In One Leg Stretch we use the abdominal muscles isometrically to maintain spinal flexion while one leg is held stretched out straight and off the mat and the other is pulled towards the chest. For best execution, be sure to check the previous exercises in this program before attempting this.
The series so far:
- Exercise #1: Leg Circle
- Exercise #2: Roll-Up
- Exercise #3: Hundred
- Exercise #4: One Leg Stretch (you are here)
- Exercise #5: Stretching the Hamstring
- Exercise #6: Double Leg Stretch
- Exercise #7: Crisscross
- Final Exercise: Teaser
Exercise 4 – One Leg Stretch
Initial position. Lie on your back with the head and shoulder blades off the mat in chest lift position and one knee pulled towards your chest. With the hand on the side of the bent knee hold the shin just above the ankle. Bent the other arm and place the hand on the knee. The straight leg is placed at a height at which the lower back can maintain contact with the mat. Keep both feet gently pointed:
- Inhale and begin to bend the outstretched leg and straighten the bent leg;
- Exhale and complete the leg switch, using an exhale as the leg fully straightens and the hands switch to the other knee as shown in the illustration. Just like before, the hand on the side of the bent knee grasps the shin above the ankle, and the other hand holds the knee that is pulled into the chest. Repeat the sequence 5 times on each leg for a total of 10 times, concluding each switch of the legs with an exhale.
Make Sure You:
- In the starting position, firmly pull the abdominals toward the spine. Maintain solid contact of the lower back and pelvis with the mat as you use the hip flexors and extensors to switch the legs in phases 2 and 3;
- It’s important to try to constantly lift the upper trunk upwards and forward off the mat with a firm contraction of the abdominals. It should stay lifted at a constant height instead of dropping down as you switch the legs;
- Next, with the strengthened leg, reach out in space and keep the leg off the mat. The knee extensors (that straighten the knee) and ankle flexors (that point the foot) help to create the desired straight line;
- Keep the shoulder blades in a neutral position and prevent them from lifting, while the shoulder flexors work to keep the arms from dropping toward the mat when the arms switch to the opposite leg. Use the elbow flexors on both arms to help pull the knee close to your chest. Then keep the knee stationary as your hands press down on the lower leg, and bring the elbows down toward the mat so that the shoulder extensors assist with keeping the torso lifted off the mat;
- Mental image: visualize your legs moving precisely like pistons while the engine, the powerhouse of your body, remains completely stationary.
One Leg Stretch is a valuable stability exercise that emphasizes the abdominals muscles. They perform a variety of roles: keeping the trunk lifted, maintaining contact between the lower back and the mat, and keeping the abdominal wall pulled in. This abdominal action is essential to maintain pelvic and spinal stability, which the vigorous movement of the legs can easily compromise.
The One Leg Stretch can also be performed without bringing the knee into the chest. In this case, the thigh of the bent leg barely passes beyond the vertical line. Both hands are on that knee and the lower part of the bent leg is kept parallel to the mat. This alternative position can be used to emphasize curling up the trunk higher to create a greater load on the abdominal muscles.