The Cobra: A Super Exercise

The cobra (or press up) is an exercise that is often prescribed for low back pain. It mobilizes your lumbar spine into extension, and may be a pain-relieving position. If performing this exercise causes you pain, avoid it until you consult your physiotherapist. 

Due to the variability in anatomical differences, mobility restrictions, and muscle flexibility, this exercise may look different from person to person. This is why it is important to use this resource as a general guide; however, a physiotherapist will be able to ensure the exercise is properly and safely executed. 

How to do the Exercise 

  • Starting Position: Lying face down on the ground/bed, position your hands under your shoulders.
  • Action: Push through your arms and lift your chest from the ground, while extending your back. The pelvis and legs stay relaxed and remain in contact with the ground, and the neck may extend as you look up towards the ceiling. Extend your back until the arms are straight. If you are unable to reach full arm extension, stop the movement. Gradually lower your trunk to return to the starting position. 


Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Winging the shoulder blades during the movement 
  • Squeezing the gluteal (buttock) muscles while lifting the trunk 


Modifications and Progressions

Please refer to your physiotherapist if you are unsure of any aspect of the exercise or are unable to successfully perform this movement 

  • If performing this exercise in a prone position (lying face down) is too difficult, it can easily be modified to be performed in a standing position.  
    • Place your hands against a wall, with the feet placed about arm’s length away. Bring your hips forward while extending your back. 
    • Alternatively, place your hands over your buttocks. From this position, extend your back by pushing your hips forward and maintaining pressure in your hands and arms. 



Based on your individual goals, the parameters for exercise can vary significantly. The number of sets, repetitions and tempo are among a number of variables that can be modified in order to optimize your programming. Whether you are returning from injury, looking to get stronger, or improving your sport performance, speak to your physiotherapist to establish your training goals.