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Return to Life: #9 Open Leg Rocker



Return to Life: Open Leg Rocker

– It’s exactly the same as the previous exercise: “Spine Stretch Forward” – but now we’re rocking!

This exercise will stretch out the whole of your back line: from your arches, through your achilles, gastroc, soleus, hamstrings, glutes and spinal muscles all the way up to and including your neck.  And if you need it, it’ll teach you to use your abdominals to curve your spine.

How does Open Leg Rocker help athletes?

Calves, hamstrings and glutes: The rolling action makes this a dynamic stretch – helping to speed recovery and reducing the chances of injury after long hours in the saddle or long runs.
Lower back & abdominal strength: It promotes pelvic stability by requiring the use of both the abdominals and spinals to control the slight pelvic rocking that initiates the roll back and roll forward – and this helps reduce the chances of spinal problems after long training hours.
Shoulder stability & alignment: it teaches us to keep our shoulders out of our ears!
Finally, it helps to to address imbalances in the body that lead to overuse injuries.

And for Pilates geeks …

  • This is the first time that we meet and exercise that shows us the reasons for the existence of other exercises.  So many of the exercises that we’ve already done contribute to the successful performance of the Open Leg Rocker:
    • The One Hundred – teaches us the breathing
    • The Roll Up teaches us the transition to start
    • The Roll Over gives us the flexible spine and hamstrings
    • The single Leg Circles opens out the hip and teaches us the pelvic stability we need
    • Rolling like a Ball gives us our first taste of rolling
    • The Series of Five give us the sheet abdominal strength
    • The Spine Stretch Forward is Open Leg Rocker without the Rolling!

Difficulty: intermediate – it depends on your body type 🙂
Reps: 4



The “how to”

Sit up with your legs straight and open to the corners of your mat.   Stick your bum out (if you need to do this to achieve a neutral spinal alignment) and align your rib cage so that sits directly over your pelvis.

This means you should be sitting directly on your seat bones.  If you can’t because your hamstrings are too tight, soften your knees slightly.  

Variation 1
Roll back off your sitting bones and hold your shins in your hands just above your ankles with bent knees.  Practice the Open Leg Rocker position by straightening one then the other leg, staying balanced on your sit bones.  Try straightening both legs at the same time.
Variation 2
Pulling in your stomach, roll back slightly off your sitting bones and lift your straight legs into outstretched hands.
Exhale Sit balanced in your sit bones with your back and legs as straight as you can.  Hold your ankles firmly with your hands  while keeping your legs shoulder width apart and looking straight ahead.
Exhale Round your back slightly to initiate the roll back from your lumbar spine and roll all the way back to your shoulders – but not onto your shoulders.
Inhale take a sip of air at the end of the roll.
Exhale and roll up keeping your spine round until you balance for a moment on your sit bones.
Inhale take a sip of air at the end of the roll.

Hints and Tips

💡 Once you have found your balance point, picture it in your mind’s eye before each roll up.
💡 Keep your shoulders out of your ears.
💡 Don’t roll onto your delicate neck – control your movement.
💡 Be prepared to practice to master this exercise.
💡 Press your legs into your hands and hands into your legs.  Keep up this push / pull going while rolling back and forward.
💡 Try this: think of lengthening through the tips of your ears as you roll back up to balance.
💡 Keep the effort balanced on both left and right to avoid rolling to one side.


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