Author: Jocelyn Paoli

Stott Certified Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Side Kick Series: Inner Thigh Lifts

PURPOSE: This exercise works your inner/outer thighs and stretches the back of the hip.

1. Lie on your right side with your left foot crossed in front of your right leg. Try to keep the left foot flat on the floor; knee cap facing the ceiling.

2. Rest your head on your arm. Press the palm of the other arm down into the mat in front of you; elbow towards ceiling.

3. Extend your straight (right) leg long out from your hip and raise it off the floor. Turn your heel slightly toward the ceiling.

4. Lift and lower your straight (right) leg 5-10 times without letting it touch the mat.

5. Then hold the leg in the lifted position pulsing it for 10 small pulses. You can also try 5 small circles forward and back staying lifted.

6. Repeat other side.

 

Modifications:

  • If it is too uncomfortable to keep the leg crossed over the straight leg, rest your knee on the mat in front of you.

 

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain a long steady upper body.
  • Don’t bend your outstretched leg as you lift/lower and/or pulse.
  • Keep the quadriceps relaxed, not gripped.

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Pilates Exercise of the Month: Side Kick Series: Small Circles

PURPOSE:  Small Circles (or Top Leg Circles) work the buttocks and thighs. This the 3rd exercise of the Side KIck series.

SET UP:  Lie on your side and align your body against the back edge of the mat.  Prop your head up on one hand and place the palm of the other hand on the mat in front of you.  Position your legs in a 45 degree angle in front of your body.  Feet are slightly turned out in a Pilates V.

1.  Lift your top leg so it is in line with the hip.  Begin circling the top leg in a small and swift motion, brushing the top heel past the bottom heel each time around.

2. Complete 5-8 circles, then repeat in the opposite direction.  End by resting the heels together, toes turned out in Pilates V.

Modifications:

If you experience discomfort in your shoulder, wrist or neck, lay your head down on your arm.  You can also use a rolled up towel under your neck for added support.

Head to Toe Checklist:

Upper body is flush against the mat.

Use your abdominals to maintain stability in your upper body so you don’t rock back and forth.

Top leg is straight as you circle; keep your heel down; toes and knee face up.

Don’t let leg rotate inward (toe to floor).

Think of controlled movements; working the circles from the hip joint.

Visualization: 

Imagine you are circling your leg inside a small hula hoop.

Small Circles

 

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SIDE KICK SERIES: UP/DOWN

PURPOSE: The 2nd exercise of the Side Kick series: this exercise works the hips, buttocks, outer thigh, and stretches your inner thigh muscles.

Set-up : Lie on your side and align your body against the back edge of the mat. Prop your head up on one hand and place the palm of the other hand on the mat in front of you. Position your legs in a 45-degree angle in front of your body. Feet are slightly turned out in a Pilates V.

1. Inhale, lift your top leg straight up to the ceiling and point your toe. Lift your leg only as high as you can manage with it remaining straight.

  1. Exhale, resist gravity, flex your foot, and bring it back down to starting position. Think of reaching and stretching your leg out of your hip.

3. Repeat 5-8 times on each side. Bring your legs back together to prepare for the next exercise in the series, Small Circles.

 

 

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Modifications:

If you experience discomfort in your shoulder, wrist or neck, lay your head down on your arm. You can also use a rolled up towel under your neck for added support.

Head to Toe Checklist:

Remain long and lifted in the upper body as you kick your leg up and lengthen it down. Don’t roll your leg inward. Keep a slight turnout in the hip and thigh throughout the exercise. Stabilize your body with the powerhouse. Nothing moves but the kicking leg.Shoulder and hips remain stacked. Think of controlled movements.

 

Visualization: By the end of the exercise, the kicking leg should feel longer.

 

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates Instructor

Pilates Exercise of the Month: (SIDE KICK SERIES: FRONT/BACK)

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PURPOSE: This exercise will stretch the back of the legs, tone your buttocks and improve balance. It is the first exercise in the Side Kick Series.

SET UP:  Lie on your side and align your body against the back edge of the mat. Prop your head up on one hand and place the palm of the other hand on the mat in front of you. Position your legs in a 45 degree angle in front of your body.  Feet are slightly turned out slightly in a Pilates V.

