The chest lift is a foundational pre-Pilates exercise that is the basis for many Pilates abdominal exercises. It is often suggested as a homework exercise to help develop the correct form before more challenging exercises are given.
The chest lift is great as you have the support of your hands behind your head while encouraging segmental movement of the the spine. While chest lifts are often thought of as an abdominal exercise, it is preferable to focus on them as an opportunity to mobilise the spine. Bridging for the upper segments of the spine! The abdominal activation is an added bonus.
In the video below, Valerie and Jo work through the standard version as well as a progression with the arms. This progression is great as it allows you to work on your endurance against the load of your arms and gravity. There are also some tips on what to watch out for to improve your form.
A little considered benefit of the chest lift (when done well) is the descent. This part of the movement teaches you how to move from a rounded position to a lengthened spine. Since so many of us find ourselves slouching at a desk, this is probably the best bit of the exercise. Doing the chest lift before arching the back is a
We recommend 6-10 repetitions of the chest lift. If you find after this you are still having trouble with discomfort in the back of your neck please speak to your instructor. There are some simple tips we can go through to help reduce this and make your experience less painful and more effective.