Pilates spine curl vs traditional bridge – what’s the difference?

Spot the difference?

They look the same – bottom in the air – but the difference is how you get there.  If you are not sure about the difference between a classic bridge and a Pilates spine curl then do read on….

How a traditional bridge works

The traditional ‘bridge’ exercise has been around for years, taught as an exercise for the bottom muscles (officially gluteals, or buttOCKS as my Danish colleague  used to say) .  Most people also give a good push on their hands and feet.  If you tune in you will  feel it is a good  task for a bottom work out.   The usual cheat or incorrect technique for a bridge is to misfire and activate hamstrings, getting back of thigh cramp and missing the gluts workout altogether.

Try one now and notice how your spine behaves during a bridge?  Usually as quite an inflexible rod?  It just goes up and down in either one big piece or two sizeable chunks…bend at the waist – up.  This is because all the down pressure on the hands and feet makes you activate your back muscles, the erector spinae.  These little muscles overlap each other from one spine segment to the next.  This creates the effect of ‘stiffening’ the spine to make it solid and lets it behave as one rod-like piece.

How a Pilates spine curl is different

A Pilates spine curl uses a completely different technique to raise the body up.  You drive the movement by  drawing up through the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles (on the front of your body), allowing the spine muscles (on the back) to relax, letting the spine become fully flexible  (33 bones connected by elastic).  The spine should roll through its length.  The first movements occurring at the coccyx, then tilting back onto the sacrum, pressing through the back of the pelvic bones, then the movement travels past the waist, onto the lower ribs, aiming to come to a stop with your weight resting through your shoulder blade area (not your neck).  Hold the position for a couple of breaths.   Use the same technique in reverse to come back down.  Have a breath in, then as you breathe out, keep your strength and control through your front abdominal wall to allow yourself to pay out your spine slowly……..take as many breaths as you need….. to let the ribs soften onto the floor,then  roll down towards your waist area.  You may have to really focus to ‘land’ the waist and last few bones of the spine before the pelvis.  Try to land both sides of the pelvis together.  Then make sure you finish the movement properly by allowing the sacrum and coccyx to fully sink to their resting positions and then very last of all release the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.  Breathe.  Repeat.

Physiotherapy advice

I recommend 6 repetitions on the floor beside the bed before you climb in for the night.  Get into bed with all the tensions and asymmetries of the day corrected.  A flexible body will mould to the mattress beautifully and not keep you awake fidgeting.  If you go to bed straight and aligned you have a much better chance of starting the next day in a good place.

 Let me know, in the comments section below, if this technique check was helpful to you and which other exercises you would like help with?

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