The Pilates bridge on a ball is a simple and effective exercise that works the glutes, hamstrings, and even the abdominals.
And you’ll definitely know these areas are working when you do this exercise. Sure, bridging might look easy – but try a few repetitions of a (properly executed) bridge and you’ll feel it get your legs and glutes firing up.
Feel like you’ve mastered the basic bridge? If you’re ready to progress on to more difficult exercises then we suggest adding a stability ball into the mix to increase the challenge (and the burn!).
But before you do so, make sure you read Complete Pilates’s step-by-step instructions set out below on “how to do the Pilates bridge on a ball”. Because, as with all Pilates exercises, bridging has potential risks. At best, bridging badly will mean you don’t reap the benefits of this amazing exercise. At worst, performing it incorrectly can mean you end up with a sore lower back or neck.
So read on to find out how to safely add challenge with a stability ball to this basic but brilliant Pilates move.
The Pilates bridge on a ball
- Stability/large exercise ball.
- A mat.
- On your back with your knees bent and your arms down by your sides.
- Feet on the ball hip-distance apart.
- Knees bent at about 90 degrees.
- Your pelvis should be in a relatively neutral position. This means that your pelvis and bum is neither tucked under (so that your back is flat) nor is it duck-like and sticking out.
- Take a deep, full breath to prepare.
- Then, as you exhale, press your heels firmly into the ball and start to send your tailbone to the back of your knees as you peel your spine up into a bridge.
- Keeping the ball still, reach your knees away from your head as you continue to bridge up.
- Only bridge up to the point where your shoulder blades are resting on the mat.
- Pause at the top of your bridge and take an inhale here.
- Prepare to return to the starting position by exhaling and allowing your chest to soften. Then, continue to bridge down by allowing the rest of your spine to move fluidly back to the mat. Again, focus on stopping the ball from wobbling as you do so.
Try between 8-10 reps of the exercise. For an added challenge, go for 2-3 sets of 8 repetitions. Focus on maintaining good form throughout.
- If you’re struggling to keep the ball still, reduce your range of movement and only bridge up halfway. You can increase your range as your technique improves.
- Don’t bridge up onto your neck. Instead, stop when your shoulder blades are still on the mat.
- Back hurting while you bridge? Make sure those glutes/hamstrings/spine extensors are kicking on by really sending your tailbone to the back of your knees.
Should be avoided by:
- People with neck problems.
- People with lower back problems.
- People with balance problems.
Like the basic bridge, the benefits of practising bridging with a stability ball include increased hamstring, glute and inner thigh strength.
Bridging also activates and engages the postural muscles and abdominals, and it helps to improve pelvic stability. Plus, this exercise is low-impact and so it doesn’t put pressure on joints. This makes bridging safe for most people to practise.
On top of all that, a major – but little-known – benefit of bridging in this way is improved spine mobility.
There are also specific advantages of using the stability ball for the bridge. First off, the unstable ball surface requires more balance and coordination than a normal bridge on a fixed surface meaning that bridging on a ball will help you further develop these skills.
Secondly, your obliques get a workout when the stability ball is involved; they kick-in more on the ball versions to help with balance and stability.
And finally, your hamstrings have to work a lot harder to keep the ball still while you execute the bridge – you’ll probably have sore ones the day after practising this move!
So why do the Pilates bridge on a ball?
For Pilates equipment fans, the addition of the stability ball is a great way of recreating the challenge of the Pilates equipment outside of Pilates classes. This means that anyone with a ball and space to bridge can get the benefits of the Pilates machines at home or at the gym.
Better still, bridging on the stability ball is also a great way to support other sports and weight-based exercises, like squatting and deadlifting.
Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.
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