Anatomy on the Mat Part 3: Swan Dive

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In Part 3 of their breakdown series on the Pilates Mat, Simona and her husband Dr. Joe Muscolino describe the anatomy of the Swan Dive mat exercise, which Simona demonstrates an archival version of with the hands under the thighs. This exercise takes place in the prone position Joe gives 4 parts to what happens in the lower body vs. the upper body, when the two parts are integrated and then with movement added. If you've ever struggled with this exercise, try the version that Simona demonstrates, it really helps! Visit Simona's studio in Stamford, Connecticut at The Art of Control and Dr. Joe Muscolino at

What Others Are Saying


  1. Simona Cipriani Author
    Simona Cipriani 2 years ago

    Hello Leo (?)

    As I was explain above the Archival version has a similar prep, (look at the 2 prep picture on RTLTC)
    however the movement has the arms out to the side just like in the picture of the RTLTC.
    In this video I was just making a point of not using the arms over head, like most people to create momentum….
    I hope one day you will get to see the Archival on line:)
    In the meantime keep learning and share:)

    Thanks for watching,

  2. Sean Gallagher
    Sean Gallagher 2 years ago

    I Like the way Joe and Simona help you understand how to use the back in this exercise but can you tell what archive this is from? I have a pretty extensive collection and have not seen it done this way. Not sure it is the swan dive as to do a swan dive in the classical sense in swimming which is where the exercise got it’s name you need to bring the arms up and out to the sides.


    • Simona Cipriani Author
      Simona Cipriani 2 years ago

      Hi Sean,

      It is great having you here…thank you for the compliment:)
      I am pretty sure you and I are talking about the same archival….and hopefully one day the world will see them as well:):):)
      However, here in this video I was just making a point about using proper and intrinsic spinal muscles and not the limbs.
      That is why I left the arms out. My intent was not to teach the Swan Dive, intact that is why I said was “it is the beginning of the Swan motion”
      There is also as you know the picture on the RTLTC book/our bible that shows the chin on the Mat and the arms down by the his before the San Dive picture.
      Anyway…I remember Romana taught me what I showed on this video while at Purchase college…perhaps that was her way to get into it…but it works and I love it:)

      Happy to discuss more with you:)

  3. tllyon 2 years ago

    This is wonderful. Taking the arms out of the swan dive highlights how the extremities try to do so much of the work. Can’t wait to give it a try! Thanks Joe and Simona!

    • Simona Cipriani Author
      Simona Cipriani 2 years ago

      yes, indeed
      it is amazing to see when you take out the limbs how the entire system needs to readjust and search other way to make it work.
      And then when you putt the limbs back into its place how they also facilitate and add to the motion.
      Think at the “hug/round back on the short box series” for a basic person for instance. We first learn how to extend the spine without bringing the arms over the head so that we can focus on the articulation of the spine first.
      Brilliant man!
      thanks for watching:)

  4. LBcutie 2 years ago

    Wonderful to learn what is going on anatomically during these classic Pilates exercises!
    I love this series.
    Thank you for covering this.

    • Simona Cipriani Author
      Simona Cipriani 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for your feedback.
      Happy to hear that your are learning something new:):):)
      Joe and I love that!
      Please do let us know if there is any particular exercise you want us to cover in details.

      Thank you,

  5. So helpful. I’ve never seen this archival version. Can’t wait to try it- especially with my swayback and flat back clients!

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