Emmet’s Blackboard

Building The Bridge

Hello my movers and shakers.  Welcome to another round of Emmet’s blackboard.  The last…ages, actually, I have been having a lot of requests for this.  I wasn’t planning on doing it, but because I had so many requests, I made a video to help you guys understand the bridge.

So, welcome to building the bridge.

We’re going to look at the bridge.  It’s one I really enjoy developing in people.  If you are doing the bridge to develop the bridge, you’re going to be banging your head against the wall.  It’s not what we do; bridge is a display of flexibility.  It is something you can do when you are flexible and have achieved certain flexibility targets, then a bridge will be simple.

If you are constantly doing a bridge to try to get your bridge, you’re just going to be annoying yourself.

We’re going to look at what constitutes a good bridge first, and explain some of the key points.  Then I have a good post on the bridge on Facebook you can already see.  If you go on Facebook it’s on my photo albums.  Check it out, there’s a bit of an essay just explaining it.

We’re going to cover some of these points anyway.

We’re going to start with the bridge.  With the wrists, you need a decent amount of wrist flexion.  Not so much when you’re actually in the bridge, as the angle will be greater than 90º.

This is greater than 90º, so we don’t need that much.  But for the initial push into the bridge, we’re going to need a bit more range of motion than you think.

So that’s our first point.  We want nice, flexible wrists.  This also ties into our handstands; we want nice, strong flexible wrists.

Next, in terms of the elbows.  Elbows are just going to be straight.  First thing as you know, I like a bit of hyper extension in the elbows.  Nicer line, stronger support.  Not 100% necessary, straight is perfectly fine.  Hyperextended is just getting a bit fancy.

First thing’s first.  In the bridge here, in the shoulders, we want the shoulder line, if I drop from the point of the shoulders down, I want my shoulders to be ahead of my wrists here.  I don’t want them to be behind the wrists, in an ideal bridge.

Basically what I’m describing is the intermediate level bridge.  This is where tumbling will be easier, handstands will be easier. We can start training walkovers successfully, limbers, we don’t need to worry too much about the bridge.

So in this, we want the ability to push our shoulders that way, relative to the fixed point of our hands.

This is achieved by two things.  It’s achieved by the shoulder blades here, by retracting our shoulder blades, as well as elevating them.  We’re pushing our shoulders forward.  At the same time, even though our hands are on the ground, we’re going to be screwing our hands outwards, in this direction.

If you think internal rotation is this way, we’re actively going to be pushing our hands that way on the ground.  See the head position here: as we externally rotate and internally rotate the shoulders in the overhead position, this will have the effect of pushing the neck forwards.

That’s fine when you’re holding, but when you’re tumbling, we’re going to need something slightly different.  For holding a bridge, the harder you squeeze the shoulder blades and the more you elevate and rotate them, the more your head will go forward.  That is perfectly fine.

The next thing is I have the torso divided into two rough segments.  Imagine this is the rib cage here.  We need the ribcage – the drawing is a bit off, this should be a bit more stacked over the shoulders.  We need to look at the spine, not as a segment, but as something that bends.

It’s got an even bend all the way here for intermediate bridging.  Contortion and other stuff is completely different situation.  We’re looking for a nice even bend or curve.  We’d see a nice continual curve.

Most people will get stuck around the thoracic spine.  In my experience, between T4 and T7 is where people really get stuck.  Don’t ask me exactly why, because it’s very detailed, but trust me on this.  I find a lot of people need direct mobilization of that, so we can get in there and mobilize those segments individually.  That will basically free them up.

Remember, there’s a general rule of thumb in the body.  If you’re trying to free up a joint, or it’s not moving properly, it is freed up by rotated that joint.  It is not freed up by trying to pull that joint.

Take my wrist, say I want to free it up.  I want to rotate in, same with ankles.  I want to rotate around.  Knees, hips, it’s all the same.  Rotation frees up your joint capsules better than actually pushing it through flexion, extension, cycles or whatever it does.  You’re going to have to trust me on that one, same again.

At the same time, our lats, which run around the back of the body, are going to have to be flexible too.  You see where I’m going with this display of flexibility.  The lats, most of the time, we need to go this way to bring them under full stretch.  Same thing.

Now we’re looking at the lower abs.  The belly button is about here.  At this section it’s the same.  We want our abs to be able to – abs have a contrary function in the bridge.  They need to be tight, but also strong enough to extend their full range of motion at the same time.  We need strong abs.  We’re not completely relaxing.

If you relax completely the abs you’re going to feel pain, just below the rib cage.  That’s the cue for that in the spine.  If we keep our abs tight to support the spine, lift it, and traction it out a bit.

Next, pelvis and hip flexors.  This is where people get stuck the most.  They tried the bridge, the pelvis can’t rotate and, because the hip flexors are so damn tight, they can’t actually achieve a bridge, and are left banging their head.

We can skip ahead in our training.  We can train this segment here with our feet raised up, and take the hip flexor demand out.  At the same time, we can wait for hip flexors to catch up.

This is why I say it’s a display of flexibility; it isn’t something we do.

Think about it.  In a bridge, we’re trying to stretch our shoulders, our rib cage, our stomachs, our hip flexors, our rectus femoris (quads), all at once.  At the same time, having the ab strength, shoulder strength, everything at once in tandem trying to do the stretch.  It’s banging your head off the wall.

So, hip flexors need to be treated separately.  Same thing with rectus femoris, one of your quadriceps muscles.  We’re thinking hip flexor stretches, check out Kit Laughlin for some fantastic stuff on hip flexors.  Rectus Femoris, if we look at the couch stretch, these ones free them up immensely.

Now we’e got the anterior line.  The bridge is basically the anterior fascial line of the body.  We’ve got everything here nicely opened.  We’ll go through a quick run down again.

Arms straight.  Shoulder blades retracted and elevated.  Head is going to be poking through a little.  Rib cage is pushed over hands, meaning you’re not feeling blocked there.  Abs are tight but extended, contrary in how it works.  Hips, gluten are engaged.  Hip flexors aren’t tight so we can actively rotate the pelvis.  This will stop the pain you feel just below your lower back and pelvis.  There’s your two cues on that.  Same thing, legs are straight and pushing back.  We’re pushing through our heels, slightly contrary to what you might have thought.

Now, some things I found immensely helpful in bridge.  One, if you can’t do a bridge, is two, bridge from a box.  Put your feet up on a box, great, we can train this half.  Next half, hip flexors, check out Kit Laughlin.

We’ve done this, now we want to train our bridge.  First we need to look at getting into the bridge.  What you find is, initially, if you can actually achieve a bridge position, you want to do a test with a partner.

Hold onto their ankles, have them lift you up.  That’s your test, see where you are.  Assess, see where the pain is.  If you’ve got pain in your lower back, or it’s just a stretching pain..pain in lower back, rib cage; that will give you key points of where you’re tight.

If you can’t get your legs straight, your hips are tight.  If you have pain in lower back, hip flexors are tight.  If you have pain just below rib cage, your abs aren’t supporting, or they’re quite tight.

If you’re pushing forward, you can’t get your shoulders up high enough, your lats are tight.  If you can’t get your chest forward, your T Spine is tight.

With those in mind, give all this stuff a go.  Check my Facebook for another post that will show you my bridge.  The bridge in my Facebook picture is basically the bridge I can achieve without a warm up.  That’s the goal of good flexibility training, we can just achieve this range of motion.

If you have to warm up for a month, it’s not that good.

Give that stuff a go.  If you have any questions, hit me up on them.  You know where to find me.  If you like my stuff, like and subscribe.  Catch you next week.