Powerhouse activation in the Spine Stretch Forward
Let’s dive right into how to do the Pilates Spine Stretch Forward effectively and then enhance it with our 3 magical tools.
Sit upright with your legs stretched and establish a functional neutral pelvic position. Lengthen your torso through your 7th cervical spine, shift your body weight towards your sitting bones, and lift your arms up parallel to your legs. This action will be sufficient to activate your DMCS – your deep muscle corset system commonly known as the Powerhouse. However, you can of course also consciously activate your DMCS using the ABC principle by
A – pulling your navel in and up towards your spine
B – lifting and placing your chin onto your chest and
C – pressing your shoulder blades down towards your pelvis to flex your torso towards the mat.
It is important to remember that the ABC principle is an on-going and adjustable concept, which needs to be applied continuously throughout the journey of the movement to facilitate a deep spinal articulation in the Pilates Spine Stretch Forward exercise.
Now, to fully understand kinaesthetically what your DMCS – Powerhouse – is supposed to do in the Spine Stretch Forward, please place your fingers between your navel and the middle part of your ribs as shown on the video below (starting at minute 1:45). Draw this area of your abdominal muscles horizontally, vertically, and spirally in and up – meaning; in towards your spine, up towards your ribs and head, and in towards the middle as show in the video.
In the Spine Stretch Forward flexion your DMCS needs to be in an active, definitely not a passive state. Because if your DMCS is in a passive state in the flexion, the muscles along your spine and the back of your legs will co-contract and inhibit your ability to go further down, and thereby transfer your body weight onto instead of out of your vertebral discs, which will strain them.
By the way, the workings of your DMCS described here are universal and can help you understand all Pilates flexion exercises, such as Rolling Like a Ball, Hundred, Roll Over, Neck Pull etc.
Now, back to our Spine Stretch Forward. Curious how to enhance it? Then check out our 3 magical tools. They will make you stand out from the rest of the Pilates crowd;)
The magic tools
The magic tools I am presenting today are based on the differentiated release concept. They facilitate the reflexive release of your abdominal and back muscles, and change your mental and physical perception of how you perform the Spine Stretch Forward.
You will see, it does not matter what age, physical or mental condition you are in, it is possible to show that within 20 seconds you can improve on how far your torso comes to your legs by at least 10 %.
Magic tool 1 – Hammock stretch
Lie on your back with bent knees and your arms alongside your body.
Place your body in the position as shown in the picture below and relax there for 5 minutes using our coaching keys.
Use our coaching keys to go deeper into the Hammock Stretch. Say to yourself and imagine …
• I relax my abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
• I support my head with my hand and not my abdominal muscles.
• I keep my chin tucked into my chest.
• I press my 7th cervical spine (C7) towards the floor.
Then do the Spine Stretch Forward again and feel the difference before moving on to magic tool number 2.
Magic Tool 2 – Seesaw in supine position
Lie on your back with bent knees, put your hands behind your head with your elbows parallel to each other and lift your head off the floor as show in the picture below.
Make a seesaw movement by switching between
– drawing your abdominals in and up, lengthening your torso and expanding your chest upwards
– by ballooning your belly and pushing it downwards towards your pelvis. You can see this clearly in the video at minute 3:47. Repeat this seesaw movement 10 times.
The movement stays the same as in phase 1, but first inhale in your belly, hold your breath and do the seesaw movement 7 times. Then exhale when you are in the down movement of the seesaw.
Use our coaching keys to go deeper into the Seesaw in supine position. Say to yourself and imagine …
• I imagine that I have a ball in my belly and I am moving it upwards and downwards.
• I move my chest upwards without my spine leaving the mat.
• I first release my abdominal muscles before I seesaw upwards.
• I first release my chest before I seesaw downwards.
Then again do the Spine Stretch Forward and feel the difference before moving on to magic tool number 3.
Magic tool 3 – Seesaw on knees
Start in the all-fours position with your head resting in your folded hands on the floor as shown in the picture below.
Breathe in to fill your lower abdominals. Balloon them and push them down towards the floor and simultaneously move your pelvis forward to round your back. Breathe out as you pull your lower abdominals back into the pelvis to return to your starting position. You can watch this procedure in the video at minute 4:59.
Use our coaching keys to go deeper into the Seesaw on all fours. Say to yourself and imagine …
• I maintain the balloon in my belly as I push my pelvis forward.
• I relax my lower abdominal muscle before I inhale.
• I allow all parts of my spine to flex.
Now, do the Spine Stretch Forward again and feel the difference. Can you feel the magic?
The Spine Stretch Forward magic
In a nut shell, this is what should happen…
Magic Tool 1 – Hammock Stretch
Result 1 – first-degree release in the Spine Stretch Forward
Magic tool 2 – Seesaw in supine position
Result 2 – second-degree release in the Spine Stretch Forward
Magic tool 3 – Seesaw on all fours
Result 3 – third-degree release in the Spine Stretch Forward
Try it & fly with it!
Enjoy our 3 magical tools for the Pilates Spine Stretch Forward and gain new insights – either for yourself or when teaching a class.
As always, scroll down and let us know in the comments if this post has helped you in any way.