The Pilates bridge is a pose that does double duty. It is a great workout for your glutes, hamstrings, and core, but it can also help relieve strain in your lower back. As physical therapist, yogi, and founder of Movement by Lara, Lara Heimann, previously told Well+Good, it has the power to realign the pelvis to neutral, fire the glutes to take some pressure out of the back, and lengthen out the front of your hips that may be compressed from sitting.
Bridge pose also happens to be a major base of movement in Pilates. From Pilates bridge, you can do a variety of pulses and leg raises for both leg and core work.
So for such a versatile and important position, you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing Pilates bridge the right way. Brian Spencer of East River Pilates sees people making common mistakes all too often, which is why he shared wisdom with us about how to perfect the move. One important piece of advice: It’s all about maintaining tension—in the right places. That is, don’t let that tension take over your shoulders, but keep your legs and core active by pushing your feet down into the ground, and simultaneously feeling like you’re pulling them towards you.
“This recruits the hamstrings a lot more, so it’s not just a press down, it’s a pull in,” Spencer says.
Here are Spencer’s big three tips for doing a Pilates bridge the right way.
1. Keep your feet the right distance from your hips
A mistake Spencer often sees people make is placing their feet too far away from their hips. Your feet should actually be just within reach of your fingertips. This is the position from which you’ll be able to most optimally activate that push-pull of your feet with your hamstrings.
2. Get out of your low back
In an effort to raise their hips high to the sky, Spencer sees people arching their low backs in this pose. You actually want your lower back to be in a neutral position: You’ll know it’s in the right spot, with your abs engaged, if you’re able to see your knees.
3. Relax those shoulders
Sometimes people will hunch up into their shoulders. Get outta there! Your shoulders should be relaxed—a base for the pose, not a muscle that’s actively working. “When in doubt, flip the palms to the ceiling,” Spencer says. This will open your chest and force those shoulders to chill out.