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Hi I used to coach when my family lived near Baltimore. Now that we have moved I’ve started my 2 year old in a parent tot class. The new gym is great except they want the children to do bridges as a part of stretch. After class I pulled the coach aside and told her that bridges were harmful for such young children to be doing. She claimed to have never heard this before. So I was wondering if any one could supply me with the actual facts of what harm could be done and any articles or quotes form specialist would also be helpful if any exist, so I can pass this information on the owner of the gym he attends. Thank you so much for any help you may be able to provide.
I was taught the same thing, kids under age 4 shouldn't do a true bridge. They can do a Table Bridge. It has to do with the size of their head in relationship to the size of the rest of the body.

I will see if I can find some further information for you,
I was told by a coach at my daughter gym that under 5 shouldn't be forced. If they can do a bridge on their own it was okay but you shouldn't touch them... usually they do a stretch they call "table tops"
I don't have a link for you or anything, but when I did a coaching certification course (mandatory where I live) we were told that it's really bad for under the age of like 5 or 6 to bend their back basically at all. At my gym the preschool programs never do real bridges, just table tops.
The latest info I can recall was given at National Congress last year. For physiological/developmental reasons, true bridges are too stressful on the backs of children six and under.

Some people have also gone "off the deep end" and refuse to have any kids under 10 do bridges, which I think, could be dangerous when those kids try to learn skills which require back/shoulder flexibility and muscle control.
I have heard this but I really think it depends on the child's strength. DD is almost 5 and has been doing bridges since she was almost 3. That being said her coaches have never forced them, they only helped her with the positing of her hands and such. I have pictures from over the past 3 years that really show the progression. This year she has been on pre-team and is working more on her flexibility but her coaches NEVER push it with her.

Like I said I believe that is a guide that MOST should not be doing them but there are always exceptions to the rules
Just the other day I caught our jr boy's coach trying to have a 4 and a half year old on his first day do a bridge. Poor lil guy. I found a physio ball and he enjoyed the heck out of that. I'm all for having the under 5's do it on balls or mailboxes or with their back supported. Really I just want them to the idea of their hands on the floor and shoulders open.

I can remember at Congress that basically bridges are a no-no, but if they end up doing them on their own, they will probably be fine and great, but I would still worrying about too many ( especially if they are disproportionate or physically under the bar to say ).

Lannamavity. The first and second rec/somewhat comp gyms I coached at held the same idea about headstands and even back drops and stomach drops much to the gymnasts detriment.

Kristilyn73. I will have to remember and look into the head size theory. It's been awhile since I've taught any 4 year olds and I can't remember if I have them do hand supported headstands of any variety or not. I want to say that all I teach them is a sort of piked pushup position with their hands and head in a tripod shape, often against a block; which is roughly my same progression for headstands for any gymnast.
I started doing bridges when I was 15 months old. hahaha. It never bothered me. and yes. I have been doing gymnastics for about 14 1/2 years. I'm going to be 16 in 12 days :D
Just wondering if anyone has solid research behind the "no bridges until you are 5" theory. I am a medical professional and haven't been able to find any actual research to back this up. Just wondering....
Just wondering if anyone has solid research behind the "no bridges until you are 5" theory. I am a medical professional and haven't been able to find any actual research to back this up. Just wondering....

Google Larry Nassar. I wish I could give you more specific info, but USAG is often vague about issues which could implicate gymnastics of wrong doing.

The information was given out when USAG changed the compulsory elements on floor to "reduce stress on athletes' backs" last year. Clinicians at National Congress brought it up more than a few times. I think we all just accept it because it's the reason for the changes.
i our pre-school classes, our directors told our coaches just at our last meeting that we can allow the kids to do bridges and position their hands a feet correctly but we aren't allowed to help pull them up into the full bridge or anything. 6yo is when they can move from kindergarten class up to rollers (lvl 1) and that's when we are allowed begin helping them.

not only does it save their backs in the lower levels but it really helps to build muscles all over
I have been involved in the sport of gymnastics for 50 years and have been a coach for 45 of those years.

