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In our latest edition of Exercise Explored, Stephanie Glickman looks in depth at the prone extension exercise, the cobra. She explores what it is and why it’s so important for our spine. She also looks at different progressions of the cobra to further challenge and push your clients or members.

An overview of the cobra

The cobra – prone spinal extension – is a recognisable position in both yoga and Pilates. Joseph Pilates coined an exercise called the swan dive, which is a rocking cobra position (also called an arch rock in gymnastics training).

Whether it’s within Pilates, yoga or any other exercise technique, a cobra should be an even spinal extension – a smooth crescent shape.

Cueing the cobra generally involves improving thoracic extension and decreasing the range of motion in the lumbar and cervical spine. The chest leads the movement forward and up through the frame of the arms. Get the thoracic moving first and then let the rest of the spine follow.

Biomechanically, the thoracic is the trickiest part of the spine to extend. It’s the weakest link in the spinal extension chain. An exercise’s shape is only as strong as its weakest link – so make sure to get the weakest link moving as well as possible for maximum results across the whole exercise.

These videos show you tips for getting the thoracic spine moving better and more efficiently. Through scapulae placement, props and body placement, the thoracic can be isolated and mobilised. This, in turn, creates a smoother, more comfortable full range cobra.

Channelling the Cobra part 1

Channelling the Cobra part 2

Channelling the Cobra part 3

Want to explore another exercise? Why not Tackle the Warrior pose

Want to explore Pilates-based exercises and variations and learn how to effectively incorporate them into your teaching offering? You can do so with Stephanie’s courses HERE



About the Author

Stephanie Glickman


Stephanie Glickman has been teaching fitness for 20 years and Pilates since 2003. In 2006 she established Armature (Melbourne, Australia), a studio dedicated to both Pilates and strength training. She is certified through Stott Pilates, Breathe Education, Pilates ITC, Polestar and the APMA. A former Stott Pilates and Breathe Education instructor trainer, she regularly presents nationally across fitness and Pilates platforms, spreading the joys of cross training Pilates and strength. She is also a Les Mills Body Step instructor, recreational Olympic weightlifter and the dance critic of the Herald Sun.

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