How to Do a C-Curve in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

Targets: Core

Level: Beginner

The C-curve is a key Pilates concept that sets the stage for a flexible spine and a strong core. This scooping of the abs is used as a part of the setup for many signature Pilates moves on the mat and even the equipment. In a Pilates studio with a trained instructor you will learn to perfect your C-curve, but on your own it can be an elusive concept. Practice scooping your abs with this exercise so you can master this essential position.


The C-curve is an even arc just like the letter C. In daily life it is most common to only flex your spine in the neck and the upper back. Making a C-curve include flexing the lumbar spine, which is usually concave rather the convex shape of the C-curve. As well, you are looking for even curvature throughout your spine. Exercises calling for deep abdominal flexion, including all of the rolling exercises and those in which you sit up and then lower down, require you to work through your C-curve. By practicing this move you will be better prepared for Pilates exercises. You will want to understand how to execute your C-curve before you start any of the rolling exercises such as rolling like a ballopen leg rocker, or seal

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Start with a tall straight spine and draw your abdominals in and up. The top of your head is reaching for the sky and your shoulders are relaxed.
  2. Place your hands behind your knees with your elbows lifted up and out. Take a few deep breaths here to feel what is happening in your abdominals. As you inhale the breath will lightly expand your abdominal wall. As you exhale draw the waistline in and up growing even taller.
  3. Take another inhale and on the exhale, pull your abs in so that they form a deep scoop. Pretend that someone has a string attached to your belly button from behind. As you exhale, feel the string pulling your belly button right back through your spine and up towards the top of the wall behind you. As your abs deepen in toward your spine, keep your neck long, shoulders relaxed and let the hips curl under you to open up the lower back. As you deepen your curl, resist any collapsing. Instead, lengthen up and out to create a high hollow C-curve rather than a low shallow one.
  4. At the deepest lowest point, hold the position. Lower your gaze to your abdominals and watch what happens as you breathe. Take three deep breaths in and out and pull even more deeply into the curve. With each exhale pull the abs in strongly.
  5. After the third breath, round up and over your legs to return to sitting. Repeat the sequence at least twice more before rolling up and returning to your upright initial posture.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors to ensure you are achieving the C-curve.

Head Scrunching Into Neck

Keep your neck long rather than making like a turtle and retracting it into your shoulders.

Collapsing the Chest

You want your chest to maintain the arc of the C. Don't let it become a crunch.

Hunched Shoulders

Keep your shoulders relaxed.

Modifications and Variations

Work with your Pilates instructor to ensure you understand what you are trying to achieve with the C-curve. The C-curve has elements of many Pilates exercises. Practice these other moves to get better at your C-curve: the spine stretch,​ supported roll back, and roll up.

Once you are able to achieve it consistently, you should still practice it and get feedback from a Pilates instructor periodically to ensure you are still doing it correctly.

Safety and Precautions

You may need to avoid the C-curve if you have a condition such as osteoporosis where they advise against spinal flexion. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out whether this exercise and others that are based on it are appropriate for you. You should not feel any pain during this exercise. If you do, end the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.