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Weekend Challenge: Stability Bridge

weekend-challenge

Today’s Weekend Challenge is an immensely effective exercise that  improves your balance to prevent dangerous falls. It also increases your agility and aligns your posture, so you’ll have a more youthful gait.

It’s called the

Weekend Challenge #2: Stability Bridge

… And for a good reason, as you’ll soon find out.

Why: The Stability Bridge boosts your balance and agility because it strengthens your hamstrings, core muscles, and glutes. These muscles play a vital role in a wide range of physical activities.

When these muscles are strong and supple, they balance and increase agility – crucial components in preventing falls and subsequent fractures. Plus strengthening these muscles can prevent some types of knee injuries.

Let’s review these muscle groups so you’ll better understand the importance of this exercise.

Your hamstrings are a group of 3 muscles located in the back of your thighs and behind your knees.

Because they act upon your knees and hips, they are involved in a significant number of movements, including walking, running, and jumping. You wouldn’t be able to bend your knees or extend your hips if it weren’t for your hamstrings!

Weak, Tight Hamstrings Create Instability

On the other hand, strong, supple hamstrings:

  • Help you achieve good posture
  • Are necessary for the correct use of your abdominal muscles
  • Prevent a “tucked” pelvis and subsequent misalignment of the spine
  • Keep the legs from becoming imbalanced due to compensation by the quadriceps
  • Prevent compression of the lower spine

The other muscles this exercise targets are the glutes and the core. “Glutes” is a shortened version of the Gluteus Maximus – in other words, the muscles that make up your bottom. Strong glutes help keep you balanced and hold your pelvis in alignment.

Your core muscles are the deep muscles of your torso, and are vital for maintaining balance and good posture.

How: You don’t need any special equipment to do the Stability Bridge, but I suggest using a mat or a large towel.

  1. Lie on your back with your hands on the floor beside you, palms-down.
  2. Your feet should be hip-width apart, flat on the floor.
  3. Keeping your weight in your heels (do not push with your toes), raise your hips up in line with your body plane.
  4. Your shoulders, head, and neck should stay down on the floor. Try to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  5. Hold for a few seconds, aiming to eventually stay in that position for at least 20 seconds. But remember that it’s more effective to hold the correct position for less time than to struggle for a longer time and hold the incorrect position. In other words, it’s OK to build your way up to at least 20 seconds.
  6. Slowly lower your hips back down, rest for 2 seconds or as necessary, then repeat.
  7. Repeat 10-20 times or as many times as you comfortably can.

Once the above moves become easy, you may want to try some variations that are a bit more challenging:

  • Cross Legs: Before raising your hips, place one ankle on the opposite knee. Raise and lower your hips as described. Make sure to do the same number of repetitions with the opposite leg.
  • One-Legged Glute Bridge: Just before you raise your hips, lift one leg up, keeping the knee bent and the foot on the floor. Your raised foot will be pointing toward the ceiling. Then proceed to lift and lower your hips as described, and repeat with the other leg up.

Stretch Your Hamstrings After The Stability Bridge

I recommend stretching your muscles every time after you exercise to build your bones, since it prevents pain, injury, and helps your muscles function better.

Here’s how to stretch your hamstrings:

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Keep your feet together and breathe-in.
  3. With your knees slightly bent, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the backs of your legs. Make sure you don’t round out your back and don’t force the stretch too much.
  4. Exhale slowly as you lean forward.
  5. Hold the position for a few seconds, then breathe-in as you sit back up again.
  6. Repeat 10 to 20 times or as many times as you can.

That’s all there is to it!

As always, I invite you to share your Weekly Challenge experience, ideas, and thoughts with the community by leaving a comment below.

Till next time,

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30 comments. Leave Yours Now →

  1. Rose Papp March 31, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I thought that you offered an EBook and the hard covered book as well previously. I would love to have
    An e book with me on my iPad .thak you.

  2. Crissie Osborne March 20, 2014, 1:07 pm

    I’m an EXTEND teacher in UK (don’t know if you have EXTEND in the US). My client group is older people so we don’t do floor exercise. This is how I teach a hamstring stretch:
    1. Sit on the edge of a firm chair so that hamstrings are not supported by the chair:
    2. Straighten one leg, heel on the floor, toes pointing upwards. Other foot firmly on the floor under the knee. Hands either one on the other on the thigh of the straightened leg, or, if you feel unsafe, holding on under the seat of the chair:
    3. Stretch your spine upwards (sit tall):
    4. Lean forward from the hips, keeping your head in line with your spine. At the same time point the toes on the straight leg downwards towards the floor:
    5. Hold the stretch gently at first (you
    can stretch at bit more as you get used
    to the feeling):
    6. Repeat with other leg and repeat the whole process a few times, building up repetitions as your hamstrings become looser.
    I hope this helps.

  3. Joyce March 17, 2014, 3:44 pm

    Thanks for these exercises. Great to have some input on helpful ones!

