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Knee pain during Shoulder Bridge in Pilates? Read how to fix it!


Shoulder Bridge with Magic Circle around knees

Do you experience knee pain during a Pilates Shoulder Bridge? This blog is going to look at the exercise, the mechanics behind it, reasons why you might be feeling knee pain, and some helpful solutions!



Lets break it down, so you can work out why you might be experiencing Knee Pain during the Shoulder Bridge:


1. The key points of Shoulder Bridge

2. The muscles that work during Shoulder Bridge

3. Reasons you may have Knee Pain during Shoulder Bridge, plus tips to help!


Firstly and foremost, if knee pain is ongoing and affecting your daily activities, affecting your sleep, seeing a healthcare professional to rule out pathology is essential. 


Once cleared and deemed safe to exercise, we can start to break things down and analyse why it might be happening, and how a few tweaks in Pilates can help. 



1. Key points of Shoulder Bridge:

  • Feet hip width apart.

  • Back of the head, shoulders and upper arms are pressing down firmly into the floor (or hands to side of waist for Classical)

  • Lower back lengthened, tailbone reaching for back of the thighs (spine slightly extended for Classical). 

  • Hips up and knees are reaching forward.

  • Ribs drawn in.



2. The main muscles involved to perform Shoulder Bridge: 

  • Gluteus Maximus for hip extension (to drive the hips forward over our thighs)

  • Hamstrings (back of thigh) for hip extension and knee flexion

  • Erector Spinae (muscles alongside the spine)

  • Gluteus Medius and Minimus (Abductors, responsible for pelvic stability).



3. Reasons you may have Knee Pain during Shoulder Bridge, plus tips to help!

Whilst there could be many reasons people experience pain, here are a few things to consider, including some helpful tips you can implement right away. 


Quads are dominant: 

The movement is being driven from the quadricep muscles (the muscles at the front of the thigh), rather than the Gluteal muscles to perform this movement. 


It could also be that your feet are too close to your bottom and may feel more comfortable a little further out. This will in turn make your hamstrings and glutes work harder. You’re welcome! 


Knees splaying out: 

Are the knees and feet aligned? Are the big toes &/or arches lifting off? Are the knees splaying out? 


There may be tension along the outer hip and thigh.  


A soft ball or yoga block between the knees - something you can really squeeze to keep the body well aligned, engaging the adductors (which also helps you engage your centre more!).


Knees are falling inward: 

This is usually caused by lack of Gluteus Medius engagement. 


A magic circle (my fave) or resistance loop around the outside of your knees, or tie a resistance band around your thighs to give you something to push out into, helps to really engage those hip stabilisers! This will also take the pressure off your lower back muscles, giving a feeling of freeing up your back and improved hip extension. 



Give these a try and comment on this post!  I’d love to hear if this helped you or your client with Shoulder Bridge. 




Get expert advice from healthcare professional who understands Pilates

Schedule a consultation with Sonia, an experienced Pilates Instructor and Registered Physiotherapist, to delve deeper into your questions, and get the answers you are looking for.


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