In our last Wake Up to Summer post we showed you how to do “Bridging” and “Hundreds”–both simple and effective exercises you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling great this summer. Between vacations, family time, and ever-changing plans, summer can be one of the hardest times to get into the studio consistently. Good news–you can do these exercises anytime, anywhere. In this post, we cover two of our favorite exercises, “Swan” and “Swimming” helping you to maintain a flexible and strong spine. A strong spine equals a strong core.

Swan 

Swan is a great exercise for increasing your back’s flexibility. It’s especially beneficial if you have a posterior disc bulge in the lumbar spine, osteoporosis, or spend hours at a time hunched over a desk. *Please note: if you have a lumbar vertebral fracture, spondylolisthesis, or some degenerative or stenosis-type issues in the spine, use caution when executing this exercise.

Start by lying on your stomach with your palms on the floor at the level of your shoulders and your elbows bent. Be sure your belly button is pulled to your spine. With the abdominals engaged, slide your shoulder blades down towards your back pockets, and press your hands into the floor lifting your upper body into extension. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your head resting easily on top of the spine, rising up only as far as your low back is comfortable.
Imagine you’re watching a marble roll down a very long hallway. Be sure that at the top of your arch, your belly button is still pulled into your spine and you are not doing a “belly push up”!

Lastly, don’t forget to breathe! Most people find that inhaling on the way up to the height of the extension will facilitate a greater range of motion, but your can choose to either inhale up/exhale down, or exhale up/inhale down–just be sure you breathe purposefully! Repeat this exercise 5-10 times and then rest.

Swimming

“Swimming” is, in fact, a Pilates exercise (and a great one at that). Swimming” will strengthen your back and help teach your muscles to support the spine over a longer span of time.

Lie on your stomach again, belly button pulled to the spine, with your arms reaching overhead and legs straight behind you. Lengthen one leg and the opposite arm out towards the far walls, and then up toward the ceiling. Switch to the other arm and leg quickly, without disturbing the balance in the center of your torso.  Once you begin the succession of rapid changes, be sure your arms and legs are hovering an inch or two off the mat. Ideally, the belly button also remains hovering off the mat and your body doesn’t rock from side to side with your movements.
Continue your pattern of opposite arm and leg reaches for 20-40 seconds.
Check back for our last installment of waking up to summer with more exercises and stretches to help you feel great.
Making better bodies,
David