Types of Posture: Flat Back

By Stephanie Muir

flat ackOur current series is all about posture and the ideal alignment. Last week we looked at the posture type kyphosis lordosis and how it impacts the body. This week we will be looking at the posture type Flat Back and how Pilates can mitigate some of the imbalances associated with this stance.


Flat Back Posture

In the picture above you can see the body of a person with a Flat Back posture. As you can see the spine is very straight compared to the ideal posture. Looking from head to toe you will typically observe a forward head position with the chin poking forward, a very straight back from the upper back to the tail. The alignment of a Flat Back sees tightness in the neck extensors, chest and hamstrings and weakness in the neck flexors, back muscles, and the hip flexors.

flat back

How Flat Back Affects Your Body

Strain in the head, neck and shoulders may contribute towards headaches and lack of movement when doing activities such as looking over one’s shoulders when driving etc. The vertebra in the spine will also be compromised in this position and could let to issues such as a disc degeneration in the cervical spine.

Looking at the ideal alignment the pelvis sits in a position we call neutral pelvis. Neutral pelvis is when the pubic bone and the hip bones are level with each other. The term neutral pelvis is often referred to in Pilates and you can find it either a standing or supine position (lying on your back).

Finding Neutral Pelvis

Stand to the side in front of a mirror and rock the pelvis forward and back, hold it once you get to the point where the pubic bone and hip bones are level. Doing this will put your lower back into a natural arch which is followed by curve in the middle back and then another slight arch in the neck area.

The arch in the lower back of someone with a Flat back posture is non-existent due to the pelvis being tucked. Instead of the hip and pubic bones being level the pubic bone sticks out. This is caused by overactive abdominal muscles, tight hamstrings and weak hip flexors and extensors (back muscles). Like all postural imbalances you want to bring the body back into alignment to minimize wear and tear on the soft tissues and joints.


Pilates and Flat Back

The first step in Pilates is to always establish movement from the powerhouse. Before any program has been designed for someone or a body type the powerhouse is established and understood. From this point, all movements can progress and one can start to be more specific.

Although your Flat back posture has tight abdominal muscles it does not mean their overall core stability is adequate. Remember your core includes your glutes (bottom muscles), abductors (outer thighs), adductors (inner thighs), transverse abdominus, internal and external obliques and your back muscles. These muscles work in unison to create safe movement.

Once the powerhouse has been established your Flat back posture would require exercises that focus on extending the spine and opening the chest such as your swan exercises, swimming, book openings, spine twist and chest expansion just to name a few. Other great Pilates exercises would be to mobilize the spine like your mermaid and the advanced exercise on the reformer, snake.


Swimming Exercise

Strengthening the hip flexors, hamstrings and glutes would also be a focus with this posture. Exercises on the reformer such as leg circles are great to strengthen your glutes, inner and outer thighs and give the hamstrings good stretch. Of course, many of your Pilates “staples” such as the hundred and teaser even modified will not only work the powerhouse but also begin to strengthen those hip flexors.

To finish up you will see the general trend in addressing all of these posture types is to bring the body into ideal alignment. Your Flat back posture will benefit from the assistance of your studio apparatus to aid in lengthening tight areas such as the hamstrings and chest. The equipment will also assist the body in the areas where there is weakness such as the hip flexors, glutes and back muscles. The exercises available using the mat and equipment are more than adequate to see effective results and positive change in overall alignment.

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