  1.  Lift your top leg hip height, turn leg out slightly from the hip.
  2.  Inhale, press navel into spine, swing your front leg and pulse it twice (similar to 2 small kicks) as far forward as it will go without rocking forward in your hips. Reach the leg further on the second kick.
  3. Exhale, and swing the leg back, reaching for the back corner of the room; gently pointing your toe; while stretching the front of the hip.
  4. 4. Repeat 8-10 times on each side. Bring your legs back together to prepare for the next exercise in the series- Up/Down.

 

Visualization: Imagine your leg swinging like a pendulum of a clock while the body holds still.

Modifications: If you experience discomfort in your shoulder, wrist or neck, lay your head down on your arm. You can also use a rolled up towel under your neck for added support.

To advance the exercise, place the hand behind the head and point the elbow to the ceiling.

 

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Avoid letting hips and shoulders roll forward.
  • Don’t lift leg too high, only hip height.
  • Make sure your hand on the mat is close to the body with forearm pressed into your midsection.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Criss-Cross or Obliques

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Purpose:

The last of the Stomach Series, this works the external obliques, waistline and powerhouse.

 

1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; elbows wide and your knees bent into

your chest.

 

2. Extend your right leg out long; hovering above the mat. Twist your upper body until the

right elbow touches left knee. Open the back (left) elbow behind you. Inhale as you lift to twist

and hold for 3 counts.

 

3. Exhale and switch sides, bringing your left elbow to your right knee while extending the

opposite (left) leg out in front of you. Hold for 3 counts. Keep your upper back and shoulders off

the mat as you twist from side to side.

 

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

 

Checklist:

  • Lift and twist from your waist, not from your neck and shoulders.
  • The back elbow never touches the mat. Look at your back elbow as you twist.
  • Anchor your center to the mat so you don’t roll from side to side.
  • Lower your extended leg about 45 degrees or more…back should not arch off mat.

 

Note: Avoid twisting exercises such as this if you have suffered a recent back injury.

 

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates InstructorVisualization: Imagine you have an X on your stomach and you are crossing to each end of the X.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Double Straight Leg Stretch

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Purpose: The fourth exercise in the Stomach Series targets the powerhouse to the extreme.

1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; one on top of the other, (not interlaced). Elbows wide.

2. Extend your legs straight to the ceiling, heels together and toes turned out slightly, squeeze inner thighs, sink navel toward spine.

3. Inhale and lower your straight legs down toward the mat for 3 counts. Stop if you feel your lower back begin to arch.

4. Exhale as you raise your straight legs toward the ceiling. Don’t allow the legs to pass 90 degrees; the tailbone does not leave the mat.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

Checklist:
Remain perfectly still in your torso.
Engage the glutes and inner thighs to support and protect your back.
If your back arches off the mat as you lower your legs, you are taking them too low. Bring shoulders away from ears.

Note: If you have a delicate back, place your hands in a V position just below your tailbone (palms down) and leave your head down.

Visualization: Imagine your legs are attached to springs above your head. You must stretch the springs on the way down and resist their pull on the way up.

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates Instructor

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Straight Leg Stretch or Scissors

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Purpose: The third exercise in the Stomach Series is also known as Scissors. It provides

additional stretch in the back of legs while working the abdominals. This exercise requires

you to move quickly and with control.

 

1. Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest, head and shoulders curled off the

mat, elbows lifted.

2. Extend your right leg straight up to the ceiling and grab your ankle with both hands. Stretch

the left leg long in front of you so it hovers slightly above the mat.

 

3. Inhale, keeping the right leg straight and use your hands to lightly pulse the leg twice. Sink

the navel deeper into the mat beneath you as the leg nears the body.

4. Exhale and quickly switch the straight legs by “scissoring” them past each other. Grab the

ankle of your left leg and repeat the motion, inhaling for one set and exhaling for one set.

 

 

Complete 8-10 sets; alternating legs. To end, bring both legs together at a 90 degrees.

 

 

Goal: Remain perfectly still in your torso as you stretch and scissor your legs. Keep eyes focused on

belly, making sure it’s scooped. Avoid hunching your shoulders.

 

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates InstructorNote: If you can’t hold your ankle, simply adjust your hand placement; try your calf first or move your

hands to the back of your thigh. Don’t hold behind your knee. If you develop neck pain while holding   your head up, rest it on the mat.

