How to Add the Side Bridge Exercise Into Your Workout Routine, According to a Trainer

POPSUGAR Photography | Chaunté Vaughn
POPSUGAR Photography | Chaunté Vaughn

Stability is the "vibe" we're all seeking these days, whether it be financially, mentally, or physically. Now, I'm in no position to give financial advice and I pay a therapist very well to help me maintain my mental health. However, I can give you some insight on an exercise that can help you increase your core stability, ease the strain of daily activities, and enhance your overall athletic performance: the side bridge.

Side bridge (aka side plank) creates this trifecta by activating the obliques, hips, and shoulders. This powerhouse of an isolated bodyweight hold can be an impactful addition to your workout regimen whether you're new to fitness or have been training for years. As a wellness professional and 500 E-RYT with over a decade of experience, I've seen firsthand the benefits of side bridges — especially when the people performing them are sticklers for proper form.

Here, I dig into the benefits of side bridges, how to perform the amazing exercise safely, and variations you can try as you build more strength and endurance.

Side Bridge Benefits

This isometric hold is designed to activate your obliques, glutes, hips, shoulders, and transversus abdominis. It also activates the back muscles and the hip abductor muscles, and trains the entire body to work as a collective.

Builds Core Stability and Strength

Side bridge helps build core strength and stability because it engages multiple muscle groups within the core simultaneously, including the obliques, transverse abdominis, and quadratus lumborum. Additionally, it requires you to stabilize through the entire side of your body, which is a region that's often underused.

Reduces Risk of Back Injury

Strengthening the transversus abdominis in particular, but also your entire core in general, allows your body to provide more support to your back and spine during movement. This support helps decrease the risk of back injury or persistent pain.

Improves Balance

The side bridge strengthens key muscles — namely, the obliques and transverse abdominis — that help provide stability for the spine and pelvis, which improves your core stability and overall balance.

Strengthens Hips

This move requires engagement of the hip abductors to maintain alignment and stability through the hips. When performed consistently it increases hip strength overtime.

Supports the Lower Back

In order to perform side bridge properly you have to engage your lower back muscles such as the erector spinae. This stabilization improves the overall strength of the muscles supporting the lumbar spine. Those muscles can support you in day-to-day activities, heavier lifts, cardio workouts, and more.

How to Do Side Bridge

Before you dive into performing a side bridge, follow these steps to ensure you carry it out with proper form.

POPSUGAR Photography | Chaunté Vaughn
  1. Start on the floor lying on your side. Bend your knees 90 degrees, then bring your forearm to the floor with your elbow bent in a 90-degree angle directly underneath your shoulder.
  2. Press into your forearm and outer thigh until your bottom hip lifts off of your mat.
  3. Pull your shoulders away from your ears and down toward your hips and draw your shoulder blades together to engage your upper back muscles. Think about pressing the muscles of your lower abdominals into your lower back and driving your inner thighs into one another.
  4. Your gaze should be directed straight in front of you and your neck should be in a neutral position.
  5. Hold this move for 30 seconds, then lower your hip back to the mat.
  6. Repeat on the other side. Aim to do three to five rounds with proper form.

Side Bridge Variations

The beauty of the side bridge is the stronger you become the more you can increase the intensity of the exercise.

Side Bridge with Straight Legs

  • Instead of bending your knees as described above you will begin with both legs straight. Stack your feet and flex your toes up toward knees.
  • As you push into your forearm, you'll simultaneously push into the side of your bottom foot until your entire side body is elevated off of your floor. This increases the amount of bodyweight you're stabilizing and requires more strength to maintain.

Side Bridge with Leg Lift

  • Repeat the same setup as the straight leg variation to begin.
  • Once you feel stable in your body, lift your top leg up toward the ceiling and hold. This variation activates more of your thigh and glutes.

Side Bridge Dips

  • Repeat the same setup as the straight leg variation to begin.
  • Once stable, slowly lower your bottom hip back to the ground and pause before you fully touch the floor. Hold this hover position for a moment then lift back up to your starting position.
  • When you first begin including this exercise into your workout do 3 rounds of 12 reps.
  • This variation will help you building more strength, stability, and endurance in the oblique, shoulder, and hip muscle groups.

Christa Janine, a seasoned media professional based in Los Angeles, boasts a diverse educational background encompassing digital cinema, journalism, and anthropology, with a master of arts in journalism from Columbia College Chicago. Christa is a prominent figure in the health and wellness industry, recognized as a 500-hour E-RYT yoga instructor and a trusted influencer in the digital fitness space. She currently instructs for Alo Moves and PS, leveraging her platform to encourage others to lead authentic lives and actively advocating for diversity and inclusion within the yoga and fitness space, spurred by her own experiences navigating the industry's systemic inequalities.