Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Why Spine Corrector?

If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.

Joe Pilates, Return to Life

In keeping with Joe’s philosophy it makes sense that he would invent an apparatus capable of correcting and encouraging the spine to become more flexible. Jay Grimes often speaks of Pilates as being ‘all about opening' and the Spine Corrector (and Small Barrel) is a perfect example. We can open the entire front of the body including the chest, shoulders, hips and thighs while strengthening the back and the bottom.

Joe has given us the magnificent Spine Corrector. I know many exercises have been taught here: the Mat exercises, the Rowing Series and the Short Box.

But it is called Spine Corrector.

I believe this name defines its raison d’être. So let’s put it to good use.

Here you'll plant the first seeds of back bending which will one day grow into the apple tree of the High Bridge.


The no-pillow zone

99.99% of the time gravity is not our friend.

Constant and diligent work is necessary to keep our bodies lifted, upright and vibrant.

What luck! Pilates injects moments of inversion into our workout to help us out.

Lengthening the back over the hump of the Spine Corrector for the Arm Circles can allow the neck and upper back to hang upside down for a brief respite before returning to our upright and often hunched-over lifestyle.

This position may not be the epitome of comfort at first, but

  1. this is your workout
  2. you’re not going to be be there forever
  3. you are not propped up to watch television.

So lose those pillows!

They do not allow the ‘corrector' to work it's magic on your upper back and only support the tension that you are working to fix in the first place.

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Look! Here's the top half of your backbend! You are long, supported and building strength for the backbends on all the other apparatus where it may not feel quite so luxurious.

Here you can see a connection to other back strengthening exercises as well, for example Rowing #3 and #4. Now you are further challenging yourself in this extended position, with the upper body just as connected into all of the back. So work your Rowing well. All roads lead to the High Bridge.

Mat + Spine Corrector = A Match Made on 8th Avenue

Often underused today, the Spine Corrector was the Mat's best friend in Joe’s studio. After a full Mat workout or even just a portion of one the Spine Corrector was often a natural progression to continue your workout. Two great tastes that taste great together!

It also happens to be a great place to introduce the Scissors, Bicycle and Shoulder Bridge exercises before you must face the harsh reality of doing them on the Mat sans Corrector.

It’s a great place to work on so many things, really. “Don’t worry, we fix.”

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Now to work on the lower body part of the backbend with the Scissors, Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, etc… to open the hips and thighs.

This is the long reach of the lower body connecting it into the back, stomach and bottom.

Keep yourself rooted into the Spine Corrector underneath you and create length and strength in the low back for a safe and strong backbend. You can find this same lower body reach in the Leg Springs with the back long and supported by the Cadillac. As you reach into your straps for the Short Box on the Reformer, you will again get this preparatory work toward the High Bridge.

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

And then of course you can get busy with your love/hate of all things one-sided all over again. Reach little left leg, Reach! You can do it! 3 cheers for our voluptuous round friend Spiney C!

Related Posts: One Sure-Fire Way to Backbend in Pilates

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  1. Wonderful article Andrea! It’s the inspiration I needed on a Monday morning. Can’t wait to work Spiney C!

  2. Fine then…I’m going in, up and over Spiney C, and work on my backbending , I’m feeling inspired.
    Thank you 😉

  3. Troy hyatt says

    Nice article. SC is my absolute favorite piece. I use it every day, or almost everyday. And I agree, no pillows!! It’s amazing how this seemingly innocent piece can really work you over.

    • Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your comment, Troy. Yes, it’s amazing what can be done on the SC. And it does appear quite innocent – ha ha, true. I always enjoy your comments on FB thanks for adding one here as well 🙂
      Hope you are having an amazing Pilates week and let’s both use the Spine Corrector tomorrow – I was on it today when I had my lesson…so fitting I thought…I actually touched the step of the barrel when I did the scissors – woo hoo!

  4. So what do you do with people whose heads are hanging? If you move them forward your losing the benefit of opening the chest.

    • Gaile, Thanks so much for your question.

