This is one of the hardest abdominal exercises for beginners. The single leg stretch challenges you physically and mentally; asking you to move, keep still and maintain coordination throughout. But once you get it, you realise that it is one of the great abdominal exercises.
It’s simple really, you have to work your core muscles (in both the front and back of your torso) in order to maintain your form and carry out the exercise. OK, so maybe not that simple. If you look at the video you see that the legs need to move, whilst the pelvis needs to stay still.
As it is one of the abdominal exercises where we introduce an element of movement (one leg is moving away from or towards you) it is tempting to start moving your trunk, you neck and your head in time with your leg. Don’t do it, keep everything, but your legs (and your hands) still. To stop your trunk from moving, check your imprint, having the lower back and pelvis gently, but firmly against the mat will help you to stop rocking from side to side.
Another thing that we are tempted to do is to move our legs in the wrong direction. By that I don’t mean that my classes are full of people swinging their legs about. However, we can start to lose the alignment of the leg in the process of this core exercise. To reduce the risk of this think about creating a long leg line from the hip, to the knee to the foot. Shape a beautiful long leg with this Pilates exercise. Keeping this in mind will help your leg not to wonder over the mid line of your body and start to encourage that dreaded side-to-side rocking motion.
Whilst you legs are moving you must not neglect the form at the other end of your body, the shoulders. make sure that the shoulder blades themselves are stabilised imagine them melting down your back, so as to avoid neck and shoulder tension whilst yo do this Pilates exercise. At the same time you should feel your abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominis are the key muscles for this exercise) contracting to bring your upper torso (your trunk) off the mat. This will also bring your shoulder blades away from the mat.
With that leg stretch you are creating a weight against which your abdominal muscles are having to work, but you know, that’s not all they are getting to do. In the single leg stretch your abdominal muscles are doing three jobs: keeping your trunk lifted, maintaining the contact between your lower back, pelvis and the floor, whilst stopping themselves from bulging. You think you are busy during this exercise? All those roles make the single leg stretch a real challenge for your abdominal muscles.
Keep the neck long, if you are new to Pilates and perhaps don’t have so much strength yet, it might be tempting to let the head roll back. Don’t let that happen, look down at your belly button (I tell my class that I want them to be able to describe all the fluff in there at the end of the exercise) that will help to keep your head and shoulders in the right position for this exercise. In turn, that will help you to avoid neck ache.
Abdominal exercises: what should the single leg stretch look like?
Your legs should look just like pistons, smoothly moving backwards and forwards, the only part of your body significantly moving.
Abdominal exercises: what should the single leg stretch feel like?
With all that work going on you should feel like you have a library-shelf of books pressing down your stomach.
Keep your neck long, keep the pistons going and work. Those. Abs.
Let me know how your single leg stretch is going, leave a comment below.
Be fit. Be well. Be Happy