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Programming Pilates Exercises for Posture Types

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Programming Pilates Exercises for Posture Types
The single-leg stretch is helpful for kyphosis and lordosis. Photo Credit photoposter/iStock/Getty Images

It's rare to across someone with perfect posture. Texting, computer work, sitting, muscle tightness and skeletal deviations all undermine your ideal posture.

While Pilates can't fix all aspects of posture, the exercise system can go a long way in bringing you closer to an ideal. Whether you have kyphosis, a sway back, a flat back or lordosis — all types of posture conditions — there's a Pilates program for you.

Read More: Lower Back Pain: The Exercises to Avoid

Posture Types

Each posture type has a distinct look of an exaggeration of the spine or, in the case of flatback, straightening of the curves in the spine.

  • Kyphosis describes a significant curve in the upper, or thoracic, spine, which results in a slight hunchback and sunken chest. 
  • Lordosis is a pronounced lower back curve. 
  • Swayback is distinct from lordosis. It might look like a distinct lower back curve, but your lower back is actually flattened and there's a curve in your lower thoracic spine that makes you also look like you're leaning backwards. 
  • Flatback exists when the natural curves in your lumbar spine are nearly non-existent. 

Kyphosis Programming

People with kyphosis need increased mobility in their thoracic spine. Stronger rear deltoids, at the back of the shoulders, and trapezius, at the upper back, help lift a sunken chest. Undoing tightness in the chest and in the neck extensors also helps a kyphotic posture become straighter. Improved core stability further benefits this posture type.

Look to Pilates exercises, including the deltoid squeeze and chest opener to help improve upper-back strength. The ab series provides abdominal strength to support a more-upright posture; pay particular attention to the single-leg stretch and the double leg stretch. To improve thoracic spine mobility, use the spine twist and swan dive.

Lordosis Programming

In people with lordosis, hip flexor and inner thigh (adductor) stretches are particularly necessary. You'll also want to strengthen the back extensors and the gluteal muscles.

Pilates exercises that are particularly helpful include the ab series, especially the single-leg stretch. Pelvic tilts bring awareness to the spine. The swan dive and swimming increase overall back activation and strengthen the muscles that support the spine. You'll also benefit from the hundred and shoulder bridges, for glute strength.

Stretching your hamstrings helps if you have a swayback posture.
Stretching your hamstrings helps if you have a swayback posture. Photo Credit g-stockstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Swayback Programming

Someone with a swayback needs to learn how to move their thoracic spine more readily. Work for stronger neck flexors and upper- and middle-back muscles, including the trapezius. The muscles that support the low back also benefit from being strengthened and stretched. Your pecs, located at your chest, and hamstrings also need special stretching attention.

Use the Pilates exercises of the pelvic tilt, spine twist, back extension and swimming to mobilize the lumbar and thoracic spines. Swan dive and back extensions strengthen your lower back. Emphasize chest openers and the shoulder bridge to stretch the chest.

Flatback Programming

Someone with a flatback needs to regain mobility in his lumbar spine. Pilates exercises that stretch the hamstrings and abs, as well as strengthen the lower back are ideal.

Stretch the front side of your body with a stability ball.
Stretch the front side of your body with a stability ball. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Lie back over a stability ball to stretch your abs. Do pelvic tilts, shoulder bridges and rolling like a ball. Pilates swimming and spine twists strengthen your lower back as well as increase its mobility. Roll-ups, both bent-knee and straight leg, help improve spinal awareness.

Read More: Top 10 Pilates Exercises

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