Bridges in my opinion should never be done by a pre school age child because their arms and legs cannot hold their own body weight except in a table top position.

You can also contact Dr. Keith Russell at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada and Rick McCharles at

It is up to you parents to protect your children from harm.

Don G. Anweiler
bridges in preschool

This is a long standing issue...with alot of explanation.

The current industry standard for bridging recommends that children do not start bridging until age 5. The industry standard USED to be based on the concept of "developmentally correct" in which the child was allowed to do a bridge if they could place themselves into the bridge position on their own. This, however, is no longer the standard. The standards can be found in the old USAG KAT book, and it remains the standard within the Preschool Fundamentals and HOT courses.

Here's a little background on the issue..

About the same time that FIG upped the international competition age, our sport started really looking at the various ways we could increase the longevity of athletes within our sport. Among the things we started addressing in a serious manner, for example, was how we could decrease the incidence of eating disorders within our sport. Serious consideration was given to what our standards should be and how we should handle athletes to avoid such things.

Another thing that we looked at as a sport was how we could decrease the incidence of injury to keep the athletes healthier. Long term injuries caused by overuse, strain and micro-trauma were some of the injuries addressed. The focus became trying to avoid long term injuries as much as possible so that athletes would be able to go on in life without living with injury post-sport career for the rest of their lives.

That is when the standards changed. We wanted to decrease long term injuries for the overall health of the kids within our sport and we wanted to increase the time an athlete could participate in the sport as well as the athlete's health post-career.

Spinal injury caused by overstressing the back was one of the areas addressed. While the "developmentally correct" standard was in place, many of us who teach the courses for USAG were consistently asked for clarification. So, in response to the request for clarification, USAG went to various sports physicians, pediatricians as well as other sport science people to get a consensus on what the best approach to training young children should be.

In regards to bridging, they came back with the consensus that age 5 was the earliest a child should begin bridging.

There are several reasons for it, but the main concern is a condition called Spondolysis which is the pars fracturing within the spine, usually around the 5th lumbar vertebra. Left untreated, it can become a condition called Spondylolisthesis which causes chronic back problems for the rest of the athlete's life.

Spondolysis can be caused by impact injury as well as overstress injury. In football players, it can be caused by impact to the back. In ice skaters, it can be caused by falling on their backsides on the ice. In gymnastics, the way it is usually caused is by overstressing the spine in the abnormal positions we use within our sport.

Like someone said in an earlier post, preschoolers' anatomical build, ie. physical size and proportions make bridging difficult since their heads are often too big for their arms to lift off the floor.

Strength is also an issue. A child who is not strong enough to lift themselves into a bridge will often have poor positioning, sometimes even attempting bridge with their head on the floor, stressing the neck in particular.

Lack of flexibility within the shoulders is a huge part of it as well. If the shoulders are not flexible enough for a proper bridge position, the stress is placed on the lower back in the upside down U formation. Any beginning gymnast, no matter what their age, should begin their bridge with feet elevated at least 8 inches. This forces the stretch into the shoulders where it belongs while decreasing the stress on the lower back, making the bridge position a non-symmetrical elongated U, pushing the stretch through the chest and shoulders.

What children under age 5 CAN do are tabletops (crab position), abdominal sags and seal stretches, SUPPORTED bridge work over barrels and on panel mats (hands on floor, laying on panel mat) as long as the entire length of the back is supported. They can do strengthening drills as well, to prepare for bridge work.

As a coach, I want to do whatever I can to avoid any injury in any of the children under my care. Bridging is no different, and spinal damage is something I don't care to mess with if I can avoid it. I do not allow children to bridge in my gym AT ALL until age 5, and even the beginning gymnasts start with elevated feet.

