Flat back posture or Scoliosis tips

School Of Pilates Posted Oct 29, 2014 Future Fit Training

This article looks at two different types of client spine problems - Flat back posture or Scoliosis.

Flat back posture or Scoliosis tips

Focusing on how they should stand in the correct alignment, dependent upon the posture type, severity of the posture and cause.

Flat back posture

Flat back posture is a lack of mobility and flattening of the lumbar spine and is common in people who have had long bouts of immobility and poor core stability. It may also be seen in those who train a particular group of muscles without training the opposing muscle groups, for example performing abdominal curls regularly but never incorporating any back extension.

A typical stance for the flat back posture would be with the head held forwards, the rectus abdominus and external obliques tight and the pelvic tilted posteriorly, resulting in the hip flexors and hamstrings being tight. The back erectors will be slightly stretched and the knees slightly flexed. In general the client will need to gain mobility through lumbar roles.

  • Shoulder Bridge would be a good Pilates exercise.
  • Swimming would be a good exercise to strengthen the lower back
  • Any exercise that stems from the fundamentals Hundred position (Table Top) to strengthen the hip flexors, for example
  • Single Leg Stretch
  • Scissors
  • One Leg Circle
  • Double Leg Stretch


This is a postural deviation that is represented by an abnormal curvature of the spine which may form a single curve shape like the letter C or two curvatures like the letter S. Scoliosis only affects a small percentage of the population. Causes can be hereditary although it can also develop due to conditions such as congenital development or degenerative issues. Scoliosis has also been known to develop in adolescents with no known cause.

Scoliosis is different in each individual case and a specific Pilates programme cannot be written. The posture type needs specific diagnosis to determine the severity of the condition. When considering Pilates for clients with scoliosis, it is important to remember that Pilates will simply help to strengthen, stretch and mobilise the muscles and joints. This in turn will certainly help to alleviate any pain caused by the condition and promote functionality but it will not act as a form of correction for scoliosis. Exercises that require articulation of the spine may be difficult for a client with scoliosis. For example Shoulder Bridge, the Roll Up, Roll Downs and exercises such as Rolling Back, Seal and Crab would be very uncomfortable and should be avoided due to the impact on the spine. The Mermaid Stretch would be good for opening up and stretching through the upper body and through the ribs and back, addressing any tightness. The client will most probably notice a difference in tightness from one side to the other, but always encourage training in symmetry. Any exercise that stretches the core would be of huge benefit to help strengthen and stabilise the spine. There are many Pilates exercises to choose from such as the Double Leg Stretch (adapted version) which would be good to mobilise through the upper body, shoulder joint and focus on maintaining neutral alignment. One to one training for clients with scoliosis would be beneficial so that a programme can be tailored around the needs of the client and what feels comfortable for them on an individual basis.

Realignment of any postural fault would be a gradual process and exercise selections should be carefully adapted and modified to suit the client with hands on correction applied until body awareness has been established. With the help and support of a professional Pilates teacher re-education of the neutral spine alignment can work wonders to prevent clients from forming bad habits resulting in poor posture that are often formed from our daily lifestyles.

We hope this information and suggested exercises will help your exercise choice when planning your next Pilates class for any participants that have these described spine shapes. 

Written by Jo Curran

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