  4. Jo Ann March 17, 2014, 12:45 pm

    These exercises, along with a lot of others, all seem like great ideas -UNLESS- you have already fractured your femur then its very unlikely that you can do most of them.

  5. krishna March 17, 2014, 5:33 am

    Hi Vivian, i have had 2 rib fractures of the 6 th n 7th right rib, it been 9 months and i am still in pain , every time the pain subsides i start very gradually walking and then building up from there , however the pain comes back and i am back to square one. Very confused, i had taken Forteo for 1 mnth in 2010 and pain from a tail bone fracture which lasted for 6 years just went away. i am very tempted to do Forteo for 1-3months so that i can lead a normal life style, now i can’t drive, can’t exercise, can’t go to work as i work with small nursery children and have to lift them sometimes, please advise

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA March 17, 2014, 7:32 am

      Krishna, I am a staunch advocate of making your own heath decisions! Whether or not you decide to take drugs of any sort is entirely up to you. I encourage you to research and talk with a physician you respect. In fact, I hope you’ll talk to several so you can get a variety of viewpoints as to your best course of action. Ultimately, though, it’s your health and your decision! The Save Our Bones community is always here with support. :)

  6. Elizabeth March 16, 2014, 5:58 pm

    The Bridge is a good exercise, I do it at a pilates class once a week. Now I can see how beneficial it is, I will be practicing daily between classes.

  7. Elizabeth March 16, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Thank you for the exercises and encouragement – just what I needed!

  8. Gil March 16, 2014, 12:46 pm

    i broke my back last year and then was diagnosed with osteoporosis and osteopina – can’t spell it. i have recovered very well and, not being impressed by modern allopathic medicine, found Vivian’s website which i think is such a healthy way to view bone health. i am working with a physiotherapist now and the bridge is one of the exercises i was given and has proved one of the most helpful for strengthening the back. It must be done by pulling in your core centre muscles and will really strengthen these in time. Also lying flat on my back and bringing knees to chest, one by one, and then hugging them. I start and end with the last exercise and use this if my back hurts as it somehow stretches the back and relieves the pain. But no exercise must be done if it causes pain. I am also getting better in trusting myself and listening to my body’s needs. such a very good and really helpful website.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA March 16, 2014, 1:15 pm

      Listening to your body is key, Gil. Thank you for letting us know about the role the Stability Bridge has played in your recovery!

  9. Carol March 16, 2014, 10:11 am

    Great exercise!! Please send more ideas. I love to do yoga, bike, hike and downhill ski even though I have osteoporosisl. My doctor says to just keep eating right, exercise, and forget about “the disease.”

  10. Gertrude "Trudy" March 16, 2014, 8:01 am

    In March 2008, at age 61, I did the stability bridge for the first and only time. While holding the bridge, I heard–and felt–5 loud crunch-pop sounds in my left hip joint. From that moment on, I have had weakness in that joint and a sense of “stop-or-it-might-disjoint” if I swung my left leg to the left even slightly–which due to knee joint damage I do when descending stairs, unless I climb down backwards. I told my Dr. and OMT, and each said, “It’s your arthritis.” Period. No exam, no OMT or other treatment, case closed. From March 2008 to now, March 2014, I still have this same problem, unchanged except worsened over time. But–FIVE crunching pops in a HIP JOINT?! How can this happen? What did I do wrong? Suggestions to fix it?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA March 16, 2014, 1:16 pm

      It sounds like that experience was pretty frightening, Trudy. I hope you have a trusted chiropractor, physical therapist, or other medical professional whom you can go to for a thorough examination and treatment program.

      • Margaret March 16, 2014, 5:07 pm

        Trudy
        I know how scary it is having something like that happen but truely you haven’t broken anything and you are not going to fall apart. Your doctor was right in a sense as it is the arthritis in that you may have a bit of bone degeneration in your hip socket and your socket is probably very dry. The only thing that can help you IS exercise to stimulate the synovial fluid and good diet to build up the bones. And absolutely do find a good chiropractor and ask for the type of exercise you need for this. If they can’t help then go to a pysiotherapist. By pesistent exercise you WILL overcome this and the worst of the knee problems as well. Been there done that…and have to keep doing or I fall apart again!!

  11. Irmgard Santaiti March 16, 2014, 7:10 am

    When you add other, additional challenges to your weekend exercise routines, can you also please include a picture demonstration.

    Most appreciative.

  12. minnie March 16, 2014, 3:51 am

    Ma’am Vivian, am truly grateful to your unselfish sharing of your knowledge to help us save our bones. your exercises honestly helps me move freely w/out pain in my hips…but this time i have a great problem in my throat… i could hardly eat! may i know if that is part of my osteoporosis …its painful to swallow food its almost 2 weeks now i lost several lbs. now. i fear to consult my Doctors for am sure a lot of prescribed med again will be given…kindly enlighten me for what to do… thank you so much. God bless

  13. Betty March 15, 2014, 6:56 pm

    Thanks again. I do the bridge but was glad to get the variations and the hamstring exercises. Will give them a try but carefully as I have a fragile back. Yes Sheena we are all in this together for better bones with a sense of community created by SOB.

