Double Leg Kick
How did you go last month doing Single leg kick? The more you worked on it and engaged your abdominal muscles, the less you would have felt it in your lower back. If this is you, bravo! You are ready for Double leg kick!
You would be forgiven if thinking this exercise were just about leg movement. It’s not! We are really taking the challenge to the next level as in this exercise there is coordination between head, arm and leg movement.
It will be important to think of maintaining strong length in your body throughout the movement, even when your legs and hands come back to the centre of the body. There will be temptation to relax back onto the mat in this position. Don’t give in! Resist, with engaged
abdominal and upper back muscles.
Back in July, when doing Double leg stretch, I asked you to think of a spring on the Reformer, it stretches as the carriage moves out but maintains strength and tension even on the return. This is exactly the picture to keep in mind when executing Double leg kick.
Double Leg Kick Preps
To start, lie prone with knees flexed and together, hands on the outside of your ankles, and head turned to one side. Allow your shoulders to relax to the floor.
Do three belly breaths here. Feel your belly drop onto the floor on the inhale, exhale and draw it away from the floor engaging pelvic floor and abdominals. At the same time glide your shoulder blades down the rib cage so that your shoulders lift from the floor and your
collarbones feel that they are floating away from each other. Think of the posture of a prima ballerina, she has that wonderful width at the front of the upper chest and her arms appear to float from her shoulders. That takes a lot of intrinsic strength and is not done with any force.
Video 1: Exhale to lift your head and chest as you press your feet into your hands to open up the front of your shoulders, inhale to lower your head facing the other side and let you heels draw close to your bottom again. As you continue and your shoulders start to warm up add in a little more range of motion.
Video 2: This is the original version of Double Leg Kick as seen in Joseph Pilates’ book ‘Return to Life through Contrology’. Grasp fingers of left hand with right hand, rest them on the back of your pelvis and stretch your legs out to start. As you exhale draw your legs into a right angle and rest your chin on the mat. Then inhale to lift your chest, stretch your arms and stretch your legs into the air. Repeat 6 times, resting on your chin in between each rep and noticing the extra control that’s required on the descent to do so.
Double Leg Kick
To start, lie prone with knees flexed and together, arms bent, hands lightly clasped behind rib cage, and head turned to one side. Allow your shoulders to relax to the floor.
Exhale to pulse heels to the bottom three times. Do 3-6 reps of this checking between each rep that abdominals and upper back muscles are still active. Now try the upper body movement. Knees flexed, exhale and extend the upper back to lift up from the floor, arms stretching back towards your feet. Do 3-6 times.
Got that? Now it’s time to put it all together.
Exhale to pulse heels to the bottom three times, inhale extend torso and legs out long with arms reaching back. Return to start position on inhale alternating the head turn; exhale into the pulses again. Do 2-3 each side.
Things to watch out for when you are not doing this exercise under supervision:
- If you feel strain in your lower back, return to prone breathing until you can draw the belly away from the floor without your lower back becoming involved. Don’t forget the shoulder blades too as engagement here will help as you connect the upper torso and lower torso muscles. Now do the leg pulse movements here for 3-6 reps each side.
- Mentally check every few reps to make sure that your abdominal and back muscles are still engaged and supporting your lifted torso.
- Gently ‘pull’ your arms backwards to help the chest open so that you are not slumped. The arms will be parallel with the floor. The neck should follow the line of the spine, so keep the back of the neck long.
- The legs pulse rather than kick or bounce as you want to limit any rocking.
- Keep your pubic bone heavy into the floor.
- Adjust your hand position so that you are comfortable, they can be lightly clasped toward waistline rather than higher up on the rib cage.
- If you are inclined to brace your abdominals try engaging by only 30%. Sometimes less is more.
What you will feel:
- Length at the back of the neck and ‘opening’ of the collarbones. You will feel as graceful as a prima ballerina.
- Strong in the abdominals and upper back muscles as they work hard to not only engage but hold your torso in the extended position.
- Like a strong piece of rubber being stretched in both directions. There is no slack along the length and ‘tension’ is maintained even when you return from the extended position.
- Hips and pelvis are still and stable throughout the movement.