      Yes, you are correct you do want the back to be all the way up against the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel, depending on size and flexibility of the back) and not forward. But the way I am doing the exercise in the photo (against the hump side of the Corrector) is just one option. Some people are a better fit to sit on the step of the barrel and lie over the hump from the opposite direction, and some work better on the Small Barrel, so you have some choices. And often even though the back looks well-placed on the apparatus there is tightness, etc… and the head hangs. Most people are fine in this position, but I always ask and/or give them a break to sit up after each exercise (if necessary) until they get used to it. When they start the movement of the arm circles, encourage their whole back to move and lift as the arms circle as though they are lengthening their back up and over the barrel. The head will naturally start getting closer to the barrel as they continue to move. This is the part where gravity is your friend 🙂 More importantly they need to use their stomach to keep the back up against the barrel – especially the low back – that is why my legs are bent with feet on the mat – I have a better connection with the low back into the barrel in this position rather than with straight legs. That way they can use their stomach and make it back up to sitting after the exercise. And you can have them use their hands to pick their head up on the return. Even those that when you look at the head hanging back and it might look uncomfortable (as in some tight men) when I ask they often say they are perfectly fine.

      Thanks so much for reading and I hope you find this helpful…Cheers!

  5. Love your style of writing and teaching. Great article.

  6. Excellent blog post about the Spine Corrector. Thank you. I am contemplating purchasing a Spine Corrector for home use, but I can’t figure out which brand/style to buy. I am 5’6″ , average weight, in my late 60s but very flexible. I have been doing Pilates 3 times a week for a year and I love it !!!

    The Gratz SC looks wonderful, but it’s expensive. At Balanced Body, they have 3 SCs: The Clara Step Barrel with a sharp arc and a deep well, the East Coast Step Barrel with a more gradual arc and a shallow well and the Contour Step Barrel with the most gradual arc of all, but a semi-deep well.

    Does the shape of the arc depend on one’s height? Or flexibility?

    How does the depth of the well affect one’s workout?

    Balanced Body is having a free shipping sale for the next 10 days, so if I’m going to buy… now is the time.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on how the arc and the well would impact me.

    And… is the Gratz Spine Corrector worth the extra money? As a senior citizen, every penny counts but I hope to use whichever spin corrector I buy for the next 20 years and let it help me to stay flexible through my 70s and 80s 🙂


    • Hi Susan!

      Am I correct in that you used to be (perhaps still are) a client at Excel Pilates DC? If so, hellooooooo! I remember teaching you 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your comments. And yes, a Spine Corrector would be a wonderful investment for you. True there are many different kinds of Spine Correctors and arcs out there.

      My preference is for the Gratz Spine Corrector. I have a bit of experience with the shallow arcs of Balanced Body, and they are not really what you are after with regard to the “Correcting” of the back. The Gratz one is really the best dimensions for the exercises, in my opinion. And I do not work for Gratz, I am currently just an ardent fan.

      The Gratz Spine Corrector is more expensive, but you will never have to buy another one and it will last forever. I have had mine for 5 years now and it still looks pristine.

      I checked out the BB options. The SCs with the wood sides I do not find to be as comfortable as a piece of apparatus. The handle cut outs are not as effective as a proper handle to hold onto. And the contact points to the apparatus are important. The East Coast Style SC seems more promising, but I think the shallow well in this particular SC will limit or remove one of your options for the exercises. It should really be deeper. It is also slightly larger than the Gratz in nearly every dimension. And you will have to pick it up too.

      For your questions – on the Spine Corrector you have 2 options for doing the arm series – sitting on the step (perhaps easier or better), or sitting on the Mat next to the hump (as in the photo in the post – perhaps more challenging). You can see which option is the best for your back at this point in time.

      I think with some of the shallower Spine Correctors you would not be able to do some of the exercises…or they would not fit the back as effectively for the apparatus to do its intended work.

      Have you been using the Spine Corrector in Pilates sessions you have had/are having? If so, you may investigate also the Small Barrel (which is a third option for your back). One of the 3 places – Spine corrector on the step, Spine Corrector on the Mat or Small barrel will be a really good fit for your body. If this does not make sense I am happy to explain further here or in a Skype session, but I think you will understand.

      Thanks so much for your kind words on the post and for reaching out to connect. Let me know which option you decide to go for…then you get to choose an upholstery color 🙂

      • Andrea – Thanks so much for your reply. I am not, unfortunately, the person you are thinking of. I do not live in the D.C. area and have never taken any Pilates classes there.

