Do this Move 3 Times a Day for a Healthy Back

Spread Eagle
Pilates for a Healthy Back. Real Pilates

If you are one of the millions of adults that suffer from undiagnosed general back pain you may need this single Pilates move.

Bad backs can be a symptom of a particular lifestyle. Poor posture and bad habits cause us to over use certain muscles and under use others. Solutions aren't always obvious. Walk into a gym and you may notice that the equipment circuit is devoted to single plane exercises. Our spines are designed to work in many directions but with life happening right in front of our faces all day, we rarely get to work in any other direction but forward.

Unfortunately the constant rounding of the back coupled with chronic compression such as we incur when sitting and standing in poor spinal alignment will compound back pain.

Enter the Spread Eagle. This move is borrowed from the Pilates apparatus known as the Cadillac but with a little creative engineering can be accomplished in any number of places. Follow the directions below and use this exercise as a warm up or as an intro into a longer workout. Alternatively, simply perform it as a stand alone move you can fit in anywhere, anytime to get your spinal column into tip-top shape.


Find something stable you can really hold on to that will not fall down. A beam, pillar, telephone pole, lamp or sign post, a chain link fence or monkey bars are all good choices.  A desk or chair will not suffice. Your support structure needs to be anchored securely to the ground or wall to provide a counter weight to your movements.


Stand tall with your feet a generous distance apart - wider than hip width. Take hold of your poles, post or fence at hip height. If you have something to press your feet against bend your toes up and back stretching the lower legs and feet. Stand tall with erect posture and straight arms and legs.


Lean back with your full body weight, stretching and opening your low back and pulling your Abdominals up high and hollow. Your arms and legs extend straight out and your head lowers. Angle backwards and upwards to avoid going too low. You want to exaggerate the hollowing of your Abdominals to really open up the muscles of the low back. This scooping in and up of your Abs is the key to many Pilates exercises. This exercise will help you find the shape.


From your lowest point reverse the movement, shifting your hips up and forward.  Keep your core engaged and curl your hips forward pulling your torso back to the vertical placement. Your spine uncurls as you come through your original position on your way to an upright back bend.  Without pausing lift your gaze, your chin and your chest. Open the front of the body stretching the shoulders back and drawing the shoulder blades together towards the center of the back. Continue a backward arc of the spine lifting upwards without truly leaning backwards.

Your arms remain soft to avoid simply hanging off of your support structure.

Repeat 3 - 4 times for maximum benefit. Time your breathing to increase the intensity of the move. This will also add an element of restorative focus and energy to your day.

Inhale as you lean back and round. Exhale to deepen the scoop and the "C" shape. Inhale to come forward. Exhale to arc upwards. Pair this exercise with some good abdominal strengthening moves to ensure you cover all your bases. Your spine will thank you.

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