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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Purpose: As the second exercise in the Stomach Series, Double Leg Stretch continues to challenge your coordination, work the powerhouse and stretch your body.
- Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest, hands reaching toward ankles, head and shoulders lifted off mat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Support your neck by keeping your chin toward your chest as you stretch long.
- Squeeze your buttocks and upper inner thighs tightly as you extend your legs to support the lower back.
- As you inhale and stretch out, keep your arms straight.
- Your abs hold you down on the mat.
Modification: 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.
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Can Pilates really make you taller? According to SAC member Lenell Nussbaum the answer to this question is yes!
Lenell began Pilates a couple of years ago. She experienced regular back pain due to scoliosis and decided to give Pilates a try.
“The biggest change is that my back is no longer a pain issue. The by-product is that I am taller!” said Lenell.
Pilates works in several magnitudes – twisting, bending and extending – to strengthen the “powerhouse”, the muscles that support your spine. More space between the vertebrae is created by working and articulating the space in these magnitudes, thus lengthening your spine, improving your posture and in essence making you taller.
“I have ‘powerhouse’ muscles that didn’t know they were supposed to be the powerhouse. Really now: muscles on the front side of my spine? I was confident my gene pool had omitted them. Although I have always preferred doing things that I do well, it was clear I needed to do something that was difficult for me: find these muscles and engage them.”
Pilates exercises are specifically designed to reach and engage the “core” or “powerhouse” muscles. Exercises such as spine stretch forward on the mat, short spine on the reformer and push the pedal down on the wunda chair strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, therefore creating support for the spine allowing you to stand more erect. The extra space created by stretching the spine will actually lengthen the spine and reduce pain caused by poor posture or weak muscles.
“My favorite aspect of Pilates is hanging upside down by my ankles! It offers my crooked back great relief. It feels like gravity is finally on my side. I also like short spine, where is get to turn upside down on the reformer. If gravity helps me stretch the spine, apparently the exercises help me strengthen the muscles in between to retain some of the space. I’ve located several of those muscles I didn’t know I had. We’re getting to know each other.”
Lenell has grown 1.5 inches since starting Pilates and is now living pain free!
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The Swan Dive strengthens the muscles of the back and stretches the hip flexors. This is an intermediate/advanced exercise performed on the Pilates Ladder Barrel. A SAC Certified Pilates Instructor should assist with this exercise.
Lie prone (on stomach) with upper body draped over the barrel. Arms are long. Knees are bent. The balls of the feet are on 1 rung and the heels on the rung above; heels together toes apart. (V position)
- Inhale, keep heels together; lift upper body off barrel, forming 1 long line from feet to head (dart position); reach arms long, palms down. Legs will straighten.
- Exhale, lift upper body even more– reaching chest and arms up toward the ceiling forming an arc. Bend knees, keep thighs pressing against barrel. Arms open slightly; turning palms to face each other.
- Inhale, straighten legs, lowering and lengthening the upper body to the dart position, reaching arms long— continuing the long line, palms turn down.
- Exhale, bend knees, and lower body to starting position.
- Complete 3 sets.
Come to the longest line possible in dart position before lifting upper body into extension.
Engaging abs is critical in order to protect the back and achieve the arc shape.
Bending knees is important to avoid overextension of the lower back.
Lengthen out to the dart position only, return to the starting position.
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