In gymnastics, a bridge is a precursor to a back bend. In a bridge, you'll begin by lying on the floor and then push up so your back is bent and off the ground, forming a bridge shape. But with a back bend, you'll begin in a standing position, bending backward into a bridge. Strengthening your upper body and improving your flexibility can help you build up to a bridge and develop the flexibility you'll ultimately need to do a back bend.
To increase your flexibility, try a Cobra pose. Lie on your stomach with your hands on the ground in front of you and your legs out behind you. Then push your torso off the ground, bending it backward. After you've mastered the Cobra, try a see-saw. Lie on your stomach with your knees bent, then grab your ankles with your hands. Rock forward and backward in this position, making sure to lift your torso and then your hips as far off the ground as you can.
Condition your back and torso by doing a Russian twist. Lie on your back while bending your knees, with your feet flat on the ground. While holding an exercise ball, lift your torso off the ground to about a 45-degree angle with the floor. When you reach the upright position, twist to the left and then the right. Next, sit in a pike, making sure you're only bending at the hips. Hold an exercise ball with both hands, extending it straight out. Slowly twist to each side, but avoid going too fast or arching your back as you go.
Arms and Legs
You'll need a strong chest and toned shoulders and arms to be able to support your weight in a back bend. Do pushups and pullups regularly, building up to more reps and more intensity as you become stronger. To strengthen your legs, try a combination of squats and lunges, and increase the difficulty by holding weights as you do these exercises.
To slowly build up to a bridge, begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Lift your hips off the ground as high as you can, and repeat this motion five to 10 times. Next, lift your torso and head off the ground -- with your hips still on the ground -- to strengthen your upper body. When your muscles no longer shake during these motions, you can go into a full bridge by pushing both your hips and torso off the ground at the same time. Having a spotter on your first try can help you avoid injuries and falls.