Tutorial #3046

Chest Lift Position

10 min - Tutorial


Learn how to perform forward flexion without compression with this tutorial by Maria Leone. She looks at the positioning of the head and shoulders during common Pilates movements so that we can bend forward while being elongated. She starts by demonstrating flexion while standing and then moves on to the Mat and Reformer to show this concept in different exercises.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box

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May 08, 2017
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Hi everybody. I'm Maria Leoni and I want to take a moment with you today to discuss the positioning of the head and the shoulders during a lot of our Palladio's exercises. It's an integral part of what we do and it's very important that we perform forward bending or flection exercises with length and without compression. So take a look at me from the side and are folding or are bending. We want to happen very often here in the thoracic spine. Okay, so the motion, we'd like to originate from the spine and not hear from the head.

That would be a movement from the head. Oftentimes clients move their head and shoulders together and you can see that this position has the feeling of being round. It has the feeling of bending forward, but in fact, all we've done is taken the head and dropped it and allowed the shoulders to droop forward. This is not a position we want to encourage our clients to be in when they're standing. We want our clients to be elongated, so how do we bend forward and teach our clients elongation? At the same time, we constantly want to feel that imaginary string pulling us from the crown of the head. And when lifting into the flex position, the action comes from the spine. The rib cage is going to close, the ribs are going to press back. The head on the shoulders will fold forward, but there's going to be an openness through the chest and the shoulder blades. Although they're coming wide, they are not going to roll forward onto the front side of the body.

The shoulder blades are going to still stay in their home, in the back side of the body. So there's this very clean action that's going to happen here, right under the Bra line, right? So notice I can tick top forward and back without having any motion of the hips without any having any tucking here and without overly taking my head down or the shoulder blades forward. So this, take a moment and look at these things on the reformer. So that's fine. This forward flexed position here on the mat and on the reformer, I'm going to have her take her hands to the ceiling. Hands, just hands straight up to begin with.

And from here we're going to curl her head and shoulders up off the mat. So head and shoulders up off the mat, gea right and lower back down. So head and shoulders off the mat. Kinda worked pretty well for Jia right there for, for many people, they're gonna just move their head and just move their shoulders. So I find it's better to say to lift the chest off the mat.

So from here she's going to nod her chin and on an exhale she's gonna curl her chest up off the mat. So there's an end position here, right? So the bottom of her shoulder blades are going to stay on the mat. Her belly button is going to stay down, really hollowing out into the lower belly, her pelvis, she's a little tucked here is gonna stay neutral. And you can go ahead and place your thumbs right into the crease of your hip and find that your pelvis and your thigh bones are really coming from two different directions. Go ahead and lower down. So this is the position that you would use in your entire series of five on the mat work that's looked at that one more time. She's going to inhale for nothing.

And on an exhale, moving here from the rib cage, pressing the ribs down, lengthening the arms out, opening the shoulders, keeping the shoulder blades wide. And her head here for me is a little bit high. So I'm just going to go ahead and correct her head because I want there to be this feeling of length out from the back of her head to the back wall. So that's a really nice open position here. And you can see here, look how flat her abdominals are and lower down. So when you get to the reformer, we're going to pass through that same position. And this position, by the way, is called very different things.

Some people call it an ab curl, some people call it a chest lift, some people call it a bow, some people call it half of a hundred or a modified hundred. The concept is all the same that we're flexing forward, but without slouching, without compression and reinforcing good posture. I'm going to put her a machine on a heavy spring and a light spring. It feels a little bit different once we have tension on the arms, and that's the thing. We do this shape often throughout the workout from a laying down position to being on your hands and knees.

So it feels different when you change your relationship to gravity, but the form is always the same. So her legs come to tabletop, we're going to set her position, her abdominals are really going to draw down in an up and on an exhale she's going to Tuck her chin and then curl her chest up off the mat. Her hands are going to reach vigorously towards the edge of the carriage. She went ahead and she fixed her head. At first it came up a little bit high. So there's a sense of length here from the back of the head, the collarbones open and very clean. That bend right here, right under the bra line. So here, we're still want to promote length here in the lower back.

That's why we can lift into flection. If a client has a bad lower back because the pelvis is staying neutral and our lower back is not changing. Come on, come back down. Let's look at that one more time. Also here in the start position, I want to make sure she's neutral to begin with, right, so hipbones and pubic bone in the same plane. The other thing you want to take a look at is often to be neutral here. They'll allow the ribs to open up. See that?

