Bridge Press for Stronger Glutes, Triceps and Pectorals

Everyone wants bigger and stronger glutes, and most people love to train variations of the bench press. Sometimes you don’t have time to train both. Other times you just want a novel way to develop them. That’s where the bridge press comes in.

Bridge Press
I came with this exercise years ago for the combat athletes I was working with. The purpose was to build their punching power while maximally engaging their hip extensors, a group of muscles largely responsible for explosive strikes. Indeed, you need super strong glutes and hamstrings to develop devastating punches and kicks.

The other benefit of this exercise is that it allows you to train two foundational movements patterns with one exercise. Pair the bridge press with an upper-body pull, such as a pull-up or row, and you’ve got an efficient full-body workout that builds functional strength.

I use multiple variations of the bridge press for my clients, but today I want to cover the three primary versions that work especially well for virtually anyone. We’ll start with the bridge press using one band around the thighs, and then I’ll cover two ways to progress the exercise.

Bridge Press (1 band)

Description: A strong resistance band is placed above the knees to engage the glutes that resist internal rotation and adduction of the hips. Hold a dumbbell in each hand for the floor press portion of the exercise.

The next progression is add more resistance to the floor press (i.e., horizontal push).

Bridge Press (2 bands)

Description: Here you’ll wrap a long resistance band across your upper back and then loop each end around the handles of the dumbbells. This serves two purposes. First, the band accommodates resistance by matching your strength curve of the exercise. Band tension is lowest at the bottom (where you’re naturally weakest) and highest near lockout (where you’re naturally strongest). The other benefit of using a band is that it doesn’t require you to get heavier dumbbells into position, which can be risky for the shoulders. The additional load comes from simply adding stronger bands.

The final progression takes a little work to set up, but it’s well worth the effort.

Bridge Press (3 bands)

Description: You’ll add a third band across your pelvis to resist hip extension. Use a strong band and secure each end of the loop around the handles of very heavy dumbbells or any other secure objects.

I typically have clients perform 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps to build size and strength. I also use it as a corrective exercise for those that need more hip extension strength but have problems performing a standing hip hinge.

As mentioned earlier, if you pair this with an upper-body pull exercise it’s a simple way to design a workout that fits in a full-body training program.

Another benefit of this exercise is that it spares the spine, making it a great option for high frequency training.

These are some of the strategies you’ll learn when you take a Corrective Exercise Specialist course, which is a terrific way to take your skill set to the next level.

Stay Focused,
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Improve Shoulder Health and Strength with the Elbow Wall Walk

There is no doubt that many people have cranky shoulders. This is especially evident when they try to lift their arms fully overhead, or when they’re trying to military press with proper form. When you see a guy or gal excessively arch the lower back when pressing weights overhead, it’s likely that compensation is due to a lack of overhead shoulder mobility.

During my first year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at USC, I got to fully dissect a cadaver. I’ll never forget the week I spent on the shoulder region. Once you see how many muscles, ligaments, vessels, and structures are jam-packed within the shoulder, it’s amazing we could ever lift our arms overhead without pain.¬†Furthermore, the timing and sequencing of muscle activation the nervous system must coordinate while reaching overhead is pretty astonishing.

Indeed, when you consider the plethora of structures within the shoulder complex, and the motor control that’s required for smooth, full range of motion movement, it’s no surprise why a lack of overhead mobility is a widespread problem in the fitness community.

It’s worth mentioning here that there can be 100 different reasons why you lack overhead mobility. And this is also why there are over 100 different special tests used by physical therapists and orthopedic doctors for assessing the shoulder complex. But there are a few common problems that most people need to correct.

One of my favorite corrective exercises to improve overhead mobility is the elbow wall walk. The benefits of this exercise are numerous, but there are three primary goals when you do it correctly. First, it activates the shoulders’ external rotators, which helps pull the head of the humerus into its ideal position. Second, the exercise activates the serratus anterior, a muscle that’s essential for upward rotation of the scapula. Third, the elbow wall walk teaches your client to reach overhead without extending the lumbar spine.

Test Yourself

The elbow wall walk is a terrific shoulder activation drill to perform before upper body training or Olympic lifts. Nevertheless, if you or your client has problems with overhead mobility it’s important to determine if this exercise provides the benefit you seek. You’ll perform 2 sets of the elbow wall walk, and each set should last 45-60 seconds.

  • Do you lack the ability to reach your arms fully overhead? Perform an overhead reach and have your buddy take a picture of your end range of motion. Measure the shoulder joint angle using one of the many Smartphone apps. After that, perform the elbow wall walk, and then retest (and remeasure) your shoulder joint angle to determine if it improved.
  • Shoulder pain when reaching or pressing overhead? Find the overhead position that causes discomfort, and rate it on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “emergency room” pain. Perform the elbow wall walk, then retest the overhead position and see if the pain intensity has decreased.
  • Poor shoulder stability when holding weights or a barbell overhead? Perform the elbow wall walk, then retest the exercise to determine if your shoulder stability has improved.

The elbow wall walk requires a TheraBand or some type of light resistance band that can be wrapped around each hand. Be sure to “walk” the elbows up the wall very slowly during this drill, and follow the cues outlined in the video below.

If you lack the necessary external rotation mobility to perform the drill correctly, it’s likely your subscapularis is too stiff. The video below shows some techniques to improve that range of motion.

Do you have nagging joint pains during, or after, training? Check out my Powerful Mobility ebook.

Stay Focused,