Pilates, an acclaimed exercise form, is highly regarded for its exceptional capacity to strengthen the entire body, focusing particularly on the core muscles, and enhance flexibility. Yet, the benefits it imparts go beyond these well-established advantages. Pilates also serves as a valuable tool in strengthening the upper back and the essential back extensor muscles, which are pivotal in maintaining a healthy posture.
The starting position for basic back extensive Pilates exercises is key to their effectiveness. Whether you’re performing a breaststroke lift, back lift, Cobra prep, or diamond press, the same starting position is required to support the lumbar spine before the movement begins.
Lying in a prone position, it’s essential to ensure the abs are gently drawn in to support the lower back. The glutes should be slightly engaged, and the legs parallel. The head position is also crucial – your nose should be directed towards the floor, not the forehead or the chin. The arm position should be comfortable, avoiding any lifting or shrugging of the shoulders. As you extend into the exercise, maintain a gentle sense of width across the front and back of the chest.
The Diamond Press is a Pilates exercise designed to strengthen the back extensor muscles in extension. Starting in the prone position with the fingertips together and the forehead resting on the back of the hands, inhale and extend the head, neck, and upper spine. As you exhale, bring the fingertips to the forehead, lifting the elbows off the floor and alternating sides. Inhale to return to the start position.
Cobra Prep is another effective Pilates exercise for strengthening the upper spine. Inhale and stretch the head, neck, and upper spine, taking in a deep breath to promote extension. Upon exhaling, straighten the arms, lower the shoulders away from the ears, and create openness in the hips. Inhale once more, softly bending the elbows and returning to the starting position on the floor.
For an added challenge, you can incorporate rotation of the upper spine into your Cobra Prep. After extending the head, neck, and upper spine, lift the hands in line with the ears as you exhale. Inhale and rotate the head to look at the hands on both sides. Exhale and return to the centre, then inhale to return to the start position.
With correct and consistent practice, these exercises can bring about significant improvements in both posture and back strength. They stand as a testament to the versatility and efficacy of Pilates, exemplifying how this exercise modality can effectively target specific body regions and cater to individual needs. Whether your focus is on enhancing posture, fortifying your back, or advancing overall fitness, Pilates provides a comprehensive and adaptable means to achieve your health and fitness goals.
For more information about Pilates
This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.