In this short video I demonstrate how we can improve day-to-day movement by applying the basic principles of Pilates to extension of the spine. (Please see Series One for a further explanation of Pilates terminology).

This exercise helps to strengthen the middle and lower back muscles, and the abdominal muscles, which help support the lower back during movement. This is a wonderful exercise to open the chest area, which is so often compromised in ‘sitting.’

I begin the exercise by pausing to ensure the fundamentals of ‘alignment’ are in place before I move. As in the previous series, we look for a ‘neutral pelvis’ to ensure the lumbar spine remains long. If you are new to Pilates, or have a history of back problems, it’s very important to keep this movement of back extension small. The same applies to the position of the head and neck. The neck remains long so that the head is always in alignment with the rest of the spine.

If in any doubt about this exercise, please liaise with your qualified Pilates instructor or health practitioner with whom you are receiving treatment.

With a ‘neutral pelvis’, the shoulder girdle sits directly above the pelvis (this remains constant whether sitting, lying or standing).

The use of the ‘deep abdominals’ supports the spine and helps to lengthen the waist.

We bring in ‘thoracic breathing’ to connect with the abdominals and support a good upper body position. This also prevents breathing into the neck and shoulders, which can cause unnecessary tension.

To move the body, I use my ‘deep abdominals’ and ‘thoracic breathing’ to maintain length in the waist and to support the spine during the movement. It is the back extensors which actually provide the movement.

The use of ‘opposition’ (lengthening the crown of the head away from the tailbone), maintains length in the spine, strengthens the spinal muscles and fully engages the ‘powerhouse’ during the movement phase.

In the return movement, the same principles apply, maintaining the length through the spine and waist via the ‘powerhouse’, this time the back extensors lengthening to control the movement. As always with Pilates, we return to the neutral position to finish.

Join me next week, as we will be looking at the application of Pilates during Rotation of the spine.

KSJ X Asquith

Shop Katherine’s bamboo Pilates clothes here…

To find out more about Katharine go to or @ksjbodycontrol


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