Here you go. Exercise 2, the Double Leg Stretch, of the Pilates Series of Five. Add this to your exercise from last week, the Single Leg Stretch.
Exercise 2- Double Leg Stretch (5-10 reps)
1. Begin in a tight ball, hands on your ankles (or shins, if you’re not able), head and shoulders curled up off the mat. 2. On an inhale, extend your arms and legs away from each other. Think of them being pulled apart from one another, legs at about 45 degrees, arms by your ears. This is the “stretch” of the exercise. Make sure your tummy is pulled in flat and your low back isn’t arching off the mat. Legs should be actively squeezed together, heels together, toes apart (“Pilates position,” like a ballet first position).3. On the exhale, circle your arms and bend your knees, returning to your start position. Although the arms are circling, the legs are not. Heels should remain squeezed together the entire time. Repeat for a total of 5 to 10 reps.
Things to keep in mind
-Don’t allow your lower back to arch off of the mat. This is an indicator that your legs are too low and you are working less in your core (and are more at risk for straining your back). Raise your legs to a height where your low back is no longer arching.
-Eyes forward. (If you’re looking up at the ceiling, your neck is going to kill you. Either keep your eyes forward and your upper body curled all the way up, or put your head down.)
-Shoulders down, out of your ears. You should always have a neck.
-Head and chest remain lifted throughout the exercise. Do not let them drop as you extend your arms overhead.
-Keep your torso still and stable. Only your arms and legs should be moving.
-Tummy pulled in nice and flat. Imagine zipping on those skinny jeans. You know the pair. Where you have to pull your tummy both in and up. Now do that throughout the exercise. We want to work on building your abdominal muscles in, not out.
– Raise the height of your legs. They can be as high as 90 degrees (straight up to the ceiling), while still challenging your abs.
-If your neck starts to bother you, place your head down on the mat. As you grow stronger, you will transfer that work into you abdominals, as opposed to placing the strain in your neck.
-Reduce the number of repetitions and don’t be afraid to take breaks. Proper form is more important than risking the integrity of your body.
-Lower your legs. As long as you are not arching in your low back, your legs can go as low as just above the mat.
-Increase the number of reps.
Photos by Michele LoBosco