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If you have ever taken a group fitness class, you have performed a bridging exercise. But how many of you think you are working your low back when you perform this exercise? How many of you think you’re doing yourself a favor when you lift those hips high? Well, you may not be. If you are experiencing low back pain there is a correct way to protect your back while strengthening it.
Let’s take a look at a few bridging positions and talk about them.
Typical “Bridge”
Here is a picture of a typical “bridge”

Let’s analyze this position:
When she lifted up, she either initiated with her low back muscles or she let those low back muscles take over when she got to the end of the position (the end of her hip range). Although bridging can be good for your back, it is not always good when you lift up too high.
When the back is in this hyperextended position, the low back gets compressed and the low back muscles are often overworking or gripping.
The glutes are not doing their job. The gluteals (glut max primarily) should initiate the hip lift into the bridged position while the low back muscles should be working gently to stabilize the spine.
Proper “Bridge”
Here is a picture of a proper bridge for someone dealing with low back pain, or even someone looking to prevent low back pain

Here is your set up:
Feet hip distance apart (about 2 fist distance)
Bring the feet in towards the hips so that when you lift up the knees they are over the heels (increased work of the glutes in this position!)
Gently engage the core and glutes (think of your sit bones coming together for glutes), and lift the hips up. As you lift up, be careful not to overextend your hips. You will get maximum gluteal activation at this point without overarching the low back.
In this position, you will still work the low back/erector spinae (and more importantly those little multifidi) but you won’t be compressing your spine.
Everyone has a Different Body
Everyone has a different body which means that every bridge exercise is going to look a little different. Pay attention to the set-up of your body position and understand the muscles you should be working. If your low back pain continues, consult your doctor or a physical therapist to better analyze your posture, movement patterns, and strengths and weaknesses.