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Return to Life: #20 Jackknife



Return to Life: Jackknife

– Fold yourself up and over, then spring out and up and reach, reach, reach, before slowly rolling your spine down the ground to start all over again!

This exercise will mobilize your spine, strengthen your abdominals and shoulders and all to a rhythm.
Joe Pilates was a “hard man” – he was an avid boxer in Germany in the chaos after WW1. There’s also a story of him striding across Manhattan with a gun stuffed down his shorts to threaten a gym owner that was stealing his method!  Knowing these little anecdotes, perhaps it’s less surprising that there’s an exercise called the “Jackknife”…

What’s it good for?


  • Hip, back and shoulder extensors, offsetting all those hours in spinal flexion running or riding or even sitting at a desk. It’ll develop spinal mobility, and stability of your trunk and shoulders.

Pilates Geeks

  • It’s an extension of the Roll Over and should not be attempted until you have mastered that exercise. Rather than rolling over and back again, in this exercise, the spinal extensors are used to reach the legs in a swooping action up towards the ceiling.

Difficulty: Difficult and if you perform this without control, possibly dangerous: see below – Precautions
Reps: 6



The “how to”

Starting Position Lie on your back with your hands together, legs together, feet toes together.
Engage your abdominals and lift your legs towards the ceiling. Whilst peeling your lower spine off the mat and reaching your legs over your head, press your arms against the mat to maintain stability in your shoulders. Do not bend your neck by lifting your head off the mat.
Exhale lower your legs towards your head.
Inhale reach your legs straight up towards the ceiling.
Exhale as you roll down your spine.

Hints and Tips

💡  When rolling down the spine vertebrae by vertebrae, keep you feet over your face.
💡  Never roll onto your neck – err on the side of caution in this exercise.
💡  Imagine that you are a spring loaded hinge and really seep your legs up towards the sky.
💡  Maximise the amount of spinal articulation as your roll over and roll down.

Extras: Precautions

☀️ … It is not recommended for those with waist, neck and shoulder joint disorders and osteoporosis..



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