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Return to Life: #18 Shoulder Bridge


Return to Life: Shoulder Bridge

– The Bridge exercise is a ubiquitous “exercise class” exercise – but this is the one that Joseph Pilates gave us in Return to Life and it’s a massive challenge!

This is such a challenging exercise that maybe the main benefit comes not from the exercise itself,  but what you do to allow you to do it!




What’s it good for?


  • Spinal mobility – correcting forwards spinal curvature from running and cycling long hours.
  • Abdominal control and strengthening.  Spinal strengthening.
  • Hamstring and hip flexor stretching.


Pilates Geeks

  • This is the cherry that tops the cake of the Scissors and Bicycle – I see it as the end of that mini-series.


Difficulty: difficult!
Reps: 6


The “how to”

💡 Make this exercise more accessible: keep your arms on the ground – think of that as a prep for the Shoulder Bridge.

This how depends on how you got to the place of the Shoulder Bridge exercise in your workout.  The Super Advanced version is it you’ve been doing the Bicycle (click here), the Shoulder Bridge starting position comes from reaching your foot lower and lower towards the floor as you lower down towards the floor.  You’ll also need to move your hands so that your fingers are pointing outwards rather than down towards your heels.
An easier option is to lie on your back with knees bent, with hands at your sides and feet on the mat.  Raise your hip up so that you are on your shoulders and bend your elbows so that you can grasp your waist firmly.
Lift one leg toward the ceiling whilst pointing your heel up.

Exhale: keeping your hips up, lower your leg forward towards the ground without putting your weight onto your hands.  As you lower your leg, point your foot and keep your knee straight.
Inhale: return your leg to twelve o’clock position again.

Hints and Tips

💡 As you lower your leg, focus on not lowering your hips nor bending your knee.
💡 Keep your abdominals active to prevent bulging abdominal area and to support your lower back – note to self!
💡 As you start and end, keep your weight even on both feet.
💡 Stay on your shoulders, don’t go onto your neck or head.
💡 If you are having difficulty, keep your arms on the floor and practice Swan type exercises on the Mat, reformer, Cadillac and Barrels.

Extras: Precautions

☀️ … Don’t try this exercise if you are a beginner or have injuries.
☀️ … Try this exercise first with your teacher and learn the basics before trying it alone!

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