How to Do the Spine Stretch Forward in Pilates

The Spine Stretch Forward is a seated Pilates exercise that mobilizes the spine and helps to bring your entire back into correct alignment. By using the deep abdominal muscles to pull your upper torso forward, you encourage outward movement from the body’s center. When combined with the correct breathing technique, the Spine Stretch Forward helps to expel stale air from the lungs while emphasizing lateral breathing. This exercise also stretches the hamstrings and the hips.


  1. Begin seated at the top of your mat with your legs extended in front of you and your hands resting at your sides. Sit up as tall as possible, pressing your weight evenly across both sit bones. Flex your feet and spread your toes. Pull your navel toward your spine, strongly engaging your abdominal muscles.
  2. Spread your legs as wide apart as your shoulders, keeping them straight and firmly pressing into the mat.
  3. Bring your hands to the floor in front of you and rest them between your legs. Extend your arms completely and press your palms flat on the floor.
  4. Tuck your chin toward your chest and gaze at your navel. Round your spine into the shape of a “C.” Gaze at your navel to keep your spine in this “C” shape throughout the move.
  5. Exhale completely as you slide your hands as far forward as possible, using three gentle pulses. Keep your navel pulled into your spine and round down toward your belly to maintain your “C” shape as you stretch your arms forward.
  6. Inhale as you slide your hands back toward your body and return your torso to an upright position.
  7. Repeat three times, reaching farther forward with each repetition.

Hot Tip: Create a “C”

When you stretch forward, keep you chin tucked and pull your abdominal muscles in deeply. Imagine that you are forming a letter “C” with your body. Doing this will help you emphasize the use of your core muscles instead of your shoulders and arms.

Modifications & Tips

The Spine Stretch Forward will help you learn how to complete full exhalations, and build control and precision in your movements. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • For a greater challenge, practice the move with your arms raised. Instead of bringing your arms to the floor between your legs, lift them to shoulder height. Face your palms down and extend your fingers. Keep your arms in line with your shoulders and reach straight out in front of you as you stretch forward.
  • If your hamstrings are stiff, sit on a folded blanket or rolled-up mat. You can also practice this move with your knees slightly bent.
  • Gaze at your navel throughout the move.
  • Focus on the midline of your body to prevent rolling unevenly.
  • Keep your feet flexed and the arches of your feet long.
  • Keep your pelvis stable and unmoving throughout the exercise.
  • Use the deep abdominal muscles to help support your spine as you stretch forward and return upright.
  • Synchronize your breath with your movement.

Reach to Stand Tall

The Spine Stretch Forward is a classic Pilates move that can help center your mind as well as your body. It will also prepare you for more challenging exercises. Remember to sit up as tall as you can in the beginning, and then to reach as far forward as you can. The longer your reach, the more space you’ll be able to create between your vertebrae. This will help you create a strong spine and beautiful posture.

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