How to Do the Open Leg Rocker in Pilates
The Open Leg Rocker is a traditional Pilates mat exercise that requires dedication and patience to be performed correctly. It is only suitable for those students who can do the Open Leg Balance easily and comfortably. Depending on your level of strength and flexibility, the Open Leg Rocker can be a fun exercise! Rolling on your back stimulates and massages the spine. This move also improves balance, posture, and control of your abdominal muscles. Not only will it teach you how to breathe fully, but it will also teach you how to coordinate your breath with your movement to keep your motions flowing and seamless.
Do not perform this exercise if you have a neck or back injury. Instead, practice the Open Leg Balance. Also avoid this move if you cannot comfortably hold the Open Leg Balance with a straight spine and fully extended legs.
- Begin seated at the top of your mat. Bend your knees and bring them in toward your chest. Bend your elbows and hold onto your ankles. Extend your elbows outward and press your heels together.
- Pull your navel in toward your spine, strongly engaging your abdominal muscles. Press your weight evenly across both sit bones and sit up as tall as you can.
- Spread your knees slightly, and then lift your feet off the mat to balance between your sit bones and your tailbone.
- Extend and straighten your legs up toward the ceiling until your torso and legs form a “V.” Your arms should be straight. Point your toes and turn your legs slightly outward in the Pilates stance.
- Inhale as you draw your abdomen in deeply to help stabilize your body from its core. Lift and lengthen your lower abdominal muscles. Keep the front of your torso long and your spine straight. Do not let your lower back sag or your chest collapse. Keep your shoulders relaxed. This is the Open Leg Balance.
- On an exhalation, tuck your chin toward your chest, deeply scoop your abdominal muscles, and roll back onto your shoulders. Balance your weight evenly across the backs of both shoulders. Do not roll onto your neck or head.
- Pause for one count. Then inhale as you roll back to an upright position.
- Repeat six times. Then bend your knees, lower your feet to the floor, and return to your starting position.
Hot Tip: Don't Collapse
Avoid letting your shoulders, arms, lower back, or legs collapse during the movement. Focus on keeping your arms, spine, and legs straight and long throughout the entire move. The more you can focus on using the deep abdominal muscles, the more support your spine will have, and the more you'll be able to rock and roll in the fully extended position.
Modifications & Tips
The Open Leg Rocker will challenge your balance and control while building abdominal strength. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:
- Practice this move on a thickly padded surface, such as a Pilates mat, a stack of blankets, or 2-3 stacked yoga mats.
- Those with stiffer low backs or tight hamstrings can hold onto the backs of the thighs instead of the ankles.
- Focus on the midline of your body to prevent rolling unevenly.
- Use your abdominal muscles! Do not use momentum or force to "pull" or "throw" your legs up and overhead. Instead, deeply scoop your abs and lift your body from the center of your powerhouse to maintain precision and control throughout the move.
- Keep your chin tucked in toward your chest when rolling.
- Keep your toes pointed and the arches of your feet long.
- Roll in one continuous motion. Practice keeping your movement controlled and rhythmic.
- Keep your legs fully engaged.
- Do not roll onto your neck or head.
- Do not let your feet touch the ground behind your head.
- Synchronize your breath with your movements.
Roll with Control
The Open Leg Rocker is a classic move that massages and stretches your spine while deeply working your core. Remember to move with precision and control as you roll up and over, and then back down. With practice, your Open Leg Rocker will become fluid and smooth. You'll gain full-body coordination and grace while building flexibility and strength!