Exercise Highlight: Why the Bridge is a Must for Mountain Bikers

When most riders ask me about my favorite core training exercises few of them expect me to reply with the Bridge. Also called the Wheel in Yoga, this exercise has you extend up off the floor, pressing yourself into a position similar to leaning back over a stability ball and placing your hands and feet on the floor. This deceptively hard yet powerful exercise is rarely included in any mountain bike specific workout and so few riders have actually tried it, leading few who benefit from it.

The power of this exercise lies not in how it mimics riding but in how far removed from riding it is. You see, since most riders are locked up in the Adult Fetal Position (shoulders rounded forward with shortened hip flexors) they need something to open them up in the other direction. Not being able to bridge is an indicator that you are too locked up in the front side of your body and you are starting to suffer from the Adult Fetal Position. This posture is not healthy on you joints and can lead to overuse injuries down the road, making the ability to bridge an important indicator of your overall mobility and core strength.

The idea of needing to restore and maintain balance in the body goes beyond simply addressing the “mountain biker” and gets into addressing the human being. The better the human functions the the better the rider can be and the Bridge is an exercise that goes a long way in helping us address more than just the obvious.

However, as much as I love this exercise I know that it presents a lot of riders with a challenge. In fact, some rider’s I have trained swore to me that they would never be able to do it and yet eventually it became one of their favorite exercises. The frustrating thing is that you don’t get a little better every time to you do it – it can feel like nothing is getting better and then one day you can suddenly move a little more. Your body simply needs the chance to figure things out and once it does you’ll be on your way to enjoying the benefits of this unique core training exercise.

In this video I show you how to perform a good Bridge and how to overcome some of the common problems, including lack of wrist mobility and upper body strength:

-James Wilson-

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  1. Dave Pike says:

    Excellent vid. Ever since I picked up a copy of “Convict Conditioning” I’ve been working the bridge into my workout routine. I had done them before in yoga, but since (it’s been about 2 years since I stepped foot in a yoga class) I haven’t paid them much attention. I’ve always been relatively flexible and had a strong core, so a full bridge presented me with little problem, but I do now notice after watching your video that I was guilty of the same mistake you were of not keeping my lower back on the floor. I didn’t raise and lower the torso evenly, so thanks for pointing that out as well!
    Great exercise and I’m glad it was included on your site!

    Reply • March 8 at 5:15 am
  2. Tony says:

    Hay Coach…I have been riding for so many years I think I have “Senior Fetal Position” but, will give the bridge a try. Thanks for the info.

    Reply • March 8 at 5:20 am
  3. Jon Laterveer says:

    I have found that coming up to the crown of my head, pause and breath, up to the top of my head, pause and breath and then up to a bridge helps to come up with the hips and shoulders at the same rate. I also find taking deep breaths on the way up and at the top really opens the bridge up, it’s slow and controlled but works well for my reps to. Great tips James, I am working on keeping my lower back agaisnt the floor when I set up.

    Reply • March 8 at 7:05 am
  4. Joe says:

    James, I’ve been doing the “triceps bridge” for years. I place it between sets of lunges, shoulder, and triceps exercises. When or why would you suggest this version over the “Tricep Bridge” variation? I noticed just trying the two different version that yours puts more focus on the hip flexors.

    Reply • March 8 at 4:24 pm
  5. John (aka Wish I Were Riding) says:

    Hey James. I watched but don’t remember you talking about this at all:
    “how to overcome some of the common problems, including lack of wrist mobility and upper body strength”
    Can you provide some follow up? Thanks.

    Reply • March 8 at 6:45 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I thought I went over the Crow Stand in that tip as good way to improve wrist mobility, guess I forgot to and will have to cover it in a future tip. As far as the upper body strength, the trick is to drive hard with the hands. The lower body will always take over the movement if you don’t force the upper body to activate and that is the best way to overcome a lack of perceived upper body strength.

      Reply • March 10 at 10:23 am
  6. Mike says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Thank you for posting this James!
    Bridging had been a staple in my workouts for the last 9 years, but my way was to hold a wrestlers bridge (no hands) for 3 minutes. I loved this exercise, but I had to stop doing it because it would make my hands go numb. According to my chiropractor I was losing the curve in my neck. The problem has been corrected, but doing the wrestler’s bridge anymore is just a bad idea for me. But your method of bridging is something that I can do. Thanks for giving this part of my workout back to me!

    Just one question: how many reps do you recommend?

    Reply • March 8 at 7:47 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      5-20 reps seems a good range for most people.

      Reply • March 10 at 10:20 am
  7. Griff Wigley says:

    James, can you recommend some upper body exercises that would help enable me to do the bridge? Or is is just push and grunt day-in and day-out until one day, it’ll happen?

    Reply • March 9 at 8:30 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      A lack of shoulder mobility will also make this exercise much harder so make sure you add in these exercises as well:

      But on some level yes, you just need to be comfortable with sucking and keep at it. Most riders are ready to give up after 2 or 3 tries, which really isn’t long enough. If you do this exercise 3 times a week for a month and make no progress then you have cause for concern but odds are that won’t happen.

      Reply • March 10 at 10:26 am
  8. Robert says:

    Hi James,

    I am unable to get my hands to turn in that direction. (old injury). Can you suggest an alternative that would accomplish the same benefit but without spinning the wrists around?


    Reply • May 29 at 8:37 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      No, I’d just stick with regular glute bridges and work on wrist mobility. Unfortunately not everyone can do every exercise but doing some sort of bridging is still good to work into your program.

      Reply • June 1 at 11:54 am

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James Wilson
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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson