Even though Pilates is known for a lot of flexion exercises, particularly loaded ones, flexion is just one of the many things I do with clients. I refrain from teaching a lot of loaded spinal flexion exercises, because many of my clients have a history of disc degeneration. Loaded flexion exercises put a negative stress on a disc . It is why designing a program that uses flexion with purpose and balance for creating a safe movement program for my clients is essential. This doesn’t mean that I skip flexion completely; it just means that I use them in a directed mindful manner. For example, I teach flexion in cat to cow exercises to many of my clients, because it helps with their flexibility, neural flossing, body awareness, and much more; benefits that can help with daily movement and specific goals.
Dr. Stuart McGill is also a proponent to using flexion mindfully. Some of my programming for clients has been informed by Dr. McGill’s work. If you want to read books by this low back expert, I recommend checking his books called Back Mechanics or the Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.
In honor of McGill’s work, I wanted to share with you some of the many exercises he recommends for spinal recommendations. As always, before attempting these exercises, please double check with your doctor or your movement practitioner if they are appropriate for you.
Before starting on stabilization work, I have found getting an assessment to figure out what you can do to remove what is causing your lower back discomfort (ex. inflammatory diet, lifestyle or environment; ergonomics, lack of movement, nervous system or connective tissue imbalances, inappropriate level or type of exercises...) is super important before doing this type of work.
Recommendations For Doing These Type of Spinal Stabilization Exercises
Hold stabilization exercises for 10 seconds or shorter.
With each rep, hold for a shorter amount of time before fatigue sets in.
Keep perfect form.
Quadruped position (on all four) with shins and hands on the floor; hips, shoulders, and head parallel to floor.
Step 1 + move one arm at a time above shoulders
Step 1 + leg slides
Step 1 + move opposite arm and leg at the same time
Stir The Pot
Plank on floor + placing forearms and knees on floor.
Plank on ball + elbows and feet hip width apart on the floor.
Progression 2 + move the ball in small circles
Progression 2 + Place feet in more narrow stance
Step 4 + place more weight on forearms
There are many variations for these exercises and many other ones, so stay curious and work with someone who knows how to assess your body for what is appropriate for you. Working with an experienced movement trainer or physical therapist can help you figure out which ones which ones are appropriate for you.
If you have more questions, I offer in private sessions in San Francisco and online. For a free consultation, please email me. In May, I plan to offer an integrative group programming (movement, meditation, and holistic nutrition). Click here for more information.