The Swan Dive is one of the fundamental Pilates exercises which is often taught, in a modified form, from the very first session. It can address the most common postural issues as it combats the rounded shoulders and forward head posture of many clients.However, many clients find it incredibly hard to perform with precision and correct technique. The Swan Dive is not just a spinal extension exercise, it requires excellent spinal articulation, deep abdominal and oblique connection, correct scapula placement and hip extensor strength.
In the first video clip, I have addressed the common issue of kyphosis. Often clients appear uncomfortable when performing the Swan Dive, their shoulders are hunched and the neck tensed as they struggle to mobilise the thoracic spine in extension. As the client demonstrates, this often leads to the movement happening solely at the cervical spine as the neck further extends with no articulation of the thoracic spine. To encourage correct execution, adjust the arm position to facilitate the scapula placement either by lowering the elbows or taking the arms slightly wider. Initiate the movement from the scapula by cueing the shoulders to draw away from the ears thereby encouraging lengthen through the back of the neck and ensuring correct cervical articulation. Often this level can be still too challenging so by bringing the client to a supine position and either placing a mini ball under the mid thoracic or as seen in the clip on a barrel, we can focus on scapula isolation whilst the thoracic spine is passively extending. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVZN2W0nw0w]
The second video clip shows how a hyper-lordotic client can appear to perform the movement with ease but in reality there is again no spinal articulation as they hinge at the lumbar spine rather than move sequentially. Here I firstly ensure the client moves from a neutral pelvic position either through simply cueing the position or adding some support such as cushions. The hips are in slight lateral rotation so that the hip flexors are de-emphasised and therefore can not force the pelvis into an anterior tilt with the tight erector spinae. The hip-joint position also energizes the gluts so they are encouraged to continue firing to enable hip extension.Then, in order that a connection with the deep abdominals and obliques is maintained, I cued the movement to begin at the front of the hips and move up the body as the spine lifts into extension. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOe0tfZIuYc]
Written with many thanks to Michelle and Heather who regressed into bad habits just this once!