Sunday, November 20, 2011

Commonly Asked Questions: The Mystery Behind Spine Stretch Forward

Ang, I am reading the Pilates Style Mag nov/dec issue & pg 50 spine stretch forward does not roll back on the pelvis like we did at the workshop. Which way is correct & safe to do in class? I am confused on this exercise again. Debi Frey, PTA Great Falls, MT

Thanks for your question Debi as this is an exercise that is frequently confusing to many Pilates Practioners and students alike.

The key to Spine Stretch Forward is to NOT hinge/tip forward at the waist, but to maintain a rounded back and stable pelvis to ensure a true stretch throughout the spine vs turning it into a hamstring stretch. In Pilatesstyle Magazine (Nov/Dec 2011) on pg 50 you will notice they mention "keep your deep back muscles (which would be Quadratus Lumborum and deep spinal extensors) engaged". The model does not have very much lumbar spine flexibility so that can be confusing if you are trying to assess the movement visually. The purpose is spinal stretch and pelvic girdle stability. In order to achieve this two fold, you must deeply engage the abdominals to keep from "hinging" forward at the waist while reaching forward over the toes (thus the slight posterior pelvic tilt to initiate the movement.)

I would reword the passage in Pilatesstyle as they emphasize engaging the deep back muscles but don't clarify what they mean by "engage". We are trying to stretch the spinal extensors and thus must deeply flex them to achieve this goal vs keeping them extended and in their active state.

On a side note, the Classic Version of "Spine Stretch" in RETURN TO LIFE THROUGH Contrology, by Joe Pilates, he does hinge at the waist and adds a forward stretch with 3 pulses that take you further forward into the stretch. So, we need to be very clear to our clients as to the version we are asking them to perform and what the overall purpose behind the exercise is.

1. Spread legs as wide apart as possible. Draw toes upward and backward.
2. Rest palms flat on mat, with outstretched arms and chin to chest. Begin reaching forward with three (3) successive movements as far forward as possible with the abdomin "drawn" in.

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