Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Jack Knife

Purpose: This is an advanced mat exercise. It builds strength in your abdominal muscles and stretches the muscles of your back and shoulders.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms long by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat, keep a slight turn out in your legs.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle, arms continue to reach long, shoulders pinned down. Use your abdominals to roll over- bring your legs over your head and peel your spine off the mat. Your legs remain together and go no lower than parallel to the floor. The weight is on your shoulders, not neck.
  3. Exhale, raise your straight legs upward toward the ceiling, using the strength of your buttocks to support your position. At the peak of the exercise, your feet should be over your eyes. Neck is long; arms continue to press firmly into the mat.
  4. Inhale, start to roll down vertebra by vertebra, slowly resisting gravity. Exhale, to finish, bring the body down to 90 degrees and return legs to starting position. Repeat 3 times.

Checklist:

  • Anchor the back of the head, shoulders, and palms solidly into the mat.
  • Distribute your weight between the shoulders – not on the neck.
  • During Step 2, aim the toes for the wall behind you and don’t allow your legs to separate throughout.
  • Keep squeezing the back of the upper inner thighs and buttocks to support your lower back.
  • On the decent, keep the feet over eyes.

Note: Omit this exercise if you have a bad neck, shoulder, or back.

Visualization: In Step 3, raise your legs to the ceiling, as if opening a Swiss Army knife and snapping it into place.

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