So one thing that I do is in the start I'll take my hand and I'll just make sure that the client is snug here to the Mat, right? When we get to the lower back, there's going to be a little tiny bit of space unless for some reason you're choosing not to work. Like that belly button pulls in and op, she's going to move from here. She's going to exhale and lift herself up. So there's a feeling for gea that here, right, right underneath the Scapula, she's drawing in and pressing down. Beautifully Open. I'm going to move her head just a little bit. Nice long feeling of tractioning of the neck. Pelvis is neutral and lower down and two feet down.

So that's what the position looks like when we're stabilizing in that position. But we do this often in the articulated exercises as well. So let's look at that. Come on up. We're going to move into rollback. The box is coming into the long position and I'm gonna work with just one heavy spring. Okay?

She's going to have a seat at the edge of the box facing that way. So this would be the same for anything where you're rolling up and down off the mat. Your teaser, your roll back, even from the Mat, your roll up on the Mat as well. She's going to choke up on the ropes. She's seated right at the edge of the mat. She's gonna start her articulation from the base of her spine. She's going to begin peeling backwards, and now we're going into that same position right here where the collarbones are wide. The pelvis is neutral.

See that her head is in really nice alignment in conjunction with her thoracic spine. I'm going to take her further. Now she's going to go up and over the box. She's going to release her head. She's going to nod her chin and she's going to begin peeling up. So here's where that, that position comes in right here. Say she's passing through that position and then continuing to curl in and then peeling all the way up from the base of the spine. Tuck and peel back.

So what we see instead is this slouch position. Stay right here. This is what we want to avoid, right? The shoulders are coming forward, the head is down. See, this is not pretty right compressing. Nobody wants to build their body to have this big kind of hump shape in the upper back. Let's fix it. Jia Open the shoulder blades up. The breastbone comes up, the crown of the head. There's energy through the crown of the head, right? So much better.

She's going to peel down. She's going to put the base of the Scapula on the mat. She's going to go up and over. She's gonna nod her chin, and then she's going to lift from here. Notice the collarbones are open and she's on appeal right through that position and come all the way up nice and tall. Okay. Come on off of that. So we're going address this in one other shape. Thank you. G. Um, this is the trickiest shape because, um, when you're on the floor or you're on the box, you at least have the floor to kind of press the rib cage into and you have a sense of where you are in your body when you're standing or when you're on all fours. It's a little bit harder to find that shape.

We're gonna go into a forum playing on the machine, and we have the machine on one heavy spring. So come on over here from Egi. Jia has not done this with me before, so we'll see how we goes. She's going to come onto her forearms and just to get into the shape, she's going to put her right foot back onto the platform and she's going to push the carriage out. So I use this moment to kind of judge my distance as you wanna make sure the shoulders are right, excuse me, you want to make sure the elbows are right underneath the shoulders and she's going to step her foot back. And first just find plank, right? So she's absolutely not neutral. The shoulder blades are drawing down, the belly button is in, so I can see her spine now.

So we should see really cleanly here that the bend is going to happen right here. So she's going to do that Ab curl. She's in a tuck her chin and she's going to curl in and she's doing it pretty perfectly. There's a little lift here, a little tuck in the tail that I don't really want. She's going to go back neutral, back, neutral. And again, she's going to bend right here, sort of feels like you're doing an inchworm. The head will come down and you see that nice strong bend here at the thoracic spine. The lower spine is nice and long. The pelvis is neutral. She's going to go back to her perfect plank. She's going to do it incorrectly, cause most people are not gonna do it that beautifully.

They're going to lift their hips up right and come back to the plank. And again, instead of isolating here, they're going to move it, the hips and fold it the hip socket, and then come back to neutral. Take your knee out and bring the carriage back in and come on up. So that is your ab curl, bow or chest lift.

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Absolutely perfect, clear tutorial. Very helpful to me in correct positioning. Thanks!
thank you Maria for this vert clear tutoriel !
Thank you for your comments. The positioning of the the upper body is so important when you consider the body is naturally falling into a forward curve. We must be diligent in how we teach this position to clients. Good luck in your teaching.
Valya Karcher
Thank you Maria! I'm putting this into practice with my next class.
Thank you! very helpful to correct my student posturer during roll down .
3 people like this.
Please do more tutorials! I love your approach. Thanks!
This was so hopeful. I think I could have been an example of the "don't" position before watching this tutorial.
1 person likes this.
Thanks for your tutorial, Maria, and to Gia for being such a model student! Great cues, especially for correct head alignment. So many clients have forward head positions from work so it's challenging for them to achieve this, but so important to have that elongation.
1 person likes this.
There is a lot of controversy in some pilates circles these days about the flexion in the upper trunk throughout the pilates repertoire. I have no problem with it as long as it is taught well, without compression and is included in sessions that have equal parts extension, rotation, lateral flexion and stabilization.
1 person likes this.
this woman rocks....can't get enough of her! clear. precise. intelligent. powerful....
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