Get Pilates Strong: Thigh Stretch

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Get Pilates Strong: The Thigh Stretch - Step 1

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The word stretch is one Joe Pilates used a lot. Leaf through any of the archival works and you'll see dozens of moves incorporating the word stretch.  Despite the apparent misnomer, this particular move known as Thigh Stretch will tighten, strengthen and sculpt your gams into fighting shape.  One of my favorite things about this move is that you can pepper it into your workout in between any side to side moves or use it as an intermediate move in any mix and match Pilates program you like.

Be sure to perform this on a mat or a padded surface and grab a set of light weights 1 - 3 lbs.

Step 1: Begin kneeling upright with knees slightly apart and legs parallel. Raise your arms as a counter-weight in front of you lifting the weights hip height. Keep your spine completely erect. Seen in profile you should be one long line from your knees to the top of your head. Draw the abdominals in and up as you inhale to prepare.

Timing  - Preparation is key. Before you begin this move, take that first inhale to gather up your strength, lifting from the center of the body. There is a brief moment of suspension in the body that precedes Step 2. Rather than focus on the leaning back, concentrate on the moment you lift everything upward. 

Focus  - Your Powerhouse is the very first thing to initiate the move.  Don't go anywhere until you' have called your Abs out to play. This is the secret to mastering this move.

Form  - If you have a mirror take a look at your alignment from the front view. Check out the line your body makes from hip to knee. Your feet should be directly behind your knees so as to be invisible when viewed head on. Adjust your legs to achieve a solid parallel base with the legs.

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Get Pilates Strong: The Thigh Stretch - Step 2

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Step 2: From your lifted position, draw your abs inward and upward and lower your gaze slightly. Begin to hinge backward in a straight line making sure not to "break" or bend in the spine. Hold your hips up off your legs. Take your time on the descent tightening your glutes gradually as you lower. Keep the arms reaching forward in opposition as you lower. At your lowest point suspend the shape of the body and hover there for 3 full counts. Be certain to keep your gaze straight ahead rather than dropping the head backward. After 3 counts, give your glutes an extra squeeze and spring back up to your starting position to begin again. 

Repeat 3 - 5 Repetitions to complete 1 full set.

Timing  - Controlled and smooth. At your lowest point hold the move for 3 full counts.

Focus -  This move is less about the back and forth than it is about maintaining optimal length from knee to head. If you let your tail drop down and sit towards your heels you will forfeit all the thigh strengthening.  Keep your hips up no matter what.

Form  -  Hold your torso in one long line from top to bottom. Imagine yourself from all angles, there are no curves. 

Tips and Tricks - For delicate knees or those who feel tightness in the knee when attempting this exercise, simply pull the feet towards the midline creating a triangle with the knees apart and feet together. As you gain strength and range you can attempt to open the legs into parallel.

Want a bigger challenge? Go for a longer hold time.  Build your stamina by holding upwards of 3 counts. Try 5 counts at the bottom of the exercise before returning to your start position.

The Thigh stretch is a mechanically simple move but a challenging one to do well. If you don't feel your thighs immediately, check your form and try again. A simple alignment fix should get you to the "burn" spot.

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