How to Get the Most Benefit from Pilates Swan Dive on the Arc Barrel

In this post: Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel strengthens and tones your spinal muscles and glutes. Here’s more about how you can use this exercise to feel better.

Sometimes, Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel is overlooked. It’s not quite as fabulous and showy as its more advanced version on the Mat, and it’s not quite as obviously beneficial as some other prone Arc barrel exercises.

This is what makes Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel a hidden gem.

In this one exercise, you’ll strengthen important posterior muscles necessary for a strong core.

Think of this as a balancing exercise to The Hundred. In The Hundred, we flex forward, strengthening our abs. In Swan dive, we extend backward, stretching our abs and strengthening our spinal muscles.

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Why You Should Do Pilates Swan Dive on the Arc Barrel

By practicing Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel, you prepare your body for doing the full version on the Mat. Both of these exercises are a great way to strengthen and tone your:

Pilates Swan dive also stretches your:

Overall, this exercise provides a strengthening opportunity for the back side of your body while allowing the front part of your body to stretch. This contributes to a stronger core.

So, now that you know why you should practice Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel, here’s how.

How to Do Pilates Swan Dive on the Arc Barrel

pilates swan dive on the arc barrel
Starting and ending position
  1. Place the Arc barrel so the curve seems like a bump in the road on your mat.
  2. Carefully, lower yourself onto your stomach over the Arc barrel
    Your hips should be near the apex of the barrel. You will probably feel your knees on one side of the barrel and your forehead on the other side.
  3. If it feels like your pubic bone (the front part of your crotch) is painfully pressing into the barrel, slide a towel or piece of foam under the front of your hips. This should help alleviate any discomfort.
  4. Make sure your legs are about hip-width apart and straighten them. Laterally rotate them from the hips so your knees face out to the sides. Right now, the tips of your toes will be on the Mat.
  5. For a moment, place your forearms on the Mat in front of the barrel. When you do this, your upper body will lift.
  6. Use Pilates breathing.
  7. Inhale through your nose and lift your low belly to your spine to create support for your low back. Broaden your collarbones and slide your shoulder blades away from your ears.
  8. Exhale through pursed lips and engage your glutes to lift your legs as you extend through your spine and lift your upper body away from the Mat.
  9. Inhale to bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the Mat. As your upper body comes closer to the Mat, your lower body must work a little bit harder to stay lifted and engaged.
  10. Exhale to straighten your elbows and return.
  11. Complete 5-10 reps.
pilates swan dive on the arc barrel
What it looks like when you lower forward

For the Visual Learners…

Here’s a video of how to do Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel for all the visual learners out there.

Finding the Best Arc Barrel

If you’re in the market for an Arc barrel, I recently compared the top five Arc barrels on the market. Here’s who made my top five list and which barrel I’d buy.

Before You Practice Pilates Swan Dive, Don’t Forget…

You should never feel low back pain when you practice this exercise. If you do feel low back pain, stop what you are doing immediately. Take a moment to reengage your abdominals. Also, remember that you want to extend through the spinal muscles of your upper back. Yes, your low back will also extend, but it shouldn’t be the only area working.

If you have a taken a moment to correct your form and you’re still feeling low back pain, don’t do this exercise today. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to practice Swan dive, it just means that it’s not right for you today.

When you mindfully practice Pilates Swan dive on the Arc barrel, you’ll be able to strengthen important posterior muscles and stretch abdominal muscles. Ultimately, this will help you build a stronger core.

Also, I just want to let you know that if you’re interested in learning the basics of Pilates and yoga, I offer a FREE 30-day challenge. Click here to sign up today!

What’s your favorite way to strengthen your spine? Let us know in the comments section below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.