Use these five Pilates moves to strengthen your back and undo the damage of sitting

Improve your strength and the alignment of your spine with these Pilates exercises

Woman stretches at desk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Suffering from back pain because of your day job? You're not alone. One of the leading causes of back pain is sitting at a desk for too long, which can cause the postural muscles in your core to become stiff and uncomfortable. 

"When it comes to discomfort while sitting, movement is way more important than finding the correct posture," explains Pilates instructor and physiotherapist, Lyndsay Hirst. "There are, however, Pilates exercises that can improve alignment and strengthen the muscles that support the spine in both standing and sitting."

If your job is sedentary, add some more movement into your day by performing these back-friendly Pilates moves. They will stretch and strengthen your muscles, leaving you feeling more limber.

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Save $8.03 You don't need much equipment to tackle this Pilates routine, but your spine will thank you for using a supportive mat. This non-slip option from Gaiam is great for floor based exercise—and it's still discounted after the Prime Big Deal Days sale. 

1. Cobra stretch

Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst demonstrates cobra

(Image credit: Lyndsay Hirst)
  • Lay on your tummy with a folded towel under your forehead and your hands either side of your towel. Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and push through your hands to lift your head and chest away from the floor, keep your thighs on the ground. Inhale to return back down. 

Repeat 8-10 times

2. Breast Stroke Prep

Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst demonstrates breast stroke prep

(Image credit: Lyndsay Hirst)
  • Lay on your tummy with a small folded towel under your forehead, arms resting by your side. Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and lift the shoulders away from the floor, feel the shoulder blades move down towards the lower spine. Lift and hover your arms at the same time lift and hover your forehead off the ground. Inhale to lower back down. 

Repeat 8-10 times

3. Swimming level 4

Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst demonstrates swimming level 4

(Image credit: Lyndsay Hirst)
  • On your hands and knees, position your hands slightly forwards of your shoulders, knees in line with the hips, spine in neutral, chin tucked in (as though you are holding a tennis ball between your chin and your chest). Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and extend your right leg back and your left arm forwards, making sure you keep your spine still the whole time (imagine you have a tray of drinks balanced on your back) inhale and return. On your next out breath repeat on the opposite side. 

Repeat 8-10 times

4. Supine plank

Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst demonstrates a supine plank

Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst demonstrates a supine plank

(Image credit: Lyndsay Hirst)
  • Sit lengthways on your yoga mat with your knees extended and arms resting behind you. Keep your elbows soft (not locked) but straight. Lift your chest and tuck your chin down. Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale and push through your heels to lift your bottom away from the floor, creating a straight line from the shoulders to the feet. 
  • Inhale and lower the hips. Try to keep your spine in a straight line as you lift to allow the movement to pivot at the hips.

Repeat 8-10 times

5. Shoulder bridge

Pilates physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst demonstrates a shoulder bridge

(Image credit: Lyndsay Hirst)
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels in line with your sit bones, so you have a slight gap between the knees. Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and flatten your lower back to the floor, then gradually start to peel the spine, vertebra by vertebra, away from the floor until you are weight bearing through the feet and shoulders. You should feel an activation through the muscles around the buttock area, hamstrings and back.
  • Inhale to articulate your spine one vertebra at a time back to the floor.

Repeat 8-10 times

Need some guidance on what mat to buy? Have a look through our guide to the best yoga mats

Lou Mudge
Fitness Writer

Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well and Coach. She previously worked for Live Science, and regularly writes for and Pet's Radar. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.

Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health.