DIGGING DEEPER – Get to Know Your Pilates Exercises: Stomach Massage Series

Stomach Massage Series

By Amanda Turner

Hi, Everyone! Happy August – the Summer seems to be flying by, I hope your spirits are high! This month I wanted to highlight the Stomach Massage Series on the Mat. Also known as the series of 5, this series contains 5 exercises each of which you’ll be performing 5 sets or 5 reps. The first two (Single Leg Stretch and Double Leg Stretch) are considered Beginning Level and the final three (Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch, and Criss Cross) are considered Intermediate exercises. You’ll learn these 5 exercises fairly early in your Pilates experience, and they are the foundation for so many exercises to come.
Need a few examples? Single Leg Stretch – transition that to the Electric Chair and you’ll find Going Up Front to be the same position of the body, just a different orientation to gravity. Double Leg Stretch – Add straps and you’ll progress to Backstroke on the Reformer. Single Straight Leg Stretch will progress to your Side Kick Series. Double Straight Leg Stretch – extend the arms forward, transition to the Reformer and you have Elephant, same position just a different orientation to gravity – you’ll also learn Elephant first so think of using Double Straight Leg Stretch to strengthen Elephant. Criss Cross – will progress to Saw which then progresses to Spine Twist. Isn’t it fun to trace back the more challenging exercises to their roots?!
Moving on to the How Tos:

Single Leg Stretch:

1.) Start by bending both knees into your chest, curling chin to chest. Take your right hand to the outside of your right ankle, left hand to the inside of your right knee. Using both hands to stretch the right knee into your chest, send the left leg out to straight at the height of your Hundred. 
2.) Switch legs taking your left hand to the outside of your left ankle and right hand to your left knee. *Think outside hand to the ankle to help combat the brain confusion of arms, legs, hands, ankles 😉 One leg at a time, SINGLE Leg Stretch. Repeat for 10 reps/5 sets total.
Double Leg Stretch:
1.) Hug both knees into your chest, chin to chest, hands to your shins to gently pull the knees in.
2.) Extend both legs out to the height of your Hundred. Arms reach up to the ceiling, bicep (upper arm) in line with your ears. Circle the arms to the hips and then hug your knees into your chest. Keep the legs squeezing tightly. *Both legs at the same time, DOUBLE Leg Stretch. Repeat for 5 reps total.
Single Straight Leg Stretch:
1.) Curling chin to chest, straighten both legs up to the ceiling.
2.) Reach both hands to the right leg, pull it toward you – and then pull an inch farther. That’s the pull you’ll commonly hear me cue. The left leg will reach to the height of your Hundred. Switch sides *One Leg at a time, SINGLE, that leg is straight, STRAIGHT leg stretch. Repeat for 10 reps/5 sets total.
Double Straight Leg Stretch:
1.) Hand over hand (never interlace the fingers – Joe believed this disrupted blood circulation), hands behind the head. Legs straight up to the ceiling and turned out.
2.) Lower the legs to the height of your Hundred and then return. It’s easy to find yourself using momentum in this one, so be mindful to not let the hips rock off the Mat when you’re returning the legs to the ceiling and really use your scoop to control how much you lower the legs. *Both legs together, DOUBLE, legs are straight, STRAIGHT leg stretch. Repeat for 5 reps total.
Criss Cross:
1.) Hands remain behind the head, bend your knees into your chest.
2.) Twist your right elbow past the left knee crossing over the body, turning your head to look back at the back elbow. Right leg will extend to the height of your Hundred. Switch sides. Be mindful as you switch to not lower the head, neck, and shoulders, staying curled up to the tips of the shoulder blades, also keeping the elbows wide. Repeat for 10 reps/5 sets total.
I challenge you to do this series of 5, 5 times a week for the month of August. Start with the Hundred, then Roll Up, Single Leg Circles, Rolling Like a Ball, the Stomach Massage Series, and finish with Spine Stretch Forward to reward your hard work! It sounds like a lot but I promise it will take you less than 5 minutes. Note of importance – only do those out of the Series of 5 that you’ve been taught to do in the studio. If you haven’t learned all 5 that’s okay – you’ll be amazed at how quickly your strength, endurance, and flexibility increase!