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The glute or shoulder bridge exercise is a staple of many exercise forms from Pilates, to yoga, to online zoom exercise classes. As with any exercise, it can be performed badly, which may aggravate lower back issues, or it can be performed well, in which case it creates the desired activation and strength of the gluteal muscles which in turn can alleviate lower back and hip issues.
Glutes that don’t activate
At Melbourne Combined Natural Therapies our remedial and myotherapists often hear from clients that their glutes don’t activate or that they can’t ‘fire’ their glute muscles. Clients may have even been told this fallacy from a health practitioner or fitness professional, Dr Google, or a well-meaning friend, but it’s not entirely true. What may be true is that we can have inadequate strength in our gluteal muscles to fully balance our bodies in action. This means that stronger and more responsive muscles such as the quadriceps and psoas do more than their fair share of the work and as a result, the pelvis tilts forward, the lower back feels pinched and a host of other imbalances may occur in other regions of the body. If you’re able to stand upright, I can promise you, your glutes do ‘fire’, they may just fatigue quickly or be overpowered by other muscles. The gluteal muscles (and for the purpose of the glute bridge exercise we’re predominantly talking about the gluteus maximus muscles which give your bottom it’s shape) extend the leg at the hip joint. If glutes didn’t activate, we’d never get out of the feotal position. So, now we can be assured that your glutes are present and accounted for, what we need to do is to put ourselves in a position which helps isolate the gluteal muscles so that we can effectively strengthen them and help to correct those pesky muscular imbalances which can cause poor posture and contribute to aches and pains.
Shoulder bridge exercise
Simply lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor and then thrusting the hips to the sky without much care and attention I’m afraid isn’t going to cut it. For those blessed with superb muscular balance, impeccable body awareness and wonderful joint mobility, hip thrusts may get a desired burn in the glute max muscles, but for most of us it will tend to work the back extensor muscles predominantly. The following instructions are designed to sequentially activate the desired musculature, develop awareness of the interaction between the powerful muscles of the legs and the deep core muscles surrounding the spine and improve spinal mobility. This exercise has bang for your buck!
- Lying in a supine position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
- Feet should be parallel, heels close-ish to your butt, and a fist’s distance apart between the knees. Maintain this distance between the knees throughout, or place a soft Pilates ball or small cushion between your knees if required
- Using the deep lower abdominals, tilt the pelvis back towards you so that the lower back is flat to the floor
- Keeping the core muscles active, squeeze the glute muscles and peel the spine up one vertebrae at a time until your knees, hips and shoulders are in line. Do not push your hips higher as this will over-extend the lumbar spine and compress the lower back
- Keep the neck soft throughout
- Take care to roll back down through the joints of the spine, one segment at a time, rolling down through the thoracic and then the lumbar vertebrae until you reach your neutral starting position. Take care not to shrug the shoulders!
- Repeat 10 repetitions, slowly and with control
N.B. You can create a greater bias for the hamstrings if your feet are further away from your bottom when you start
If you would like to up your bridge game, please contact us for some challenging variations. We are available for telehealth consultations as well as Stretch and Strength sessions so you don’t need to forfeit your massage time!
Melbourne Natural Therapies
Glute Bridge Exercise