“Why do we do this?” “What should I be feeling?” These are the top two questions that surround Single Leg Kick on the Mat. And, when I was a new teacher years ago I used to wonder it, too. I mean, its not as juicy as Swan or as “stretchy” or complicated as Double Leg Kick. And so began a journey into the the “Why” and “What” behind the Single Leg Kick.
Before we can fall in love with the exercise, it’s important to know exactly which one we are discussing. Single Leg Kick on the Mat comes after Swan, the first extension we get in the Classical order and before Double Leg Kick. It’s part of a series of extension exercises and is easily overlooked or misunderstood. Why? Because the choreography of it is pretty simple and distracting from what we should be focusing on- strengthening our back side.
The Single Leg Kick comes after the Swan in the traditional order. However, I often teach it before they learn the Swan Dive or even the Swan Prep. Holding yourself up in extension on your forearms without hanging out in your shoulders will lengthen and strengthen your Swan Dive extension. And, the kicks aka hamstring curls, allow for your legs to reach out and up to double down on the strength of Swan and prepare you for the upcoming exercises like Double Leg Kick, Swimming, Leg Pulls and of course a strong Push Up. Yeah, all that and more from this one exercise.
Let’s dive into how you can step up your Single Leg Kick now that I’ve got you thinking it could be the missing piece to your Pilates Mat work. First, notice what’s holding you up in your extension. Is it your shoulders, your joints? Or, are you using your forearms to help you find the length and height of extension your Swan dreams of?
Next, how’s that lower back curve? Ya need one, but it doesn’t need to win any awards here. Find length and for me that means it feels like I am reaching my tailbone to my heels and pressing my pubic bone to the mat, while lifting my low abs up! I know that many want the hip points down but for a long time I had to lift those bones up because otherwise I would just kick my legs and the movement would simply bounce my lower back.
Your kicks need to come from the hamstrings so that they open the front of the leg. You may even need to rotate your thighs up to get connected to them. But, the more important thing to notice is what is happening with your femur when you kick. If when you kick your femur “drops” then you’ll def be someone who wonders why we do this exercise or where you should be feeling this. So, notice where your femurs are in space when you set up. Then when you kick maintain them in that spot. The easiest way to describe this is if your knee is off the mat when your leg is straight it doesn’t get to touch the mat when you kick. You can see what I mean in this video.
Putting all these tips together what you should feel is that the Single Leg Kick is pretty hard to do more than 3 sets of if you’re doing it with your whole body. And, overtime it should really help your future Swans lift and rock, while also allowing you to be connected and ready to get the most out of the Double Leg Kick.
Give these a try and let me know how they feel when you put them together in your next Mat workout.