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Pelvic Bridging Exercise
Though the pelvic bridge is an easy-to-do exercise, it is highly useful in maintaining strength in the low back and useful in a low back pain prevention programs. Pelvic bridging is also a great exercise that strengthens the paraspinal muscles, the quadriceps muscles at the top of your thighs, the hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs, the abdominals and the gluteal -- or butt -- muscles.
Lift to Strengthen
The pelvic bridge is a popular exercise amongst trainers and Pilates instructors. The bridge is also commonly used by physical therapists for back injury rehabilitation programs as well. New mothers benefit from bridging as it helps strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor and abdominals, which are often stretched and weakened from labor and delivery. Older adults suffering from urinary incontinence due to weak pelvic floor muscles show significant improvement in function with the bridging exercise.
How It's Done
Lie on a flat surface such as a carpeted floor or fitness mat. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor with your feet six to eight inches apart. Your palms should be flat on the floor alongside your body. Relax your upper body and back while you draw in your abdominals and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles -- think of stopping the flow of urine. Exhale as you press your hands and forearms into the floor and slowly push your pelvis up towards the ceiling. Hold in an up position for a slow count of three. Inhale as you slowly lower your body back to the start position. Keep your abdominals tight to avoid sagging in the low back or glutes. Perform two to three sets of 12 to15 repetitions, allowing 30 to 60 seconds rest between sets.
You can increase the challenge of the bridging exercise by extending your "up" position to 30 to 60 seconds to challenge the gluteal muscles. You can also try placing your feet flat on a table or chair with your knees bent in the starting position before elevating your hips into the bridge. Place your feet on a fitness ball to create an even more demanding version of the bridging exercise.
The one-legged bridge is extremely challenging as it requires one-leg strength and stability through the back and hips. Start in the basic bridging position with one leg extended straight out on the floor. Tighten the abdominals and raise your buttocks off the floor with one leg, bringing the extended leg up so that your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Protect Your Neck and Spine
In every bridge exercise, push through your heels, elevating your pelvis so that you form a straight line from knee to shoulders. Avoid pushing your pelvis up so high that you place weight on your upper back and neck. This will help to avoid injury.
Deborrah Cooper is an ISSA-certified trainer and ACE lifestyle consultant specializing in women, sports nutrition, program design and post-rehab fitness. She is also a dating coach and advice columnist. In 2007 she wrote "Sucka Free Love!" a hilarious guide to smarter dating for modern singles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from the University of Houston.