Do the Lawnmower, Add Rotation

Source: Jimmy Fallon & The Tonight Show

Of all the terrible, cheesy dance moves borne of the semi-formed comedic minds of 8th grade boys hoping to get noticed at middle school and church coed mixers, the “lawnmower starter” had to be the worst.  Worse than the “shopping cart,” worse than the “sprinkler,” and debatably worse than the “fishing reel.” What on earth does dredging up these terrible blocked out moments of your youth have to do with fitness you ask?

I’ve always thought that a little brevity goes a long way in fitness.  Get them laughing, get endorphins flowing, get them hooked on a healthy habit – so long as you don’t run out of jokes.  I have one Pilates instructor friend who is particularly skilled in this – this cue’s for her, just don’t take it too far and get your clients performing “the Carlton” while trying to hold Standing Balance!

I digress – back to the “lawnmower starter.”  The simple choreography of this dance effectively adds movement through the transverse plane (rotation) to a variety of exercises.  Let’s first go over what we want the movement to be.  Take the arm to reach down and across the body, past the opposite hip.  The reach can be as far as is available given the position of the rest of the body, but the key is to shorten the diagonal distance between the reaching hand’s bottom rib and the opposite hip.   Then, with purpose, “pull” the hand back to its starting position (near the shoulder of the hand in motion) with the elbow bent out to the side, broad across the collarbones, similar to the way you pulled the starter cord on a lawnmower back in the day (hence, the dance name).  Those are the basics, they will vary slightly depending on the exercise/position you apply them to.

The following are the exercises I have applied this to (this list is by no means exhaustive)  – either from a static position or integrated with leg movement: wide-leg squat, standing lunge, kneeling sidekick position with top leg out straight, modified side plank with bottom knee down (great prep for The Twist).

A note about prenatal clients – many of these are GREAT exercises for prenatal clients given the cross body coordination without being in a supine position.  If the client looks at you like there’s no chance in Hades they will be reaching past their ever-expanding midsection, suggest a less torqued reach for, say, a sword in its scabbard at her waist.  This is also good if you’re more into King Arthur than demo-ing embarrassing dance moves from your childhood.


Copyright© 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Editing Out Flexion and Extension in Lateral Movements

To maximize the awesome lateral flexion benefits we talked about in the last post, it is really key to isolate lateral flexion.  This means that as we go up and over to create our rainbow or our U-shape, our spines should not make any movement into the sagittal plane.  In other words, we need to edit out all of the flexion and extension of our spine in order to create space in our vertebra and give our bodies the greatest possible range in lateral flexion.

Source: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

To do this, I have forever found this cue to be helpful.  It is one of the earliest cues I can remember from my own instructors: window panes.  Imagine you are sandwiched between two window panes.  One pane lining up with the back of your body and one at the front.  You can only move side to side or up and down.  Any forward or backward movement will push you into the panes.  Imagine squishing your face against the front pane if you move into flexion and smacking your head against the back pane if you create extension through the spine.

This cue can also be helpful for lateral movements without lateral flexion: Star, Sidelift, and keeping the torso still during Sidelying and Sidekick Series.

Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.