One of the signature abdominal exercises of Pilates.
Purpose: To strengthen the abdominal muscles, develop upper body stabilization and stimulate circulation to warm up the body in preparation for the mat workout.
1. Lie on your back; pull your knees into the chest and feel the entire length of your spine on the mat. Lengthen the back of the neck; slide your shoulders down and back.
2. Lift your head and shoulders off the mat bringing chin toward chest. Reach your arms long, past your hips and straighten both legs up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your buttocks and inner thighs together.
3. Begin pumping your arms straight up and down as if you were tapping water. Keep the movement slightly above the mat and your arms straight.
4. Inhale for 5 counts (pumps) and exhale for 5 counts (pumps).
5. Lower your legs to a 45 degree angle, or to the point just before your spine arches off the mat. Maintain this position, pumping your arms and breathing for 100 counts (10 full breath cycles).
6. To finish, lower your head and bring your knees into the chest.
- Shoulders are down and back while pumping the arms.
- Make sure you are sinking your belly into your spine throughout.
- Don’t bend the wrists while pumping; keep stretching through the fingertips.
- Keep arms synchronized while pumping.
- If your lower back begins to hurt, bend your knees in toward your chest.
- If you develop neck pain, lower your head.
- A shoulder injury may prevent you from pumping your arms. Simply reach long or pump softly.
Visualization: Imagine your arms beating out the tempo to a piece of music.
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To strengthen the back and hip extensors; to improve hip flexor flexibility and to stretch the chest.
1) Lie on your stomach. Inhale, bend the knees and reach back with the arms, taking hold of the ankles and lifting the trunk and legs into an arch.
2) Exhale rock forward.
3) Inhale and rock backward, lifting your chest and pulling back from your ankles. Keep your navel pressed into your spine.
4) Rock back and forth 5 times.
5) End by releasing your ankles and sitting back to your heels, with your arms stretched long in front of you. Place forehead on the mat. This position is similar to child’s pose in Yoga. Comfort is key.
Imagine yourself as a rocking horse. Another image is that of a boat rocking forward and backward as it sails through the waves.
Keep the head still and in line with the spine.
Maintain scapular stability throughout; keep arms straight.
Create a comfortable rhythm of breath and motion as you rock.
Do not toss head forward and backward to initiate the rocking movements.
This is an advance Pilates exercise. If you’ve had a knee, shoulder or rotator cuff injury, we suggest a Certified Pilates Instructor guide you through the movement or omit the exercise from your routine.
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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.
- Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest, head and shoulders curled off the
mat, elbows lifted.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Note: 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.
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