 

Visualization: As you begin switching legs, imagine pulsing your legs in rhythm with your heartbeat.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Double Leg Stretch

Purpose: As the second exercise in the Stomach Series, Double Leg Stretch continues to challenge your coordination, work the powerhouse and stretch your body.

 

1. Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest, hands reaching toward ankles, head and shoulders lifted off mat.  

 

2. Inhale and reach the arms overhead back by your ears and your legs straight out in front of you. Raise them off the mat at about a 45 degree angle. Back must not arch off floor.

 

3. Exhale and circle the arms around as you bring your knees back into your chest. Remain still in your torso; head and shoulders lifted throughout the exercise.

 

4. Repeat 8-10 sets. To finish, hug both knees in toward chest, put head and shoulders on mat.

 

Visualization: imagine the center of your body thinning out like taffy.

 

Checklist:

  1. Support your neck by keeping your chin toward your chest as you stretch long.
  2. Squeeze your buttocks and upper inner thighs tightly as you extend your legs to support the lower back.
  3. As you inhale and stretch out, keep your arms straight.
  4. Your abs hold you down on the mat.

 

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates InstructorModification: For a sensitive low back, begin with the legs at a 90 degree angle and gradually advance to 45 degrees. Abbreviate the arm movement if you have a delicate shoulder. 

Progression: Move directly to Single Straight Leg Stretch – which will be previewed in next month’s newsletter.

 

 

 

 

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Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Leg Stretch

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Purpose: Single Leg Stretch strengthens the abdominals and the buttocks as well as improves coordination.

This is the first of five exercises termed as the Stomach Series.

 

1. Sit in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Hug your right leg and pull it in to your chest with your inside hand on the knee and your outside hand on the ankle.

 

2. Roll your back down to the mat, bringing the bent leg (right leg) with you; head and upper shoulders are off the mat. Then, extend your left leg out in front of you; let it hover above the mat at about a 45 degree angle or at an angle so your back stays flat on the mat.

 

3. With elbows lifted; chin to chest; inhale. Then, exhale and switch legs, bringing the outside hand to the ankle and the inside hand to the knee (left leg). Stretch your right leg long; hovering above the mat at about a 45 degree angle; making sure your leg is in line with the center of your body.

4. Repeat 8-10 sets. To finish, hug both knees in toward chest, put head and shoulders on mat.

Checklist:

  1. Scoop your belly at all times. Stay lifted (eyes on belly) and slide shoulders down away from ears.
  2. Remain still in your torso- not rocking your body from side to side when switching legs.
  3. Squeeze your buttocks each time the leg stretches out.
  4. Pay attention to the hand placement as it keeps your leg in proper alignment with your hip.

 

Visualization: Imagine you are anchored to the floor below.

 

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates InstructorModification: Rest your head on the mat when necessary. If you have a bad knee; hold the underside of the thigh. For a bad back; extend the straight leg to the ceiling. As your lower abdominal strength improves, you can begin to lower the leg.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Leg Kick

Purpose: Single Leg Kick works your hamstrings, biceps & triceps while stretching your thighs, knees, and abdominal muscles. Great exercise for cyclists.

1. Lie on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. Pull your navel up into your spine. Your pubic bone should be pressed firmly down into the mat. Squeeze your inner thighs together to support your lower back.

2. Make sure your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders, chest is lifted, shoulders blades down and neck long.. Your hands can be made into fists, in line with elbows. (If fists are uncomfortable, place your palms facedown on mat.)

3. Inhale to prepare. While keeping your upper torso stable, exhale and kick your right heel toward your right buttock with a double beat (or a pulse, pulse.) The left leg should be straight and slightly lifted off the mat.

4. Switch and kick the left heel to the left buttock with a double beat. Continue alternating legs, completing 5 sets. End by sitting back on your heels to release your lower back.

Checklist:
Remain lifted and perfectly still in your torso as you kick your heels into your bottom.
Keep your upper thighs and knees glued together as you kick to engage the hamstring muscles.
Try not to let the legs touch the mat in between kicks.

Note: If you have knee or lower back discomfort, upper torso may be lowered to the floor. Reduce the range of motion and work more slowly. If you experience pain, stop.

Visualization: Imagine there is a candle flame under your belly button. You must stay lifted so you don’t get burned. Swish your legs past each other, kicking in time to your heartbeat.
Single Leg Kick

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates Instructor