Exercise Breakdown Express continues this month with the first exercise in the Ab Series: the Single Leg Stretch. It’s a great core exercise that also lengthens your legs. It can also be modified for any skill level. Read through the directions below and get on the mat!
- Strengthens abdominals.
- Upper body stability for lower body mobility.
- Starting position: Lie on your back. Bring the legs to tabletop and crunch up to the tips of your shoulder blades. Stare at your core. Bring the left hand to the left ankle and the right hand to the left knee. Extend the right leg out to 45 degrees.
- Inhale in this position. Exhale and switch the leg position and hand position, keeping the abdominals engaged in the crunch position.
- Keep the upper body in this position and continue simultaneously switching the hand position and leg position.
The Technical Anatomy Stuff
Primary Muscles Used
Abdominals (transversus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, rectus abdominis)
Why? To lift the head, neck and shoulders off the mat and keep the upper body stable while the legs move.
Secondary Muscles Used
Hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris)
Why? To keep one leg in tabletop position and bring the other leg into tabletop position when the legs switch.
Hip extensors (gluteus maximus, hamstrings)
Why? To extend the leg out from the tabletop position.
Quads (quadriceps femoris)
Why? To extend the leg at the knee in 45 degrees.
Calf (Gastrocnemius, soleus)
Why? To extend and point the ankle.
Shoulder flexors and extensors: (anterior deltoid, pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi, teres major, etc.)
Why? The shoulder flexors (front of the shoulder) bring the arms to the lower leg while the shoulder extensors (back of the shoulder and side body) keep the side body engaged and the shoulders down.
Front of the arm (biceps brachii, brachialis)
Why? To keep the slight bend the arm as it reaches for the lower leg.
Things to Think About
- Scoop the navel into the spine.
- Lengthen the extended leg out of the hip. Try to reach it long to the wall in front of you.
- Keep the elbows reaching wide while the hands rest lightly on the legs.
- Don’t twist the body from side to side. Maintain the chest lifted in the center for the whole exercise.
For Increased Intensity…
- Press both hands into the thigh below the knee, elbows wide. This will create more resistance in the abs. Pull the navel to the spine.
For Decreased Intensity…
- Extend the free leg up toward the ceiling.
- Keep both legs in tabletop position and just switch the hand positions.
Add this exercise to your routine! Do all exercises in a row and you’ve got yourself a mini Pilates workout in the comfort of your own home. Enjoy!