  14. Dinoo Tiwari March 15, 2014, 5:42 pm

    I have not exactly tested for the dreaded Osteoporosis. All I know is I have lost some height and I have problems balancing myself. I am afraid of forming the ridiculous Dowager hump and hence before that happens I am going through the weekly challenges and other Dencercise exercises. Am determined to make some significant changes.

  15. shayla March 15, 2014, 4:49 pm

    The important point about the sitting fwd bend is keeping the knees bent as well as the back straight & bending from the hips.This is very important if you have lower back issues. Vivian does say this. If you do it that way it should be quiet safe. The key is small increments – if you push too much, you wil probably alter posture & do more harm than good. I do this stuff with pregnant & postnatal mothers!

  16. Fran Lapinskie March 15, 2014, 10:45 am

    I already do this excercise but I do not hold for 20 seconds. I will certainly start to do that. Thanks Vivian. Look forward to hearing about the other challenges as well.
    fran

  17. EB March 15, 2014, 8:44 am

    Thank you so much. This exercise is awesome!

  18. Bo Dela Haye March 15, 2014, 7:51 am

    goodmorning,
    the exercise you described is usually callled ; gluteal bridge.
    the name describes on which muscle(s) this movement is focussed primairily; the gluteus maximus. Other muscles involved are the abs and the hip flexors ( in extension, so a mobility purpose ). But most of all it is a glute firing exercise.
    And yes, a strong glute supports your stability and balance qualities.
    Although i’m convinced that stability training for the 50+ generation is most effective in more vertical positions like tall kneeling, half kneeling , lunge and standing ( one leg f.i. ) positions. Train them from static to a dynamic situations.

    The hamstrings have a supporting role in this movement.
    If you want to train the hamstrings then i suggest the exercise ball leg curl is the exercise that targets this group of muscles.

    During the bridge the hamstrings should be as relaxed as possible to prevent them from getting dominant during this exercise (which happens often with realy weak glutes). This we call compensation.

    Pushing from the heels will activate the glutes and leave the hamstrings in a more relaxed position.

    Other cues are; activation of the abs ( drawing in manoeuvre ), before starting the upward movement;
    keep a straight line ( from knees to shoulders) to prevent hyper extension;
    when the client has difficulties activating their glutes, tell them to put both hands on their glutes during the movement and ask them to hold the movement for one or two seconds to get that extra tension feedback from the muscle involved.

    Vivian, I find your information very usefull for everybody and i think you are a very strong person to keep fighting against all these big food and drug companies and prove their policies are almost criminal and forsure very misleading for the general public.

    Whish you lots of succes,

    Bo dela Haye,
    movement coach .
    The Netherlands

    • Jean March 15, 2014, 8:34 am

      Thanks! Great ideas!

  19. Sheena March 15, 2014, 6:38 am

    Oh my word, Vivian and the Save your Bones Gang, neigh, oh my glutes….ow!!! Okay your exercises – Densercise – including this “Stability Bridge” catch me totally off guard! Only 20 seconds, oh please that’s easy…ha ha…until you doing the 20th rep! Then you start with the variations, my muscles are screaming and what keeps me going is, “this is helping more osterblasts make more bone.”

    It was a good day when I googled for help and found this website. One month in my diagnosis with a blood test coming up in April so I have a long, long way to go but I am confident that this system, your system will afford me not only healthy bones but a healthy body and a much better quality of life.

    Thank you
    Sheena
    South Africa

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA March 15, 2014, 8:14 am

      Hang in there, Sheena! And remember, it’s okay to build up slowly to 20 seconds, and work up to the number of repetitions :)

  20. Julie March 15, 2014, 6:22 am

    I have osteoporosis and arthritis in my knees and back so not able to do these exercises, any other suggestions?

  21. Janice Freeman March 15, 2014, 6:17 am

    The hamstring stretch you described is perilous to the back. There are many safer stretches.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA March 15, 2014, 8:12 am

      Janice, the key to the hamstring stretch is to keep your back straight and lean forward at the hips. :) But if you are not comfortable with this stretch, by all means choose one that works for you!

    • SuzyM March 15, 2014, 7:32 am

      I was thinking the same thing – I was told that I should never bend forward like that – exercise or not! Maybe we misunderstand what is being described. There should also be pictures of this movement, just like the one for the bridge. FYI – I was told that this variation of the bridge is something I should do daily to help strengthen my back.

    • Sheena March 15, 2014, 6:43 am

      I think all of Vivian’s exercise are possible not matter what your body is saying to your mind to get out of it. Just do one slowly and build up muscle strength from there…but I’m not the professional here but my common sense says that this should be possible. Tomorrow try for two and so on.

      And don’t forget, we’re all in this together :-)
      Sheena

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