Get Pilates Strong: The Teaser Preparation Series

Improve your Pilates Teaser
Alycea Ungaro's Real Pilates

If you're reading this, you know all about Teaser trouble. It's that moment you switch from "I think I can" to "not gonna happen" on the way up from the mat. It's humbling and frustrating but doesn't have to be so.

For those of you just joining us, the Teaser is the signature Pilates move and possibly the most photographed Pilates exercise of all time. This classic “V” sit requires strength, stretch and control the three defining elements of Joseph Pilates’ movement system.

The basic Teaser is actually embedded in many other Pilates moves, so learning how to perform it well is the key to building your repertoire of movements. There are dozens of variations to choose from but the original Teaser is the one to master. And that is far easier said than done. Fear not, help is on the way.

There are three common limitations that can prevent you from achieving your perfect Teaser. They include abdominal strength, spinal mobility and hamstring stretch.  If you have trouble rolling up or down in the Teaser it’s likely your abdominal strength or spinal mobility that needs work. If you can manage to sit up but can’t seem to keep your legs straight no matter what, your hamstring flexibility may be the cause. It's not always one thing that needs work, it can easily be a combination of factors.

This preparation series is designed to address all the factors that may be holding you back.

Try these three moves as a warm up and then tackle your Teaser.

First, test your teaser. Know your baseline. Where do you get stuck? Can you get up at all? Make a note of it. Now try this move:

The Roll Up

Abdominals need coercing. Before attempting to lurch yourself up from a lying down position, sit up and try this backwards move.

From your folded over position, lower yourself back towards the mat until you feel a strong abdominal contraction. Hold the pose for a few breaths and then return back over the legs. Repeat 6 - 8 times.

After a trial run of this move, take a breath and re-visit your Teaser. Any better? Make a note of your results and move on.

Shoulder Bridge

Muscles don’t stretch before their warm. This movement taxes your glutes and hamstring strength and provides a dynamic stretch which will serve you well in your Teaser practice. Lie flat with the legs bent and the hips raised. Use your hands to support your lower back or simply leave them long on the mat. Extend one leg up to the sky and begin a series of 5 kicks up and down holding strong in your torso. Repeat with the other leg before lowering your hips back to the mat.

Teaser check in. Did this help? Were your legs straighter? Feel just a wee bit easier? You're not done yet. Keep going.


Rolling exercises allow your spinal segments to separate and mobilize fully for deeper access to your abdominal muscles. Sit up hugging your ankles into your seat, one hand holding each ankle firmly. Bow the head between the knees and balance on your tail.

Roll smoothly back keeping your shape fixed and roll right back up to balance at the top. Repeat 6 - 10 repetitions with deeper abs and smoother control each time.

Perform 5 of each exercise above and then test your Teaser after each exercise to see which one makes the most difference. It’s possible you need a little of each move.

Final check in. You should have noticed a marked improvement after one of these three moves. If one made a bigger difference than the others, that may be your magic formula. Work on all three moves and you'll have a tip-top Teaser in no time at all.

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