March MATness Day 24: The Leg Pulls

Leg Pull and Leg Pull Front are great, total body exercises that require a lot of strength before clients can master them in their original form.  For this reason, there have been many, many variations, modifications, and regressions thought up and practiced across the Pilates landscape over the years.

If your clients are ready to go for the original movement in all its glory, here’s one cue for them that will help with both versions: remember the pelvis.  A slight posterior tilt and a mindfulness of wrapping the sit bones towards one another creates a stability and levity to the body that helps to shift the focus of exercise from the sheer difficulty of holding one’s body in a plank, to the intention of creating length from the crown of the head to the tips of the toes.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign upfor our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

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The Balancing Act of Weight Bearing

Maintaining pelvic and shoulder stability during weight bearing exercises such as plank is incredibly important, particularly as we layer movement onto an already challenging pose.  Consider a simple exercise like Quadruped – on all fours, shoulders in line with wrists, hips in line with knees.  Pretty simple because each of the limbs work together to provide a broad base of support. What happens, though, as we take away one of those limbs and reduce the base of support?  The newly unsupported hip and/or shoulder tends to drop as the balance and weight bearing becomes more of a challenge.

In order for our clients to benefit from these simple exercises, their focus throughout needs to be keeping hips and shoulders level.  Maintaining hip and shoulder height challenges the core, especially the oblique slings, the shoulder girdle and the client’s the sense of balance.


Here’s a cue to give them motivation to do just that.  Have them imagine they are balancing a tray of champagne between the hips on the back of the sacrum, and another just between the shoulder blades!  See if that doesn’t provide some added incentive to stay level!  And if it happens to be a Monday morning when you use this cue, try a couple of mugs of coffee in the balance instead of the bubbles!


Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Lengthening Out of the Hip – Creating Length through the Legs

Length through the extremities is a major theme in the Pilates repertoire.  It can be a bit tricky to teach, though.  So many of the exercises that are meant to emphasize this theme are also subject to an intense core challenge or work for the “large muscle groups.” This causes the subtlety of the exercises’ purpose to often get a bit lost.  Leg Pull Front and Single Leg Kick are great examples of exercises that require work elsewhere in our bodies to such a degree that it’s easy to forget that the central theme in these is creating length.

In Leg Pull Front the upper body weight bearing aspect is so much a challenge for many clients that the leg lift is almost an afterthought – a “please don’t let me tip and collapse” type of afterthought.  But really, the emphasis should be on the REACH with the toes – extending the leg out of the hip socket.

Single Leg Kick is similar.  Many focus on the kick as the main part of the exercise, but what about the extend?!  Hovering the leg an inch off the floor while reaching the toes to the wall behind you is the REAL work!

Here’s your cue to help: imagine that you have a string tied to your big toe and each time you reach your leg away and point your toes toward the wall behind you, the string pulls taut and stretches your leg just a bit further out of the hip joint and suspends you in the position just a few seconds more.  Really aim to feel the tug of the imaginary string.  You can even use a tactile cue to simulate this image to really drive the point home.

Click here for a previous cue that also helps create length through the extremities.

Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Pilates Reference Cues – Using Hundreds to Cue the Pilates Repertoire

Earlier this week, we talked about how Pilates exercises themselves are sometimes the best cues for more difficult or complicated movements in the repertoire.  Bridging came to mind first, but there’s another that is imbedded in SO many exercises.  The Hundred.


The Hundred teaches us a ton about how to organize our whole bodies, including the breath.  Many clients think about this as an intense, nearly impossible ab workout, but what’s really going on is a lot more central to Pilates and the overarching benefits we preach about.

The Hundred is all about organization of the body and recruiting the total body, including the breath to perform an incredibly difficult task.  The Hundred cannot be performed without the body engaging toward the midline from the toes all the way to the neck.  Try it.  Attempt Hundreds without hugging the legs together, without lifting through the pelvic floor and lower abdominals and without using the oblique slings to pull it all together.  Now try it without organizing your head neck and shoulders.  Now try breathing into your abdomen instead of into the sides of your ribcage.  It’s near impossible.  Your legs won’t lift, your lower back arches, your head seems to weigh 100 pounds and it all falls apart even further when you try to inhale.

Mastering body organization and breath is imperative for the success of Hundreds, but it is also necessary in order to gain the most from other exercises as well.  Referring back to the body organization and muscle recruitment that made clients successful with Hundreds, can help them understand the proper organization and alignment that many other exercises require.

These exercises run the gamut from the obvious – other supine abdominal exercises (Chest Lift, Assisted Roll Up and Roll Up, Single Leg Stretch, Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch, Criss Cross, Neck Pull) to full body (Teaser and Leg Pull; you can even make an argument for Leg Pull Front, Push Up, Plank) and inversion (Jack Knife, Controlled Balance, etc.) exercises.

It all comes back to Hundreds.

Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.