DIGGING DEEPER - Get to know your Pilates exercises: Spine Stretch Forward

 Spine Stretch Forward

by Amanda Turner

Let’s get into it! Spine Stretch Forward is a beginning level exercise and more than likely you’ll learn it in your very first session! To be completely honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this exercise and maybe you do too! When I was beginning my personal practice, I used to think why am I doing this, am I doing this right?, this doesn’t feel like I’m working my abs (back when I thought Pilates was just an ab workout). Well - let’s examine what I was doing wrong and go over why I now know it’s so great!


First of all, it’s a recovery breathing exercise designed to help you recover your breath after the exhaustive stomach massage series. Side note - sometimes I laugh when I think about what Joe determined recovery to be. Second, it should feel so wonderful in the back as you stretch the spine forward and it should feel really challenging in the powerhouse as you anchor the sit bones and continue to keep the scoop. And best of all, it’s building your lung capacity with 5 full exhales and 5 full inhales!


Set up:

Sit with your legs straight and slightly wider than your hips, toes are up to the ceiling. Arms are lifted to shoulder height with the fingers extended forward. If by just sitting like this your hip flexors are screaming or you aren’t able to lift your spine nice and straight, grab something to sit on like a rolled up towel, an extra mat, a couch pillow - anything to give you a little lift. Shoulders are down, head is lifted.

 The Movement: 

Take a big inhale to prepare and as you exhale, drop your head and begin to round your spine forward. **Remember rounding doesn’t involve the shoulders hunching forward** you’re pulling your ribs in, the arms stay at shoulder height, your pelvis stays anchored and your glutes are active. 

When you’re ready to inhale, deepen your low abs and begin to articulate your spine back to its upright position. The legs are active, pressing into the Mat, the shoulders are down. You get 5 reps total.


When practicing at home, I like to do this seated against the wall so I know I’m articulating properly (my upper back really likes to the lead the way).


Anytime I’m articulating I think head, shoulders, upper abs, middle abs, low abs and the reverse it to return, low abs, middle abs, upper abs, shoulders, and head.


Common cues:

-Shoulders down, both when you’re sitting up and reaching forward

Long neck, lift the spine. 

-Glutes are active, keep the toes to the ceiling and the pelvis on the mat (imagine you have a seat belt going across your lap and your hips need to remain buckled!).

-This isn’t the sit n’ reach from school, make sure you’re stretching your spine not focusing on stretching the back of your legs.

-This exercise is so important to perfect, it’s the foundation for so many other exercises - Open Leg Rocker, Saw, Teaser to name a few.


If you want to improve your Spine Stretch Forward, do your basic 5 every day; The Hundred, Roll Up, Single Leg Circles, Rolling Like A Ball, and Spine Stretch Forward, using your modifications as necessary and I promise you’ll see and feel a difference. And I can guarantee I’ll notice if you’ve been practicing too!