In this week’s ABC’s of Tennis Training with Carl Petersen we’re talking about basic bridging exercises.

Basic Bridging Exercises

The core (trunk) muscles form the stable support base for the body and doing basic bridging exercises will ensure they give you the stability you need. The core consists of four main muscles: ‘the inner unit’ – the transversus abdominus (TA) (lower abdominals), multifidus (deep, small muscle of the back), the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm (breathing muscle). These muscles work together to support the back and pelvis as the upper and lower extremities move during tennis play and training. The trunk muscles help transfer energy from the legs through the core (trunk) to the upper body and arms. This is especially important in a rotational or asymmetric sports like tennis. In tennis players, the abdominal muscles play a major role hip, trunk and core stability providing a muscular link between the lower and upper body.

Switching on Your Lower Core

  • Start by lying on your back with knees bent up to approximately 90 degrees.
  • Switch on your lower core at a low level-like turning up the dimmer switch on a light.
  • You should feel a light tension in your lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Now march your feet up and down for 5-10 second

Now that you are able to ‘Switch on Your Core ‘ it is time to connect the core to the extremities (arms and legs) with some basic bridging exercises. The following exercises are designed to be done at home or in the gym and do not require extra equipment. They help to develop the core and to strengthen specific larger muscles in a dynamic and functional way.

Basic Bridging Exercises

Supine Bridging

  • Start lying on your back with both knees bent up
  • Switch on your core & raise hips off the mat
  • Hold for 4 seconds & lower back down to start position
  • Do with feet & knees hip width & feet & knees together
  • Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Quadruped Bridging & Rocking

  • Assume a quadruped bridge position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Let your back arch down like an old swayback horse.
  •  Now ‘Switch on Your Core’ like a dimmer switch as you suck your belly button to your spine and hold for 10 seconds.
  • You can also do some light rocking back & forth, side to side and on the diagonal to challenge core more.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Quadruped Bridging with Arm & Leg Raise

  • Assume a quadruped bridge position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • ‘Switch on Your Core’ like a dimmer switch.
  • Stabilize –keeping your back flat and raise 1 arm or leg up and hold for 4 seconds.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Prone Bridging Off Knees

  • Start in a prone push up from knees position with arms straight
  • Switch on your core muscles & find your neutral position with back flat
  • Now lower until forearms on floor & push back up again
  • Hold for 5-10-15 seconds and repeat 5 times.
  • This can be made more difficult by bridging from your toes.

Lateral Bridging

  • Assume a lateral bridge position supporting yourself on forearms and feet
  • ‘Switch on Your Core’ like a dimmer switch.
  • Bridge hips up to spine neutral position and hold and hold 4 seconds.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions.

Rules of Core Strength

  • Always start with ‘Switching on Your Core’ routine to reeducate the lower abdominals to work in a pre-anticipatory way. This is especially important after a layoff, after an injury, or when you have been mal-aligned or have low back or hip pain and stiffness.
  • Approach traditional sit-ups with caution, as the elbow-knee movement places a lot of strain on the low back.
  • Core exercises should be done at the end of strength work outs, or after hitting, so that they can adequately function as stabilizers during the exercise.

Carl Petersen is a partner/physiotherapist at City Sports & Physiotherapy Clinics in Vancouver. He has co-authored the book Fit to Play™-Tennis and the DVD series Fit to Play™ & Perform with Swiss based coach Nina Nittinger. Info at or e-mail For more training info follow Carl on Twitter @Fit2PlayCarl