Analysis of Double Leg Kick Exercise

Double Kick uses spinal extensors to produce and maintain spinal hyperextension, while the abdominal muscles function as stabilizers to reduce potentially injurious forces borne by the lower back. It also offers a dynamic stretch for the knee extensors and shoulder flexor. Because the arms are not used for support and the back and legs are raised repetitively, the exercise provides the more effective stimulus for improving strength and endurance of the spinal extensors.

How to do the exercise

Start position. Begin by lying face-down on your mat with your legs extended behind you. Press your legs together and rest the tops of your feet on the mat. Reach your arms behind your back and bend your elbows out to the side, keeping your palms facing up. On an inhalation, lengthen your spine a bit more and point your toes to prepare for the exercise.

Exhale (Step 2). Gently bend both knees, bringing the heels toward the buttocks with a brick dynamic.

Inhale (Step 3). Raise the chest off the mat, straighten the elbows, and reach the hands back toward the feet as you straighten the knees and reach the heels back and up. Return to start position.

Key points

Throughout the exercise focus on pulling the lower abdominals up and in to limit the anterior tilt of the pelvis.

In the start position, use the hip extensors to lift the legs slightly off the mat and the ankle-foot plantar flexors to point the feet.

In step 2, keep the knees off the mat as the knees flexors gently bend the knees. Keep the ankles together and feet pointed, but allow the knees to separate slightly if needed. This will allow the natural inward motion of the lower leg that accompanies knee flexion to occur without producing undue stress on the knees.

After the knee extensors begin to straighten the legs in step 3, focus on using the hips adductors to pull the legs slightly together, and emphasize pointing the feet as the legs reach out in space to create a long line.

After the knee extensors in step 3, smoothly raise the chest off the mat, using the spinal extensors to arch the spine sequentially from top to bottom. Simultaneously use the scapula depressors to pull the scapula down slightly as the shoulder extensors raise the arms back and the elbow extensors straighten the elbow.

As you return to the start position, use an eccentric contraction of the spinal extensors to smoothly control the upper trunk as it lowers, and bend the elbows with the elbow flexors.

Imagine the trunk and legs are a bow, with the arms acting like the bowstring. Pulling the string (arms) back results in a greater arc of the bow without disrupting its integrity.

Remember to let your movements be fluid and smooth, not jerky or haphazard.

Main muscles engaged

Spinal extensors: erector spinae (spinalis, longissimus, iliocostalis), semispinalis, deep posterior spinal group
Hip extensors: gluteus maximum, hamstrings (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus)

Accompanied muscles engaged

Anterior spinal stabilizers: transversus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, rectus abdominis
Hip adductors: adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, gracilis
Knee flexor: hamstrings
Knee extensors: quadriceps femoris
Ankle-foot plantar flexor: gastrocnemius, soleus
Shoulder extensors: latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid
Scapular depressors: lower trapezius, serratus anterior
Elbow flexors: biceps brachii, brachialis
Elbow extensors: triceps brachii

Reference: ISport Pilates: How to do the Double Leg Kick in Pilates
http://pilates.isport.com/pilates-guides/how-to-do-the-double-leg-kick-in-pilates
“Pilates Anatomy”/Rael Isacowitz, Karen Clippenger (2011)

Anna