Targets: Abdominal and back muscles; glutes
One leg teaser is a classic Pilates mat exercise that really shows you whether you are working your abs in a symmetrical way. It requires coordination and balance and will quickly help you develop core strength.
Teaser is hard, but so worth it. It helps firm up your abs and, more importantly, is a great core strength builder.
Look for teaser to challenge your balance and symmetry. The muscles worked include the abs, the back muscles, and the gluteus maximus of the buttocks. One leg teaser also stretches the hips and hamstrings, and it helps you prepare for full Pilates teaser. Working on teaser helps you build a strong spine and better posture, which will be valuable for all your daily activities.
Keep in mind that teaser is meant to be performed smoothly, with control. Review your Pilates principles so you understand the importance of smooth movement.
To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Arms are by your sides, palms up, and your spine is neutral. Take a moment to breathe, open your chest, let your back ribs drop, and relax your shoulders. Your legs are parallel: Make sure hips, knees, ankles, and feet line up.
- Extend one leg, keeping the knees at the same height.
- Bring your arms in an arc overhead, as you would in arms over; leave your ribcage down.
- Inhale and bring your arms overhead as you nod your chin toward your chest and begin to roll your upper back off the mat. Keep your shoulders down and your scapula engaged in your back. This part is similar to roll up.
- Continue the move as you come up and reach for your toes. This is a powerful moment where you have to just go for it. When you come up, your lower back is in a slight C-curve and your chest is lifted and open.
- Pause here. Then exhale. Now roll down, beginning with the lower abs. Use abdominal control as you sequentially allow the spine to drop each vertebra down to the mat. As you roll the upper spine down, the arms will travel back overhead. Keep your shoulders down and don’t allow the ribs to pop up.
- Rest, breathe, and repeat 4 to 6 times, changing the extended leg. As your strength increases you can go for a flowing, non-stop rhythm of curl up, roll down.
As with all Pilates exercises, control is essential. Keep breathing and pay attention to your form.
Relying on Momentum
As you roll up (step 4), use your abs and breath, not momentum. Think of energy shooting out the extended leg, away from the deepening inward pull of the abdominals. Don’t try to pull yourself forward with your shoulders or throw your arms. Avoid jerking your body up and down. Instead, move gracefully, smoothly, and with your breath.
Poor Position of the Spine
Keep your lower back very gently curved (in a neutral position). Be sure to engage your abdominal muscles to support your back.
Hunching or Rounded Shoulders
As you roll up and down, keep your chest and shoulders open and broad, and make sure your shoulders are down and away from your ears.
Modifications and Variations
One leg teaser is the first step toward the full teaser, but it is still challenging in its own right.
Need a Modification?
If you have lower back problems, hold on to your thighs with your arms instead of raising the arms up. You can also limit the distance of your roll up and down.
Up for a Challenge?
Next, try the full version of Pilates teaser. It is part of the classical Pilates mat sequence and is known for being difficult. Variations include starting from a seated position instead of lying down. In the lying down position, you can move from knees bent and feet on the floor to shins lifted in a tabletop position before moving on to having the legs fully extended.
Safety and Precautions
Always use your abdominal muscles to support your back, and stop if you feel pain in your back or neck. If you have a back injury or condition, this exercise may not be right for you; discuss it with a doctor or physical therapist.
Work at your own pace and don’t rush on to more challenging exercises until you are ready. It is usually helpful to take classes with a Pilates instructor to make sure you are using good form.