        I do, however, take mat classes at a local pilates studio near my home and the instructors are excellent. I have been taking 3 mat classes a week for the past year and am loving it. The instructors will sometimes bring the small barrels out for mat class and I always love those sessions. They do not, unfortunately, offer any Spine Corrector classes. They have a wonderful set up of Cadillacs, Reformers, Wunda Chairs, Ladder Barrels, Small Barrels and top of the line mats, but no Spine Correctors.

        The small barrel classes were what got me thinking about having a barrel of some kind at home. At first, I thought that I would just get a small barrel, but then I signed up for Pilates Anytime online and have spent the last week watching Spine Corrector classes and I am really loving the look of what one can do on a Spine Corrector. That is what got me started researching the various brands and styles. I also Googled spine corrector reviews and that’s how I found your blog post.

        I have been studying the Spine Correctors at Balanced Body and each one seems to have advantages and disadvantages, but none seemed perfect. Their East Coast Barrel looks a lot like the Gratz Spine Corrector, but I thought that the well looked awfully shallow. And you have confirmed that it is.

        The BB Contoured Step Barrel might be a good option considering my age. My goal is to keep my spine and hips flexible throughout my 70s and 80s. The more gradual arc on that might be easier on my senior citizen body 🙂 But I don’t like the wooden sides and the cut-out hand holds. And the arc may be too gradual. It’s hard to tell.

        But…. I keep getting drawn back to the Gratz Spine Corrector which looks perfect in every way but price….. I do like the upholstered-all-over style and the “real” handles on the sides. Those both seem like important issues to me. And… at least from the photos… the Gratz looks to be very well padded and comfortable which is important for a senior citizen.

        Thank you for your comments about the various spine correctors. You have been very helpful !!!!

        You are the 2nd person who has urged me to go ahead and splurge and get the Gratz….

        I shall think about it for a couple more days and check my budget and see if it is do-able. Thanks for your help !!!

        • Susan,

          I really enjoyed your journey of researching the Spine Corrector. And yes, you are right it would be a more versatile piece of apparatus than the small barrel, as lovely as that one is too. And the one I have is quite sumptuously padded, I did not include that as a plus in my last post.
          But I am so excited that you realize the benefits of this fantastic apparatus for keeping limber in your back, hips and shoulders for life! The Susan that I mistook you for was quite a smart cookie and since you certainly are as well I decided you must be her – so it is very very nice to meet you – and I wish you well in your Pilates classes!

          • Thanks Andrea !!! I am thoroughly enjoying Pilates.

            Also, I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog posts. I shall have to subscribe……

            Since I am a fan of “classic Pilates,” your blog posts resonate with me.

          • This is such wonderful feedback, Susan, thank you. It is my ardent hope that everyone can embrace Pilates to lead long and vibrant lives – regular people, not just instructors can become quite addicted and nerdy about Joe Pilates’ exercises and it just pleases me so much.
            Yes! Thanks in advance for subscribing 🙂

  7. Alessandra says

    Hello Again !!
    Clearly I have some time on my hands this week!! I’m lucky enough to have a ‘spine c’ in the corner of my studio, so I dusted it down and having watched your video ‘Daily Spine Corrector Challenge!’ and reading this post, I promptly tried out these exercises to see what I could learn from them. Turned out, quite a lot 🙂 They quickly helped sort out my ever -pokey ribs:-) helping to re-establish my rib/hip connection, which seems to frequently elude me – hence ‘pokey ribs’ !! I also feel more length in the front of my body – so all round super duper moves 🙂
    Must be excellent for yummy back bends!!
    So thanks, yet again, for another fab, informative blog post!!
    #ilovespineyc #rockon 🙂

    • Good for you working with the Spine Corrector! Yes, I too have pokey ribs – the left one in particular. The Spine Corrector really helps to give the ribs a job to do – rather than just trying to not poke out. That is always my strategy – the ribs need a job to do to stay engaged and the Spiney C is the perfect place for them to learn their skills. And I love it for sorting out what’s to be done with the hips and seat. I need lots of length in front too. The hips have lots of options for us, it’s easy to get grippy or pushy with them and length is often elusive. Sounds like you had a great workout. I am uploading new videos to my YouTube channel each Wednesday so I will be sure to include some more Spine Corrector stuff as well as Mat, mat and more Mat – LOL. Cheers to you! And thank you so much for reading and chatting!! xo

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