How to Do the Neck Pull in Pilates
The Neck Pull is a classic Pilates mat exercise for intermediate and advanced practitioners. Despite the name, it is an abdominal exercise, not a neck-pulling one! The Neck Pull stretches the hamstrings and strengthens the back and spine. Most importantly, however, the Neck Pull tones the powerhouse — the core muscles that help support your back and give you a flat belly. This exercise demands coordination and control. It will help you build beautiful posture and a strong and healthy spine. Only practice the Neck Pull if you can comfortably perform the Roll Up.
- Begin lying on the floor with your legs straight. Keep your feet about hip-width apart and flex your feet. Clasp your hands behind your head with your fingers interlaced and your elbows reaching out to the sides. Press your heels firmly into the mat.
- Press your navel in toward your spine and imprint your back.
- On an inhalation, squeeze your buttocks, tuck your chin to your chest, and begin to curl your upper body forward and off the floor. Your body will form a rounded "C" shape. To keep your torso in this “C" shape, lift with your chest first; then curl your ribs over your belly; and finally bring your belly over your hips. Keep your elbows wide.
- On an exhalation, round your spine over your legs as if you're taking a bow. Let there be a gentle stretch in the back of your neck.
- Now inhale and lift your torso into an upright seated position, lengthening your spine up toward the ceiling.
- Then exhale as you squeeze your glutes and tuck your tailbone. Pull your navel deeply in toward your spine and begin to unroll, one vertebra at a time. Roll all the way down and lower your shoulders and head to the mat.
- Repeat up to five times.
Hot Tip: Don't Pull Your Neck
Even though it might sound like the right thing to do, do not pull your neck or head to lift your upper body off the floor! Doing so can strain your neck muscles. Instead, use the muscles of your powerhouse. Strongly pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and engage your pelvic floor. This will help you roll up with control and a supported neck.
Modifications & Tips
When performed correctly, the Neck Pull will build strength and control throughout your core. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:
- Only practice this exercise if you can comfortably do the Roll Up with control and precision.
- Do not curl or tuck your upper body excessively. Keep a rounded "C" shape as you roll up and forward.
- Keep your legs motionless throughout the exercise.
- If it's difficult to keep your legs straight, bend your knees and keep them bent throughout the exercise. For more support, place a bolster or rolled-up mat beneath your thighs.
- Keep your pelvis stabilized in a neutral position throughout the move. Don't let your pelvis tilt to the sides or lift as you draw your torso upward.
- Work toward doing the Neck Pull in one continuous motion. Practice keeping your movement controlled and rhythmic.
- Keep your glutes and legs fully engaged.
- Scoop your abdomen as you reach forward.
- Keep your arm muscles firm, but do not use your shoulders to pull yourself up.
- Keep your elbows wide throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely, releasing all of the air from your abdomen.
- Synchronize your breath with your movement.
Advance Your Strength
The Neck Pull is a very challenging move that requires a lot of strength, coordination, and control to be performed correctly. Remember to keep your movement rhythmic and precise as you perform the exercise, and take rest breaks between rounds if you need to. With practice, your Neck Pull will become fluid and smooth. You'll add grace and poise to your movement, in addition to building strength and flexibility!