Strengthen Your Back with Pilates Dart

The Pilates dart.
The Pilates dart.. Westend61/Getty Images

The Pilates dart exercise is a back-strengthening exercise. It one of the moves frequently recommended for people with back pain because it strengthens all of the back extension muscles in both the upper and lower back.

You can support this exercise with lifted abs and a stable pelvis. It will train you to protect your lower back and support a long spine.

Once you get strength and stability from dart, you can build on it to do more Pilates back extension exercises like swimming, swan, and double leg kick.

What You Will Need for the Pilates Dart Exercise

You will need to do this exercise laying on a firm, padded surface. You may want to use an exercise mat. No other equipment is required. You can do this exercise at home, and it's also appropriate for the gym or Pilates studio.

  • Difficulty: Easy.This exercise can be performed by beginners as well as advanced students.
  • Time Required: 1 minute is all the time that is needed for this exercise.

How to Perform the Pilates Dart Back Strengthening Exercise

1. Lie on your stomach with your legs together. Arms along your sides.

2. Lift your abdominal muscles away from the mat.

  • Inhale.

3. Exhale:

  • Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in.
  • Extend energy through your spine and out the top of your head to lift your upper body slightly off the mat.
  • Anchor your pubic bone to the mat to protect your lower back. Your legs and glutes are engaged as part of the stability of the lower body, but don't over-squeeze them.
  • Your head is an extension of your spine. Your gaze will be down.
  • Your shoulder blades will slide down your back as your arms reach behind you like they are being blown back.

4. Hold for an inhale.

  • If you feel stable and have no pain, open your chest and lift your gaze a little more to get that wonderful "flight feeling".

    5. Exhale to lengthen and lower your body to the floor.

    6. Repeat this exercise 3 times.

    Tips for the Pilates Dart Back Strengthening Exercise

    1. Be sure that you do not to make a crease at your neck if you lift your gaze.
    2. Do not crunch your low back, you need to keep your spine elongated. You might also think of sending your tailbone down toward the floor to keep the lower spine long.
    3. If you are recovering from back pain and you are still uncomfortable not having your hands under you for support, you might try a similar exercise, swan prep.
    4. If Dart felt great, move on to Pilates swimming. It is a dryland swimming move that provides back extension and it is also done on the exercise mat, laying on your stomach.

    The two actions of the Dart are that the extensor muscles in the back are used, stretching pulling open the front of the rib cage. These are the Latissimus dorsi and the trapezius. But you are also involving the gluteus maximus in the buttocks. Both contribute to elongating the spine and stabilizing the torso.

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