Exercise Instructions for Pilates Swan Dive

Swan dive is a Pilates exercise that works the back, abdominals, glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs. It is an intermediate to advanced move that builds on Pilates swan. Swan dive is not for everyone. If you are a beginner, or you have back or neck problems, work with swan. If you want to give swan dive a go, you must commit to supporting you back by keeping your abs pulled in, your back long, and your tailbone moving toward the floor the whole time!

Press Up Into Swan

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Set Up: Lie on your stomach.

Lift your abdominals away from the floor and send your tailbone down toward the floor, anchoring the pubic bone.

Your legs are straight. They can be slightly apart.

Your shoulder blades slide down your back as your place your hands under your shoulders, elbows in.

Inhale: Maintain a long spine as you press up into the swan.

Continue to Press Up

Pilates Swan Exercise
Press Up Keeping a Long Line. (c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Continue your inhale: The arc of your spine grows longer as you press through swan and up until your arms are straight or close to straight.

It is more important to keep the length in the back, with the tailbone down and the abs lifting, than to push up high. Do not push up so high that you feel a pinch in your lower back.

Release the Arms to Rock Forward

Pilates Move
Release the Arms, Keep the Arc. (c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Exhale: Release your arms, extending them straight alongside your ears.

Your body will rock forward and because you are keeping your long arc and your legs will come up. Your job is to keep your inner thighs and glutes engaged, your abs lifted, and your shoulders integrated with your core.

Lengthen to Rock Back

(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

It's unbelievable, but you can do it.

Inhale: Keep your lovely, long arc shape and use the length and reach of your body, along with intention, to rock back and forth with your arms extended out. Don't drop your upper body or all will be lost and you won't get going again. Find the move through your extension and powerhouse - glutes work, inner thighs work, back extensors, and abs.

This is the most advanced version. It is fine to build up by using the supported move below

Alternate Rock Back: Arms Move Under the Shoulders

pilates move
Arms Prepare to Support the Move. (c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Inhale: Bring your hands under your shoulders and press yourself up through swan to repeat the move.

Go With the Flow

(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Repeat swan dive 3 to 5 times.

This is a powerful exercise that uses the breath to help propel it. Try to do swan dive with a sense of flowing through one part to another. It is sometimes demonstrated as two sharp moves -- up and release out -- but it is better with coordinated breath and a smooth rocking action.

As you work with more advanced exercises the Pilates principles, like breath and flow, are what make them truly sophisticated body/mind exercises rather than gymnastics.

Swan dive is a strong back extension exercise. It is a good idea to follow an exercise like swan dive with a restful counter stretch, like pushing back into child's pose.

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