Use The Cadillac to Get Mobility Into That Tight Low Back

This instructional article is written by Vintage Pilates teacher Sandy Sarnoff — graduate of THE WORK, and current participant in Jay Grimes’ highly selective program TEACHING THE WORK. Here, she shares exercises and tips to help bring mobility to a tight lower back.

Do you have a tight low back?


  • Engage the “two-way stretch” from a strong center
  • Focus on extending the reach of your lower body
  • Use your seat
  • Connect with the equipment – for example, reach your hands into the poles of the Cadillac during Tower to get the “back connection.”

Here are my favorite exercises on The Cadillac to get that low back moving!

How do I know these exercises will help? Because I have a tight low back, brought on by scoliosis (my right side is shortened and tight and my left side does not like to work). Doing the following exercises a GRATZ Cadillac warms me up, and instantly brings mobility and flexibility into that area.

If you try these exercises on a regular basis, you’ll be amazed how your back will transform. It won’t happen overnight. But just remember this quote from Joseph Pilates: “Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” 

My favorite Cadillac exercises to open the lower back are the Tower and Monkey. I’ll walk you through them:


CONNECT: As I start the exercise, my feet are connected into the push-through bar. My arms are connected into the back as my hands reach the poles.


LOWER BODY REACH: As I start the exercise, I think of the reach of my legs up into the bar. The reach starts from the back. I keep the reach as I bend and straighten my legs so the bar does not fall as you bend but you get a nice scoop and a round spine. This is where I feel the best stretch for my low back. As I come down, I keep the legs reaching up into the bar and lengthen the spine along the mat as I come down. It not only lengthens but opens my back as well!


FRIENDLY TIP: On the Tower, I find if I go only 1/4 of the way up, I get the most stretch in my back and it feels so good.



TWO WAY STRETCH: My lower body reaches under and up to the bar, and my upper body reaches up and around the bar.


THINK OF THE TREE: My seat is “on”, arms connected to the back, and the center is engaged. I think about the Tree. My stomach and ribs are pulling in and away from my thighs to try to get my head toward my knees while keeping my scoop.


FRIENDLY TIP: I really aim for that two-way stretch and work from the center to get the optimal reach in both directions.

If you have chronic, or even occasional tightness in the low back area, give these exercises a try. Do them before your Mat or Reformer workout and I think you’ll find more freedom of movement. I know I did!

Look for the next blog on Scoliosis