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.

Pass the Tray – Adding Rotation to Mermaid

Here’s another one for Mermaid.  Mermaid is a great exercise for lateral flexion as I mentioned in this week’s earlier post, but tagged on to the end of your lateral reps, is the rotational piece.  Like lateral flexion, only a handful of the Pilates repertoire addresses multiple planes and in particular the transverse.  And also like lateral flexion, very few of them can be geared towards all levels of clients.  Mermaid is your go-to for this work.

Adding the rotational piece can be challenging for beginners to get right because it requires changes across many components – thoracic spine, shoulder, eye line – while at the same time maintaining key aspects of positioning – sit bones in contact with the floor, space through the lumbar vertebra.

Once you’ve used the Teapot Cue to set up the lateral part of Mermaid, ask the client to pause on the side towards the front leg with their bottom hand engaged with the floor.  Take a moment here to perfect their positioning before asking them to add in the rotation.  When ready, layer it in.

Ask the client to turn their top hand palm-up like they’re balancing a tray and then “pass the tray” through the arch created by the bottom arm and the side of the body.  Remind the client to follow the movement of the tray with their eyes (although once the hand passes under, be sure the eye line goes over the shoulder to catch a glimpse of the tray on the other side) to be sure the tray hasn’t tipped.

This cue puts the client’s focus on maintaining position during the rotation.  It hones the attention to the full body and helps the client stay steady and aware of all aspects of the exercise just like when you’re carrying a tray, you are aware of not only the tray, but the items on it and anything in the vicinity that could cause you to trip or tip tray.

A note about breath here.  Have the client inhale at the top of the rotation and exhale all the way through to the end.  At the bottom, hold the exhale and squeeze that last, teeny, tiny bit of air out of the lungs and pass the tray just a bit further.  Mermaid is a fabulous way to really challenge the diaphragm and expel all the stale air from the depths of the lungs.


Copyright ©2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.