The back bridge is an advanced body-weight exercise that builds strength, and develops and improves flexibility. It's most commonly found in yoga workouts, although most people have to practice and train before they can complete the exercise correctly. Because of the position that the exercise places on your spine, there are some safety concerns that you should be aware of.
The Right Way to Bridge
The dangers of the back bridge are due to what's happening at your spine during the exercise. The exercise involves lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your palms flat on the floor just beside your head with your elbows sticking up toward the ceiling and your fingers pointed to your shoulders. Push your feet and hands into the floor to lift your hips and torso off the ground so that your back is in an arched position. Hold this position for as long as you can up to 60 seconds and then lower your hips and torso back to the floor.
It's the arched position of the back when you're performing the back bridge that can be dangerous. This hyperextension of the back places significant compressive forces on your spine, which can in turn do damage to the discs in between your vertebrae. Over time, this stress from hyperextension can weaken your spine.
Problems Possibly on the Horizon
Placing the spine in an arched position can lead to compressed discs or spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is when you have a defect or fracture in one of the vertebras. According to Stanford Hospital and Clinics, spondylolysis is sometimes attributed to continuously performing hyperextension movements because it weakens the spinal restraining structures. Symptoms include lower back pain, discomfort that radiates down your legs and a feeling that your hamstrings are extremely tight.
The back bridge is safe for most, but should be avoided by those who already have issues with their lower back. Visit your medical professional to make sure your spine is in a condition that can handle the hyperextension. In addition, before jumping right into the back bridge, develop strength in your glutes and lower back with the hip bridge exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, just like during back bridge. Push off your heels to lift your hips off the floor and hold the top position for 10 to 60 seconds.