Pilates On the Go: Double Straight Leg Stretch
|The Roll-Up||Single Leg
|Crisscross||Side Kick Series|
Maybe you are beginning to notice some impressive results from the stomach series. So let’s take it up a notch with the Double Straight Leg Stretch. This fourth exercise in the stomach series, Double Straight Leg Stretch, targets the “powerhouse” to the extreme. Both the upper and lower abdominals are hard at work, and help to power the stretch up the back of the legs.
THE DOUBLE STRAIGHT LEG STRETCH
- Once you have finished Single Straight Leg Streth, extend both legs together and straight up to the ceiling, your back is against the mat, making a 90 degree angle with your legs and torso. Your legs should be below the belt line (imagine where a belt would be around your waist, and take note that the legs are below the belt), this way you are working the lower and upper abdominals together. The legs should be zipped together from the heels to the pelvis (engage the buttocks and upper inner thighs).
- Place hand over hand behind your head, with the elbows reaching wide towards both sides of the room. Inhale through the nose, filling the lungs with air. Exhale out the mouth and lift your head and neck off the floor, using your upper abs and back of the chest. Tuck your chin slightly towards the chest, as though you are gently holding an apple or small ball, and focus the eyes on the navel. You are now in the proper alignment.
- Focus on the torso staying anchored to the mat, and your navel scooping deeply to the spine. Imagine your legs are attached to springs from the ceiling up above your head, and you are to stretch the springs on the way down, and resist their pull on the way up.
- Begin inhaling as you draw the navel to spine, engage the buttocks and upper inner thighs, and stretch your legs forward (springs). Stop BEFORE the lower back arches off the mat. Squeeze the buttocks tighter, and exhale as you stretch your straight legs long from the hip sockets and back up to the ceiling so that the legs are perpendicular to the ceiling (ending with the legs below the belt line, so the lower abs are still engaged).
- Repeat 5-10 times, and finish by bringing both knees into the chest.
- Remain still in the torso, with a lengthened spine (no arched back) as you lower your legs to hip level.
- Keep control from the “powerhouse” by keeping a slight turnout from the hip and thigh, and as you bring the legs back up really engage the buttocks and backs of the upper inner thighs, lifting your chest open and toward your thighs.
- Keep your elbows extended wide and out towards opposite walls, sliding your shoulders down and away from your ears, elongating your neck. This will focus the attention on the abdominals doing the work, and not the neck and shoulders.
TIP: Never lower the legs to the point where the abdominal muscles are released and pushing out away from the spine, and/or the back is arching off the mat. Keep the abdominals scooping to the spine and at the same time, engaging the buttocks and backs of the upper inner thighs (I can’t stress this enough). You are trying to create flat abdominals and strengthen the muscles to the spine, so that you are building a support system for your spine. If you begin to release the abdominals and push out, you will eventually feel this in your lower back.
MODIFICATION: Make a triangle with the thumbs and index fingers, and place your hands in this V position just below the tail bone with the palms down. This modification will help support the lower back.
With the summer season, it’s a great time to take your mat outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. Let the sun energize and motivate you.