Bridging the Back: Exercises for a Strong Torso


Start Back and feet are flat on ground, knees bent, arms to the sides. 

Beginner Lift hips as high off the ground as you can, using your arms for stability. This is the bridge. Hold for a breath and release to the ground. Repeat eight times for one set. Complete three sets. 

Intermediate Repeat as above, but cross arms over your chest. This decreases your base of support, increasing the intensity of the movement. Complete three sets of 12 repetitions. Advanced With arms on the ground, drive one foot into the ground while lifting the opposite knee toward your chest. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side. Complete three sets of 15 reps per side. 

Expert Repeat the advanced level with arms crossed over your chest. 


Start Place the palms of your hands and soles of your feet flat on the floor. Fingertips point toward your heels. Spine is straight and gaze is to the ceiling. 

Beginner From the start position, straighten right leg and lift toes toward ceiling in the path of a battement. Leg should be perpendicular to the floor. Hold for a breath and lower to the ground. Repeat with left leg. Work up to three sets of 20 reps per side. 

Intermediate From the start position, straighten right arm toward the ceiling. Hold for a breath and lower. Repeat with left arm. Repeat 15 times on each side. Work up to three sets. 

Advanced Once you’ve mastered the beginning and intermediate versions, try lifting the right arm and the left leg at the same time, while keeping hips high. Hold for three counts and lower. Repeat with opposite leg and arm. Repeat sequence 15 times. Work up to three sets. 

Note: At each level, hold for 15 seconds and lower. Repeat four times. Work your way up to 60-second holds. 

Beginner Lie on your back and rest both heels on a bench or a stool with legs parallel, creating a 45-degree angle with the ground. Begin with arms placed on the ground at your sides. Contract your core and raise your torso off the ground, lifting your hips as high as you can. Use arms for stability only, and not to help execute the exercise. 

Intermediate For a more intense workout, cross your arms over your chest. 


Beginner After you’ve mastered the bridge series using a stationary object, try resting your feet atop a physio ball, arms on ground. As you lift your hips, concentrate on keeping the ball steady in order to recruit your core even more. 

Intermediate For a more intense workout, cross your arms over your chest. 

Advanced Once you’re confident with the intermediate level, challenge yourself by lifting one leg off the ball, toes pointed at ceiling. First lift your hips, then raise the leg. Hold for one breath before lowering leg to the ball, then bring hips back to the ground. Alternate the working leg, repeating 12 times on each side for one set. Complete three sets. 

Expert For an added challenge, try this exercise with arms crossed in front of chest.  

Ben Hendrickson is an ACE certified personal trainer and is on the staff of Chelsea Piers & Entertainment Sports Complex in NYC.

Latest Posts

Photo by Brooke Fera

Enter the World of the Knicks City Dancers with 2 of Their Newest Rookies

Auditions rarely fail to deliver on suspense. But this? This was the nail-biter to end all nail-biters. Hayoung Roh and Chelsea McCloskey, both professional dancers based in NYC, had made it through what felt like endless rounds of cuts, both on Zoom and in person. Out of the nearly 500 dancers (from 30 states and nine countries) who'd answered the Knicks City Dancers' open call for video submissions, just 20 remained—McCloskey and Roh among them. "We were separated into six holding rooms, where we kept trying to figure out the math," Roh recalls. "How many girls are there in total? Who was called back?"

Finally, the women returned to the audition room to dance one last time—or so they were told. Instead, KCD head coach Alyssa Quezada dropped her bombshell: All 20 women had made the final cut. They would be 2021–22 Knicks City Dancers: the latest and greatest edition of one of the most prestigious NBA dance teams. "It was the biggest celebration and the coolest moment of my dance career so far," says McCloskey now. And that was just the oh-so-perfectly-dramatic beginning.

Chelsea McCloskey stands on her left leg while kicking her right leg up with her arms crossed, a smile on her face. She is auditioning for KCD. Chelsea McCloskey Photo by Tess Mayer

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search