Strength & Conditioning - Al Kavadlo: Week 2, Day 1
This four-week program is designed by calisthenics expert and author Al Kavadlo. Three workouts are posted each week and cover a total of twelve bodyweight exercise progressions and tutorials, including everything from pull ups, to pistols, to the infamous human flag. If you're joining late in the game, feel free to jump right in!
Week 2, Day 1: Getting Started With Back Bridging
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 likely 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. Start with the beginner bridge and slowly advance to the harder progressions. Once you can comfortably hold a given variation for a full minute, try moving on to the next one.
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.
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.
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.
Check out the video below for more:
Photo from the book Pushing the Limits.