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Coach Sommer

Developing Active Back Flexibility

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Pauline Taube

Hi Matthew,

I would recommend to follow the progressions in the Thoracic Bridge course in order to build a proper bridge. The exercises in this course will prepare your shoulders and upper back for this movement :) 

Please let us know if you have any further questions!

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Laine Rinehart

Any thoughts on bridge walking while on the floor? I find it warms me up quite nicely but is it effective or is it too easy to fall into incorrect form?

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Pauline Taube

Bridge walks are great if done correctly. If your thoracic and shoulders are open enough you should not fall into incorrect form. Feel free to submit a video if you have any doubts :)

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Mats Trane
On 2008-03-06 at 3:35 PM, Coach Sommer said:

Developing Active Back Flexibility

Overuse injuries usually have nothing to do with the exercise itself, but rather the manner in which it is approached. Flexibility progressions, strength progressions, intensity and volume must all be correctly interwoven. The majority of people focus on the passive flexibility aspect of bridge work, and then do just barely enough active flexibility/strength work to allow them to complete a limber. In the long run this is relatively short sighted and, as mentioned, will generally result in a lack of strength and the subsequent over-use injuries. In my opinion, it is unreasonable to ask the body to perform through a range of motion without attempting to develop strength throughout that range of motion.

For example, the progression that I generally follow for developing back limbers (a bridge which then pulls up to a handstand) follows below. This is of course vastly simplified, but suffices as an introductory illustration.

1) Simple bridge on the floor. There are of course many performance guidelines and progressions for both developing and correctly executing a bridge; however as this is an introductory essay, for the moment I will forego discussing these. One main point that I will make however, is that most make the mistake of equating bridges with only lower back flexibility; when in fact the primary emphasis should be on opening and strengthening the shoulder girdle.

2) Single leg bridge kick-over from a feet elevated position. This will also generally begin from lying flat on the ground, with the athlete then pushing up into a bridge. The athlete will then attempt to pull up and over by kicking one leg strongly.

3) Single leg bridge kick-over on the floor

4) Single leg bridge kick-over beginning from a stand. The athlete will now lower backwards into the bridge from a stand. NOTE: most people stop at this point in the progression.

5) Bridge hop. The athlete may still kick strongly, however now both legs must kick and remain together. Every effort should be made to progressively reduce the force of the kick; forcing the back to begin to learn to pull the legs up off of the ground.

6) Bridge pull. There is now no kick or hopping involved in moving from the bridge to the handstand position. All of the effort is now supplied by the back muscles contracting and pulling the legs up to a handstand. The legs may not help at all, other than providing a support platform to begin the movement from.

7) Slow bridge pull. Every effort is now made to complete the pull to handstand as slowly as possible.

8 ) Elevated bridge pull. The hands are now elevated onto a section of panel mat to extend the range of motion within the shoulder girdle. Yes, you have read correctly, the athlete now performs a bridge pull with their feet beginning below their hands. This is of course enormously difficult and the ultimate goal of this entire progression.

As the above progression demonstrates, passive and active flexibility should always be developed hand in hand. Regardless of the stretch involved, the primary emphasis should always be on striving to develop active strength throughout the entire range of motion that is appropriate for both one's chosen sport and to support the level of performance that one is capable of within that sport.

I will insert a sample video link within this essay tomorrow.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

This was such a good post Coach 

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