The dart in Pilates is a beginner-level Pilates exercise that targets your back extension.
This exercise primarily works on the extensor muscles of your upper and lower back and widens and stretches the front part of your rib cage. During this exercise, you lay prone, and lift your upper body from the mat, supported by your stable pelvis and lifted abs.
The dart in Pilates is one such exercise that is recommended for people suffering from chronic back pain problems, as it helps strengthen the entire back extension muscles in the lower and upper back.
This exercise also helps protect your lower back and promotes a healthy and long spine. Once you have mastered this move and gained adequate stability and strength, you may move on to other Pilates back extension workouts, including swans, double leg kicks, swimming and more.
However, before you consider adding this exercise to your workout routine, it’s important to learn to perform it in the right form. You may follow the below-mentioned steps to accurately practice the dart in Pilates.
How to perform darts in Pilates? Correct shape and technique
To start, make sure you practice this exercise on a Pilates mat or any padded or firm surface.
- Start by lying down on your stomach. Keep your legs together and both your arms along your sides.
- Gently raise your abdominal muscles away from the floor.
- Breathe easily. As you exhale, keep your abs pulled in, and transfer your energy through your spine and top of your head to raise your entire upper body slightly off the floor.
- Make sure your pubic bone is directly on the mat to protect your lower back.
- Now engage your glute and leg muscles, but don’t over-contract them.
- Your gaze should be down, and your head should be an extension of your back throughout the exercise.
- Keep your shoulder blades back and down as your arms reach behind you.
- Hold for a few seconds, and make sure to breathe deeply.
- As you exhale, lower your body to the mat.
- Relax, and repeat the exercise.
Note: The dart in Pilates works best when your chin tucks muscles, ie, the muscles that stabilize your neck get gently activated. In this position, your chin is not strained, as the focus is only on the extension of your upper back.
If you feel stable and comfortable doing this Pilates exercise, you may make it a bit more challenging by opening your chest and raising your gaze to get that amazing flying feeling. However, be sure to keep your neck long and stable.
However, if the dart move feels great, you can move to Pilates swimming to challenge yourself. Swimming in Pilates is also a back extension mat exercise that helps strengthen and protect the muscles of your upper and lower back.
When performing a dart in Pilates, make sure to:
- Keep your abdominal muscles hollow.
- Keep your neck soft and long throughout the exercise.
The dart in Pilates is an excellent exercise that can help maintain your posture and is also recommended to prevent certain types of back and hip pain.
Trapezius extensor and latissimus dorsi muscles on your back are mainly used when performing this Pilates exercise.
The stretching movement helps open the front part of your rib cage. Moreover, the gluteus maximus in your hip muscles is also involved when you do this move. All these muscles contribute to the lengthening of your spine and also helps stabilize your torso.
Common mistakes to avoid
When performing a dart in Pilates, make sure to avoid these mistakes to get the most out of this effective Pilates move:
Bending lower back
Do not bend your lower back. Always remember to keep your spine long and not hyperextended. Keep your tailbone down towards the mat to keep your lower spine stable and long.
When doing the dart, do not move your neck. Always keep your gaze down and your neck long and stable, directly aligned with your spine. Do not hyperextend your neck muscles.
Although the darts in Pilates is a safe exercise, do not attempt it if you are pregnant or have any health conditions.
If you’ve had an injury or surgery to your neck or back, it’s best to first talk to your doctor or physical therapist to check if the exercise is safe for you. Stop doing this exercise if you feel any discomfort or pain.