Learning to do a Ponte (backbend) is challenging for many capoeiristas. Fortunately, there are ways to help everyone learn this important movement.
Flexibility is the most important part of performing a backbend.
Many of our daily activities—driving, sitting, tying our shoes—involve bending forward and the years of repeated movement make backwards flexion uncomfortable at first.
But with practice and time, a backbend is possible.
To perform a macaco stretch:
Sit on the ground, legs apart and feet placed on the ground, shoulder-width apart, place the left hand on the floor and push your hips towards the ceiling trying to look to the back and reaching with the right hand.
Go as far as you can and hold the stretch. Eventually you will be able to press back until your hands can both be on the floor forming the bridge. Do it both sides so you will have an even flexible body.
Like the macaco, the gato (cat) stretch will also provide a gentle stretch for your back. Again be patient with this, it takes time to get into the full position.
To perform the gato:
Kneel down and place your hand on the floor reaching forward trying to touch the floor with your chest. The better your flexibility the closer your knee will be to your belly, but as you are only starting you may need to lay further forward to be able to touch the floor with your chest.
The bridge is a more advanced back-bend stretch. It should only be done after warming up your core and performing more moderate exercises like the macaco and gato described above.
Tip: You must have strong and fully developed shoulders to perform a bridge safely.
To perform a ponte stretch:
Lay on the floor on your back with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Place the palms of your hands by the side of your ears and make sure your fingers face your feet. Your elbows should be pointed towards the ceiling.
Gently push your back off the ground while keeping your feet and hands firmly planted on the floor. The goal is to get into a complete backbend with your arms and legs straight.
Your arms and legs may not be strong enough, nor is your back flexible enough, to push all the way up at first. Don’t worry. Keep practicing and you will get it.