Róisín Mooney is a qualified pilates teacher, based in Rathfarnham. Over the month of January, she will help readers of the Dublin Gazette to ease into the New Year with some introductory pilates techniques.
This week, we are focusing on the glutes, as building strength in these muscles helps to keep the upper body stable and relieves tension from the shoulders and back. We have three gluteal muscles on each side of our body and strength in these areas will also help to stabilise the hips and engage the lower body for a strong gait.
Helping to strengthen glutes and hamstrings and also enhance core stability, the basic shoulder bridge is undoubtedly one of my favourite glute exercises. It’s simple to add into your workout and can be used as a warm-up, as well as for improving core and spinal stabilisation.
A basic bridge helps to stretch the stabilisers of the posterior chain, including your hip abductors, hamstrings and gluteus maximus. It also helps to strengthen the erector spinae, which runs the length of your back from your neck to your tailbone. Other muscles, such as the rectus abdominis, obliques and quadriceps, are also working to help to maintain stability and act as antagonist stabilisers for the bridge move.
Lie on your back and rest your hands at your sides, reaching your fingers towards your toes. Your knees should be bent and your feet flat on the floor, approximately hip distance apart.
Your feet should be in a comfortable position, not too close to your glutes but also not too far away. Experiment with different placements of your feet to find the best fit.
Inhale to prepare and then exhale, keeping your torso in one flat piece. Press your feet into the mat and squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips and pelvis off the mat. Aim to create a diagonal line from your knees to your shoulders, avoiding over-arching the back and keeping your ribs pulling down to your hips. Inhale, holding the bridge position and exhale as you squeeze your glutes and try to lengthen through the front of your hips.
Lower the hips to return to the starting position on the mat and complete 4-10 repetitions of this exercise.
Shoulder Bridge Variations and Progressions
As you become comfortable performing the normal shoulder bridge exercise, you can try some of these variations to keep the exercise interesting and challenging.
Variation 1: Bridge with heel lifts
Enter a bridge position by raising your hips upwards until you have a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position and raise one heel off the floor, then lower this heel and raise the other. Repeat the movement, ensuring you do not allow your hips to drop or your body to twist.
Variation 2: Marching Bridge
Enter your shoulder bridge position, following the previous instructions. To progress this move, lift your right foot off the ground but do not let your hips or pelvis shift to the left or right. It is essential that you keep your glutes and core engaged throughout this movement.
With control, lower your right foot back to the ground. Your core and glutes should be engaged, and your hips should be level. Repeat this move on the left side. 4-8 repetitions.
Variation 3: Bridge with leg kick
To progress your bridge further, return to your shoulder bridge position with your pelvis and hips lifted, maintaining a diagonal line from shoulders to hips. Lift your right leg off the ground and extend it straight in line with your knee. With your toes pointed, reach your leg up to the ceiling, flex your foot and return the leg to knee height. Repeat this 4-8 times. When you have completed your desired number of repetitions, carefully return the right foot to the mat and repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
“Follow Róisín’s Instagram page @pilateslerois for further tips and information on her classes.”
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