Balance is key, isn’t it?  With so many forward facing actions in our culture, we all need to balance the musculature on the back of our bodies.  Great minds think alike – for more exercises like “W,” see Chapter 7 of Ageless Pilates ~C


Guest article by Joan Pagano


Most of us have a natural tendency to muscular imbalance, with certain muscles being prone to shortening and others to lengthening and weakness.  Repeating daily patterns – working at a desk, doing housework, driving a car, caring for children – often reinforces a forward posture with the upper-back rounded, shoulders curving in and the head forward of the body. 

The remedy is to stretch the chest and shoulder muscles (which are short and tight) and strengthen the neck and back muscles (which are long and weak).  Retraining comes through repetition.  Good posture and poor posture are both habits that develop from repeated movement patterns.  Get in the habit of doing these few simple exercises that will serve you for life.



  • Lengthen the spine with the BACK EXTENSION:  Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart.  Interlock your thumbs and reach your arms overhead. Inhale and elongate through the torso, stretching the space between the ribs and the hips. Tighten your hips, thighs and buttocks to protect your low back.  Exhale and reach up and back, keeping your head between your elbows. As you arch the upper back by lifting the chest, feel a stretch through the front of your shoulders. Return to center and repeat 5-10 times.

  • Strengthen the muscles of the midback with “W’s”:   Hold your arms out to your sides with the elbows bent to form a “W”, palms forward. Inhale, then squeeze the shoulder blades down and together as you slowly let your breath out.  Repeat 10 times daily to anchor the shoulder blades and straighten the mid-back.

  • Re-align the head with the NECK PRESS:  To bring the head into proper alignment, ears over shoulders, put two fingers on your chin to act as a guide.  Inhale, then exhale as you retract the chin, pressing the curve out of the back of your neck.  Keep your chin parallel to the ground.  Repeat 10 times to strengthen the muscles of the neck and upper back. 

Joan Pagano is the author of best-selling fitness books and runs a personal training practice based in New York City.   She is an authority on the benefits of exercise for women’s health issues such as pregnancy, breast cancer, menopause and osteoporosis. For more about Joan and her services, please visit

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