Ditch the yoga and follow 7 year old Starly’s awesome tutorial tips on how to improve your shoulder and back flexibility and get a good bridge plus walkovers and tic tocs in a few months like she did. The most basic kids gymnastic skills and cheer leading skills all require enough flexibility to perform the bridge shape (also known as the back bend) which is the basis for handsprings, walkovers, etc. I won’t repeat stories told elsewhere on our Vlog about how bad Starly’s bridge was when she started, but it wasn’t for nothing we called her the plank LOL.
Starly’s tips are numbered in captions in the tutorial (sorry I don’t know why these don’t appear when viewing via fancy phone. I suggest re-watching on a computer as there’s no space left to repeat them here).
As usual, I’m going to butt in with some extra commentary:
* Get advice from someone qualified before starting stretching training so you know what you’re doing is safe for YOU.
* Debate is raging about the age children must be before it’s safe for them to bridge. My knowledge on this is far from exhaustive, but it’s rare to find a jurisdiction that allows coaches to teach unsupported bridges to children under age 5 (meaning bridges for younger ones are only done lying over a roll mat holding the child’s full weight). Some associations even recommend against bridges for all under 7s. The reasons seem to pertain more to height and body proportion than to physical development. This actually makes a lot of sense to me personally. Starly is tiny for her age. She first tried bridges around 5.5 years old when her little arms were barely longer than her head, and it was a hopeless cause. The very few 5 year olds I’ve known who had respectable bridges were TALL for their age. Starly was nearly 6.5 when Coach Shadow taught her the magic door, etc. Starly’s dedication to practice (on her own most days) lead her to achieve passable form on walkovers, limbers, and the static bridge in around 3 months.
* Stretching should NEVER, ever, EVER hurt your back – especially your lower back. If it hurts your back – STOP whatever you’re doing or you could cause injury that will plague you for life.
* Your arms must be straight (locked elbows). If you can’t keep them straight then you need to have your feet higher up or you’re wasting time stretching the wrong muscles.
* Ditto hand placement. The outside edge of your hands should be no further apart than the width of your shoulders. Seriously – don’t waste your time on wide hands. It’s not just pointless, it’s a hard habit to break. Coaches tell you to squeeze your arms against your ears because it fixes several bad habits at once.
* Your feet can be apart so long as they’re within the width of your shoulders. A bridge is not a skill (unless you’re in level 3 *SIGH*) – it’s just a stretch designed to train your shoulders to manage the shape required in actual skills (walkovers, handsprings, etc).
* Coaches tell you to straighten your legs because: a) you stretch your shoulders further when you push back which is good; b) it reduces pressure on your lower back – also good.
* Most kids misunderstand when told their “shoulders” should feel the stretch, and think the upper back between the shoulder blades is the main focus. Most people (especially in the beginning) will actually feel most of the stretch in the armpits. If your armpits hurt a little you’re stretching correctly.
* Bad habit alert: You will not stretch the right muscles if your chin is anywhere near your chest – in fact you’re more likely to bend your arms and land on your head. Your ears should always be covered by your arms like Starly’s. Ideally you should be able to see your hands through your eyebrows. Get used to this now and you’ll go from bridge on floor to balk walkover on beam in no time.
* The arms are exactly vertical in a perfect bridge (when someone looks at you side on). Do NOT hold a bridge unless your arms are vertical (or overstretched as described below) because you’re putting too much stress on your lower back or wrists or both which risks ongoing injury. You’re probably stretching the wrong muscles anyway. Try again with your feet higher.
* Like you overstretch splits, you should overstretch your bridge by tilting the angle of your arms so your hands are closer to your feet than your shoulders are (when viewed side on).
This video was heaps of work to put together, so we’d love to hear what you think (please like and comment) and whether it helped your bridge improve!!
Starly and all the other twins in the family would love you to visit our channel to see their other gymnastics, acrobatics, and figure skating videos. 🙂
Coming soon: bumps and bruises; training hair; limbers; and different types of handstands.