Shoulder Bridge - Exercise Intructions

Shoulder Bridge is an intermediate - advanced Pilates exercise. It requires a lot of strength from the abdominals and hamstrings as they stabilize a lifted pelvis against the movement of a fully extended leg.

The skills and core strength to do Shoulder Bridge can be developed in stages (see *). Start by practicing just the hip lift, then move on to lifting one foot off the mat, and finally to the extended lower/lift of the leg.

Pelvic curl is a good building block exercise for shoulder bridge, as is bridge on the ball.

Shoulder Bridge Prep

Women in Home Stretching back on exercise mats. See more from this series:
Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images

Lie on your back in neutral spine, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Your legs are hip distance and parallel. Your arms are extended along your sides. Press the backs of your arms into the mat.

Inhale: Press down through your feet to lengthen your spine and press you hips up. Come to a bridge position on your shoulders with your knees, hips and shoulders in one line. Your abs and hamstrings should be well engaged.

Pause at the top of the bridge to practice lifting one leg, then the other, off the mat. If you are stable with this part of the exercise, proceed to step 2.

*This is as far as many of you will want to take this exercise until you build your leg and abdominal strength. It is very good to practice just this lift.

Extend One Leg

pilates picture
Shoulder Bridge with Leg Extended. copyright Marguerite Ogle

Inhale: Fold one knee in toward your chest and then extend that leg toward the ceiling. The rest of the body stays still. Relax your shoulders and neck, the work is in the abs and hamstrings.

Lower One Leg

Shoulder Bridge with Leg Extended. copyright Marguerite Ogle

Exhale: Lower your leg so that your knees are side by side. As you lower your leg, go for as much length as you can. The knee of your supporting leg, the extended leg, and the tailbone are reaching for the wall in front of you as the top of your head is reaching away in an oppositional stretch.

If you feel strong and your position is stable(chest open, hips even, pelvis lifted), go to step 3.

*If you are getting a little shaky here, this is a good time to fold your working leg down to the floor, rest and do this much again.

Flex Kick Up

pilates picture
Prepare to Fold the Leg Back to Starting Position. copyright Marguerite Ogle

Inhale: Flex your foot and kick your leg up to the ceiling again. Be sure that your hips remain even and that the hip of the working leg does not try to lift up along with the kick.

Exhale: Return your foot to a slight point and fold the working knee back to your chest and return your foot to the floor.

Roll down through your spine to return to your starting position.

Repeat this exercise two to three times on each side.

Shoulder Bridge Notes

Shoulder bridge should be controlled and flowing, with an easy coordination of movement and breath. This is a wonderful time to review the Pilates principles and use them to support an advanced exercise.

You might like to try Shoulder Bridge with the Medicine Ball -- just for fun.

In the classical exercise order, shoulder bridge is preceded by the bicycle and followed by spine twist.

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