This advanced variation on the bridge exercise raises the level of difficulty in balance and abdominal control over the basic exercise.
In this video exercise analysis, Nancy Arnold and I (Bud Gibson) demonstrate a difficult variation of the basic bridge exercise that adds a knee tuck (Quicktime, 5.7 MB; Google Video, no download but poorer quality). We were inspired in our efforts by Blaine Moore's series on the bridge with Swiss ball and the basic bridge. It's fair to say that these exercises present a progression in difficulty from the basic bridge which mainly taxes the abdominals, to the bridge with Swiss ball which adds a stabilization component, to our variant which adds a knee tuck further stressing the abdominals and making stabilization more difficult.
We've organized the video so that you first see Nancy coaching me on how to put together all of the elements in this the exercise and then see Nancy, an expert, perform at a virtuoso level. As you will note in the video, Nancy and I have two different body types which lead to some variation in how we perform the exercise.
You set up the exercise as follows. Get a bench that is about 24 inches off the ground and a 65 cm Swiss ball. Put your elbows on the bench and push the ball out behind you so that your lower shins and ankles can rest on it. The farther back you push it, the harder it will be to mount and maintain your balance on the ball. Then bring your legs up on the ball. I found I was constantly in danger or rolling off. The trick I wound up using was to put one leg on the ball, then stabilize, then put the other leg up.
Once mounted, contract your abs, letting the Swiss ball roll down your legs, until your knees come as close as possible to touching the bench. Then, extend your legs back out to the start position. Make sure to keep your abs contracted even as you extend your legs back so that your hips don't sag. The cheats in this exercise are to let your hips sag when you extend your legs and not to bring your knees up as high as possible when you contract.
Viewers of the video will note differences in how Nancy and I perform the exercise. Some of this has to do with body type and some with expertise. Nancy has a long torso and legs. As a result, it is easier for her to bend in the middle and touch the bench with her knees. I am short waisted with somewhat shorter legs. I was not able to bring my knees up to bench although I was able to come within about three inches. However, another difference is due to Nancy's level of expertise. In the video we show, she is able to start with the ball further down her legs, raising the difficulty level.