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Iron bridge is a martial arts stretching/strengthening exercise which is usually practiced during warm-up. This might also be practiced by gymnasts. As with many martial arts/gymnastics techniques, there will be alternatives names for this exercise.

The exercise is a static one that looks easy. Basically, the practitioner holds a position where the feet and hands are on the ground, the back is arched while facing the sky. Hence the look of a bridge. This allows the abdomen to be stretched and strengthen the legs back and shoulders. Even tho it is a simple stance, it is stressful, partictularly on the wrists.

Warning: This is a deceptively simple excercise which can be dangerous to beginners. It should not be learned unsupervised. This write-up serves only as a reference.

Getting into the stance:

The most common way of getting into position is to lie on one's back. Place your hands right above your shoulders, with palms on the floor, next to your hears and with fingers pointing towards your shoulders. Bend your knees and place your feet near your butt (about a foot away). The feet should be pointing straight away from you and should be about a foot apart. However, your mileaage may vary when it comes to the best placement of the feet. This is your ready position. The next step is to push up, using your legs, arms and by arching your back. You should end up in a semi-circle position where your head is several inches above the ground and your abdomen facing the sky. A modest goal is to be able to hold this position for more than 30 seconds.

For complete beginners, and especially if you have low upper body strength, getting into postion will be tough. You will fall back down or your head will be resting on the floor, without lifting yourself higher using your arms. It is well advised that you have someone with experience by your side to hold you up and correct you (and encourage you "push! push!").

It has been my expericen to place the hands close to your shoulders, with fingers almost touching them. This will make sure that you are not putting more than 90 degrees on your wrists. Remember, there will be body weight on those wrists.

And be carefull.

The fancy or show-offy way:

Those who eventually develop good strength, balance and flexibility with this exercise will be able to get into position simply by leaning back and placing one's palms on the floor, without the back touching the ground in the process.

One way to work towards this is to stand an approprite distance from a wall, with the back facing to it. Lean back and lean onto the wall with your hands. Slowly crawl down the wall until your hands reach the ground at the corner of the wall. You should end up in the iron bridge position.

Iron bridge push ups:

This should be self-explanatory. Once in the postion, lower your head to the ground without touching it and push back up.

Again, be carefull. This can be a dangerous excercise to perform. Have someone teach you in person.

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