The Pilates Jackknife Exercise–When Roll Over Just Isn’t Enough

jack knifeAt first glance, Jack knife resembles Roll over. In fact, you begin the exercise just as you would Roll over. However, once you’ve rolled over, there is added choreography to increase the challenge to your abdominal muscles. This relationship between Jack knife and Roll over reminds me of the relationship between Neck pull and Roll up. It’s like Joseph Pilates was saying, Hey, if you ever think that Roll over is too easy, try Jack knife.

Jack Knife

As with Roll over, you can use an Arc barrel to help make this exercise easier. By using an Arc barrel, you reduce the amount of lift your abdominals have to achieve because your hips start in a raised position. The reduced range of motion helps prevent muscle overuse or injury.

If you don’t happen to have an Arc barrel, feel free to use your hands to help lift your pelvis up, hold it in place, and keep a nice distance between your ribs and hips.

  1. Use traditional Pilates breathing.
  2. Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. Broaden your collarbones, and let your arms reach straight by your sides.
  3. Exhale to go into Imprint.
  4. Inhale and lift one leg to table top, then the other. Make sure your feet are pointed. They should stay pointed throughout.
  5. Feel your adductors work and connect your inner thighs to each other as you exhale and reach your legs on a low angle while you maintain Imprint.
  6. Inhale to start bringing your legs up toward the ceiling.
  7. Exhale, tilt deeper into Imprint, and roll one vertebra at a time off the mat as your legs go overhead.
  8. Inhale, and keep your legs together as you hinge from the hips to reach your feet toward the ceiling. Your pelvis should not move as you do this.
  9. Exhale and roll down one vertebrae at a time, challenging yourself to keep your legs extended as you move. The tendency will be for your legs to hinge back toward you as you roll down. Resist this urge. At the end of your exhale, your spine should be connected to the mat, and your legs should be on an angle.
  10. Repeat steps 6-9 for 3-5 more reps.

Jack Knife Video

Here is a video for visual learners. Videos can be particularly helpful to teach some of the more involved Pilates exercises. Since this one involves some choreography, you may want to watch the video first.

Which exercise do you prefer–Jack knife or Roll over? Let us know in the comments.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.