top of page

Movement Monday: Exploring the Short Spine on the Pilates Reformer

Loaded flexion in the Short Spine exercise on the Pilates Reformer, beneficial for flexibility and core control
Pilates teacher demonstrating the Short Spine exercise on the Reformer, perfect for strengthening the posterior chain.

Welcome to another instalment of Movement Monday, Pilates teachers! Today, we're delving into the world of the Reformer, specifically focusing on an exercise that is fantastic for the posterior chain – the Short Spine.

The Importance of the Posterior Chain

The posterior chain, comprising muscles along the backside of the body including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, is essential for maintaining proper posture, balance, and overall strength. Strengthening this muscle group can alleviate common issues such as lower back pain and improve functional movement in daily activities.

The Short Spine Exercise

The Short Spine is a classic Pilates Reformer exercise that emphasises spinal articulation and core control while providing a deep stretch for the posterior chain. It's a wonderful way to integrate flexibility and strength training in one fluid movement.

Setting Up

  1. Starting Position: Begin lying supine on the Reformer, head resting on the headrest, with the straps around your feet and you your legs out around 45 degrees. Ensure your pelvis is in a neutral position, with the spine elongated and shoulders relaxed.

  2. Engage the Core: Draw your navel towards your spine to engage your core muscles. This will provide stability throughout the movement.

  3. Legs to 90 Degrees: Raise your legs to a 90-degree angle, keeping them together and extended. The straps should be taut, creating resistance.

Performing the Exercise

  1. Lift and Roll: Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, take your feet over your head lifting your hips off the carriage and rolling up through the spine. Make sure the reformer has reached the bottom position.

  2. Overhead Stretch: Continue to lift until your feet and legs are overhead, keeping the straps and ropes firm. This should create a deep stretch through your hamstrings and lower back. Maintain control and avoid collapsing into your shoulders.

  3. Return to Start: Inhale as you bend your knees and draw your feet to the pelvis and then begin to lower your spine back down onto the carriage, vertebra by vertebra. Keep your core engaged to control the descent, ensuring your movement is fluid and precise.

  4. Final Position: Lower your hips back to the starting position with your legs extended at 45 degrees. Ensure your pelvis returns to neutral and your spine is elongated.

Teaching Tips

  • Cue Precision: Emphasise the importance of spinal articulation. Encourage your clients to feel each vertebrae moving individually, creating a wave-like motion.

  • Adjust for Flexibility: For clients with limited flexibility, provide modifications such as bending the knees slightly or reducing the range of motion.

  • Mind the Shoulders: Watch for clients collapsing into their shoulders. Encourage them to keep their shoulder blades wide and grounded to prevent unnecessary tension.

Important Considerations

The Short Spine involves loaded flexion, which can place significant stress on the spine. Therefore, it may not be suitable for clients with certain spine conditions, such as herniated discs, severe osteoporosis, or any acute back pain. Always assess your client's condition and provide alternative exercises if necessary to ensure their safety and well-being.


Incorporating the Short Spine into your Reformer sessions is a brilliant way to enhance posterior chain strength and flexibility. This exercise not only challenges the core and spine but also provides a rewarding stretch that leaves clients feeling lengthened and invigorated.

As always, ensure your clients move mindfully and with control. Happy teaching, and enjoy this Movement Monday with the Short Spine on the Pilates Reformer!


bottom of page