One example of an advanced Pilates exercise is the Shoulder Bridge. It requires great strength from the abdominal muscles as well as the hamstrings as they stabilize your lifted pelvis against movement of an extended leg. The skills and the core strength that are needed to do an exercise like the Shoulder Bridge can be done gradually in stages. You can begin by practicing only the hip lift. Next, try to lift one foot off the mat and then finally you can do the extended lower/lift of your leg. A good building block exercise for the Shoulder Bridge is the Pelvic Curl. Here is what you need to do in order to do a Shoulder Bridge: 1. Shoulder Bridge Prep Lie flat on your back in the neutral spine position and have your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be down by your sides. Inhale. Press down through the feet in order to lengthen your spine as you press your hips up. Now you will be in a bridge position on your shoulders. You hips, knees and shoulders should all be in one line. Your hamstrings and abdominal muscles should be well engaged. Pause when you get to the top of the bridge and practice lifting one leg off the exercise mat. Then do the same with the other leg. If you can do this with ease, then you are ready to proceed to step 2. • This may be as far as a lot of you will want to go with this exercise until you build your abdominal and leg strength. 2. Extend One Leg Inhale. Fold one of your knees in toward your chest. Now extend that leg up towards the ceiling. Except for the leg, the rest of your body should remain still. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed. You are doing the work with you abdominal muscles and hamstrings. 3. Lower One Leg Exhale. Lower your leg. Your knees should be side by side again. As you are lowering your leg, try lengthening it as much as possible. The extended leg, the knee of the supporting leg and your tailbone are all reaching for the wall that is in front of you. At the same time, your head is reaching away in an opposing stretch. If you are feeling strong and you have a stable position, then you can proceed to the next step. • If you are feeling a bit shaky at this point, then this would be a good time to fold the working leg down to the floor. Rest and repeat this step over.
4. Flex Kick Up Inhale. As you flex your foot, kick your leg up toward the ceiling once more. Make sure that your hips are even. The hip of your working leg should not be trying to lift up as you kick. Exhale. Keeping your foot slightly pointed, fold the working knee back to the chest as you return your foot to the floor. Roll down through the spine and return to the starting position. This exercise should be repeated two to three times for each side. 5. Shoulder Bridge Notes The Shoulder Bridge exercise should be controlled and flowing. There should also be easy coordination of breathing and movement. This is a great time to review the Pilates principles. You should use these principles to support an advanced exercise program. Pilates For The Advanced is a DVD title available for sale on the web site www.pilatesorstretchforbackpain.com all of these have been recommended by a leading British Osteopath/Physiotherapist, there is also a free downloadable ebook called "Back Pain Relief".