How to Do Spinal Extension and Flexion Exercises

If you've been working with my posture training series, you know that the pelvis, ribcage, and spine are connected, and each play an important role in correcting posture issues. We'll now take this idea further. In this exercise, you'll be flexing and extending your spine as a whole. If you are wondering what the posture training series is, or are intrigued by the idea, why not catch up by trying these simple posture awareness exercises:

Woman sitting cross-legged on chair with head bowed
StudioMPM / Getty Images


  1. Stand, or sit on a firm chair or stool.
    If you choose to sit, place yourself so that your weight is right on top of the two sitting bones, which are located on the underside of your pelvis. Sitting right on top of these bones gives you automatic support for your low back and for overall upright body posture.
    Note: You can make the exercise (a lot) more challenging by sitting on the floor.
  2. Begin the spinal flexion movement by dropping your head (and slightly tucking your chin). Continue by sequentially flexing your neck then your upper back, mid-back and finally your low back. Finish this part of the movement by tilting the top of your pelvis back.
    When you’re completed with the movement your head, trunk, and pelvis will be in a “C” shape.
    The backward tilt of the pelvis tends to lessen the degree of the natural low back curve for the duration of the movement.
  3. As you start to come out of the spinal flexion, inhale.
    At the same time, begin to move your pelvis from that backward tilt toward upright. As you do this, you may find that your spine naturally follows the moves of the pelvis. In other words, as you straighten up your pelvic position and return to upright posture, your low back will regain its natural curve.
    Continue the sequential action through your mid and upper back, neck and finally your head.
    You should end sitting right on top of your sitting bones, with your eyes gazing straight ahead.
  4. Next, follow the spinal flexion movement with a spinal extension movement. Spinal extension is the opposite action to flexion; you might think of it as back-arching, but in this exercise, there's a bit of technique to employ.
    You'll use your inhale to help start the movement. Inhale naturally increases spinal extension. This is pretty subtle, so pay attention.
    Inhale, fill your trunk up with air. As you do, allow your pelvis to roll into the forward tilt position. Your spine will sequentially follow with an arching action.
    When you're done, your body will make a "C" shape toward the back. The "C" shape won't be as pronounced as the "C" shape you made with your spine in flexion (Step 2). That's okay. You're still developing posture muscles with this movement.
  5. Exhale, and release back into an upright position: Balancing right on top of your sitting bones, with an erect spine, and your eyes gazing straight ahead again.


  1. Do the moves gently. This spinal extension—spinal flexion posture exercise is not designed for intense strengthening. It's more about developing movement awareness, body alignment, and warming up your joints and tissues.
  2. Don't work in pain. If any aspect of this exercise makes your body hurt, either back off a bit or don't do this at all. Of course, you should have your healthcare provider's okay to exercise before trying this.
1 Source
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  1. Kim D, Cho M, Park Y, Yang Y. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal painJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(6):1791–1794. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.1791

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.