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The classic triad of power: push ups, squats, neck bridge (part 1)

Generations of fighters employed 3 basic exercises on a regular basis to develop functional strenght in the entire body. These 3 classic exercises are: push ups, leg squats and neck bridging. In my opinion these are the best bodyweight exercises a Muay Boran fighter may use to boost his power, stamina, flexibility, balance and last but not least, self-confidence.
Our analysis will start with the neck bridge also known as the wrestler’s bridge. As the name implies, all wrestlers around the world consider the bridge as an essential element of their physical conditioning. Muay Pram (traditional thai grappling) stylists are no exception to this rule and, just like greco roman and free style wrestlers, employ this drill on a regular basis.

As a matter of fact, according to most knowledgeable trainers, neck bridging is the best total-body conditioning exercise for all kind of fighters, grapplers or strikers. Even if the emphasis of this bodyweight exercise is on building a strong neck, when performed properly, the neck bridge is also a great promoter of back strenght and flexibility. In fact, bridging stretches all the muscles of the back as well as the entire backbone, with obvious benefits for everyday life.
It is clear that performing a proper back arch is no easy task, at first. However, with patience and perseverance everybody can progress to a stage where the back is flexible enough to arch until only the forehead and the soles of feet touch the ground.
In order to reach a correct arched back position, not only the neck muscles come into play: the hips must be pushed upwards and, to do that, the buttocks must be flexed and the abdominals must be stretched. At the same time, all the core muscles must work as stabilizers during the whole exercise.
How about the legs? In back bridging thighs muscles are supposed to help pushing the hips to the sky: therefore, the arched back position works the leg muscles at an incredible level for the whole duration of the drill.
Neck, back, hips, thighs, abs, buttocks: all of these muscles are heavily trained at the same time with a single body weight exercise: the neck bridge. Sounds incredible? Try for yourself: hold the back bridge position for 3 sets of 1 minute each with 30 second breaks, every other day, for the first month. After one month, increase the duration of each set to 2 minutes and go on for one more month. The third month, increase again the workload to 3 sets of 3 minutes each, with one minute breaks.
When you bridge you can hold the arched position for the whole 3 minutes or you can rock back and forth on your forehead.
As a result your general strenght and your neck power will be boosted; moreover, you will notice that this calisthenic exercise like no other will make you feel stronger and more self-confident. Both essential attributes for any martial artist.
A last suggestion: a good alternative (relatively easier) to prepare the neck for the rigors of the back bridge is the so called front bridge. The main muscles that come into play in this drill are the neck, hips and lower back muscles. The hamstrings and calf muscles are stretched while you rock back and forth: only the soles and forehead must touch the floor during the exercise.