should stop and seek professional advice.

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Progression and regression

Ways to regress, or to make this exercise easier to perform:

  • This is the easiest form of this exercise to perform.

To make the bridge harder:

  • Bring your feet closer towards your butt. This will allow you to reach a greater range of motion.

Feet closer to butt bridge. Photo from Very Well Fit.

  • The use of a Swiss ball instantly makes this exercise a lot harder by challenging your ability to maintain balance whilst holding this bridge.
Swiss ball back bridge

Swiss ball bridge. Photo from How Stuff Works.

  • Swiss ball bridge with your feet on the ground and your head and upper back supported by the ball.
  • The use of other equipment to make the exercise harder, such as BOSU balls, suspension ropes and stability discs.

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Below is a list of some of the many variations of the bridge that can be done:

  • Single-leg bridge variant 1: Keep one leg straight and off the floor. Makes the exercise more unstable forcing your inner core to work harder. It also places more emphasis on the hamstring of the planted leg.
  • Single-leg bridge variant 2: Bringing one knee up towards your chest. Similar to above, but with less emphasis on the hamstrings. Ensure you keep your hips in alignment.

Single-leg back bridge with leg straight. Photo from Skimble.

  • Roman Chair/Glute Ham Developer: Two great pieces of equipment that allow you to bring your body lower into an inverted plank position meaning you can target the back muscles far harder without upper body support. If you see these in a gym make use of them!
  • Setu Bandhasana: the bridge pose in Yoga. Involves more subtle techniques and actions that make it a far more beneficial exercise than a standard bridge.
  • Head supported back bridge: A more dangerous but impressive variant of the back bridge where you arch yourself simply with your feet and head on the floor. Not recommended for those with spinal or neck problems.
Head supported back bridge. Photo from T-Nation.

There are more advanced versions of the bridge, however for all intents and purposes the above are more than enough to get anyone started and challenged.

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Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Your Friend In Fitness


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