A sidenote to that is ..when I visit gyms, I can tell alot about the level of coaching education they have on staff simply by watching the types of drills they use with their kids. I also caution any parent who is moving to another city about the things to watch for in a gym. If I don't know a gym to recommend in the area to which they are moving, I send them out with a list of certifications to look for, a list of questions to ask, and I tell them to watch to see if the gym bridges preschoolers...that will tell you alot about that gym in a hurry.
Just a quick note and correction to spelling. I can never spell the word without looking it up..I should have looked it up before I posted.

The condition is spelled Spondylolysis for anyone looking it up.

Sorry for my brain spasm there...hope that helps anyone looking for more information.
I've been reading this post about the bridges and am a little concerned. DD is 4.5 and has been doing bridges forever. She has a back walkover and is now starting to learn the form for her back handsprings. This is our second gym and other than this post we have never even heard of bridges being dangerous for them. Is teaching back handsprings at this age uncommon? I know of at least three other smaller kids learning them at our gym, they are all intermediate or level 2 preteam kids. She has been to a bunch of exhibitions at her old gym and one at the new gym and both had a bridge kick-over in the routine.
OKay, so DD has started working on these on her own at home. I saw her in her room the other day and she can get herself up quite well great arch. But she is still resting her head on the ground. If you looked at quick glance then you would think she was doing it correctly.

Should I not let her do these. (she is big for her age and quite mature body wise-will be 5 next month). Or should I let her keep working on them until she gets it. I dont know that if i tell her not to that she will quit and not do it behind my back. So possibly supervising would only be smarter.

Now, if i help her pull up a little more to get her head off the ground she can hold it there on her own. Its just getting it up. I honestly think in a week she will have it on her own.

Just worried after this thread that she shouldnt practice it at all :) thanks. (pm me if you want)
If she is still putting her head on the floor/ground then alot of her body weight is going on those cervical vertebrae(neck) and thats one thing you want to avoid. From what I've heard and read, the arch of the back is not as important to a beginner as the proper placement of the feet and hands.

Tell her if she will hold off on practicing at home, you'll ask her gym instructor about when is the best time to start bridges and tell her that dd is trying some at home. That way, she can get proper instruction in the gym and learn the progressions that will make her bridges safe and correct.
Before I say anything else, let me say this..I do not EVER recommend a child do gymnastics at home without the supervision of a coach...ever. So, I would tell you to discourage your daughter from doing any gymnastics at home. Stretching can be good, regular outside play is also good because it develops movement naturally.

If you were a coach in a gym...this is what I would tell you..The problem with "helping" a child into a bridge position is this...

If they do not have the shoulder flexibility (and a big misconception is that bridging is for back's not. It's for SHOULDER flexibility) and you pull her into the position, you could inadvertantly be causing injury by forcing the issue and pulling her back into a position that she is simply not ready to perform. I never ever ever lift a kid into the position. Once they are in the position, I may support them at the shoulders, but NEVER lift a child into the bridge. ever.

The proper bridge position is not a super's an elongated U with legs straight and together. It should look more like a gentle downhill slope from belly button to toes..rather than a hyper-U overflexing the back.

I tell my coaches (and any time I speak I remind coaches) DO NOT lift a child into the position.

If her head is resting on the floor, this is a possible indicator that she may need to strengthen her arms before attempting the skill. So, rather than allowing her to continue attempting the bridge, I would have her do chin ups or push ups. Push ups would be my first choice of drill for that because she would get the added benefit of the kinesthetic feel for pushing against the floor, which is required for bridging.

I do NOT like seeing a kid resting their weight in a bridge position on their generally pushes the neck backwards against the floor. Not cool.

So, really, other than letting your kiddo play outside and be a normal kid at home, I would recommend that you tell her NOT to do gymnastics at home, and I would further recommend that you NOT help her do gymnastics at home. I have parents come to me regularly and ask that I speak to their child to remind them that gymnastics is for in-the-gym only. That is my recommendation to anyone who asks that question.
You could contact Dr. Keith Russell, at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskachewan, Canada. Keith is one of the most respected coaches on the planet and i am sure he can give you specific research data regarding this. Unfortunately i do not have his email address

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