Single Leg Kick

It’s 2019 already and hopefully you’ve had a lovely break. I imagine you’ve spent time sitting with family and friends over some good food, wine and conversation. The operative word here is ‘sitting’. This means that you’ve been flexed at the hips and possibly leaning forwards. A very comfortable position, and now we are about to move into extension to open up the front of the body.

For those of you who spend lots of time sitting for work or at home, this ‘extension’ work is really beautiful to reverse the effects of sitting.

Joseph Pilates notes “…we must devote ourselves rationally to the uniform development of our body as a whole…”. In the practice of Pilates whatever action you undertake on one side of the body will usually be repeated on the other side. And so it is with the front and back of the body.

In this next exercise, Single leg kick, picture a young baby lying on their tummy on the floor. They are curious about what is in front of them and want to look forward. They appear to press into the floor with their hands to first lift their head and then the upper body until they are looking forward (sphinx position). As you know the head is very heavy and this movement allows them to strengthen neck and upper back muscles so that they can hold their head up without wobbling when they are sitting or standing.

Single Leg Kick Prep Exercises

Diamond press – Isometric

To start, lie with your arms in a diamond shape with your legs stretched and together. Inhale to reach forward out through the crown of your head and swing your sternum forwards so your upper back moves into extension. The more effort you put into reaching forward, the more you have to ground and stabilise your pelvis.

Then hold the top position and practise breathing deeply and actively 5 times. Use strong, forceful exhales to encourage the core and create the necessary strength to support the position and the posture, and then lower down. Repeat 5 times.

Single Leg Kick Prep

Now add in the movement pattern for the leg. At the top of your next diamond press exhale to flex one knee and pulse toward the buttocks and return to the floor. Inhale again and exhale to flex the other knee and pulse. As you do this, actively stabilise and ground the pelvis whilst stabilising the spine with the help of the shoulder girdle and trunk connection. Repeat 5 times.

Single Leg Kick

To start, lie in sphinx position with your bent elbows directly under your shoulders and forearms flat on the floor, hands pointing forward, legs are stretched, together and active.

Do two belly breaths here. Feel your belly drop onto the floor on the inhale and then draw away from the floor on the exhale as you engage pelvic floor and abdominals.

Now inhale to prepare, exhale to flex one knee and pulse toward the buttocks and return to the floor. Inhale again and exhale to flex the other knee and pulse. Do these as quite separate movements until you feel stable and there is no rocking of the body.

Now for more challenge, inhale to prepare, exhale to flex and pulse the first leg but now you inhale to change legs and exhale to pulse. Keep alternating the legs for 6-10 reps each side.

You can increase the pace as you increase stability.

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 (lying flat with forehead resting on hands) until you can draw the belly away from the floor without your lower back becoming involved. Now do the flex and pulse movements here for 3-6 reps each side
  • If you are unsure if your body is rocking, place a tennis ball on the middle of your lower back, if it stays in place during the movement, bravo you are stable!
  • Mentally check every few reps to make sure that your abdominals are still engaged and supporting your lifted torso
  • Gently ‘pull’ your forearms backwards to help the chest open so that you are not slumped. The neck should follow the line of the spine, so keep the back of the neck long

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