Pilates: We Only Have One Exercise

Pilates: We Only Have One Exercise

“We only have one exercise” is a phrase I initially heard from Jay Grimes.

Joe Pilates said if you can do only one exercise a day, it should be the Double Leg Pull.

I have written about it before (oh at least once) and declared the ‘one exercise' as Jay does to be the Double Leg Pull (also called Double Leg Stretch).

However, while we're on this we-only-have-one-exercise theme, it logically follows that every exercise can have value as a ‘touchstone' exercise.

What do I mean by a ‘touchstone' exercise'?

touchstone: a standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized.

touchstone exercise: (my definition)

  1. Any exercise where you find success in connecting to the center, potentially assisting you to understand a more challenging exercise where connection is elusive.
  2. An exercise that's reinvented itself for the better and proceeds to infiltrate your workouts. It introduces you to new moments in your old favorites – was that my butt? – and can often take you to a new more proficient plateau on your path.

Ok now that's exciting.

What exercise speaks to you in a new and exciting way? Maybe your hard-won exercise of yesterday is a crucial element of another exercise that continues to vex.

Pilates: We Only Have One Exercise

If an exercise speaks to you, use it!

Currently – because tomorrow it could all change! – my touchstone exercise is the Tower exercise done on the Guillotine – I try to hit it each time I am at Vintage Pilates on Mondays.

Pilates: We Only Have One Exercise

It's only the beginning of my exploration and potential love affair with the Tower exercise…

A guillotine! A guillotine! My kingdom for a guillotine!

For us crooked folk, we need the noisy journey of the bar to shake us up. “Something's not working so well” says the Guillotine… Which often sounds like a loud “WTF?!”

When we hear silence – well, it's flippin' magical. And quiet.

Guillotine: perfect feedback for working correctly and symmetrically…otherwise – ooh so noisy!

Thigh Stretch anyone?

The Tower exercise helps find my seat and length as I connect the lower body into the center. Very useful.

Another touchstone exercise I enjoy is the Thigh Stretch.

Pilates: We Only Have One Exercise

Thigh Stretch is an exercise, in my understanding, direct from Joe Pilates and fits neatly into the Pilates Mat sequence between Double Leg Kicks and the Neck Pull.

Despite its absence from Return to Life, Jay Grimes learned it from Joe.

The Reformer version is of course, also nice and equally good. But I quite like the Mat version as it's just you and the mat, babe.

Challenging exercises which also position you in the shape of the Thigh Stretch except in a horizontal orientation, (think Shoulder Bridge on the Mat and the Semi Circle on the Reformer) tempt me to get all pushy and clenchy with my hips and thighs.

That doesn't sound like length to me.

Awww…frownie face…

I take a little help from the Thigh Stretch on the Mat and use its vertical orientation to my advantage. Vertically I can find lift to carry over into those clench-y exercises, finding the low seat and *gasp* length!

Oh length, where have you been all my life?

Have an exercise that's become your secret weapon? Comment below and help a gal out 🙂

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  1. So great to meet you yesterday Andrea!! Another great post…..

    • Marie! Yes, it was a pleasure to meet you yesterday 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words about the blog. I am sorry I did not get a chance to say goodbye to you – I hope we can see each other again sometime soon. If you are ever in Solana Beach, please do let me know! All best to you and your business. xox

  2. My exercise of today (and, trust me, it changes daily) is Airplane on the Cadillac. It helps me to feel length in the back of my body and tells me, rather loudly, when I may need a little more connection. 🙂 I love when I\\\’m really connected and I feel like my body just floats up to the ceiling, all with the reward of quiet springs. Such a great feeling!

    • Kim,

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your comments. The Airplane is an amazing test of connection, I agree. Now I totally need to do this exercise today 🙂

  3. Andrea
    You always hit it on the head! My favorite sequence is semi circle, chest expansion, thigh stretch on reformer. Then really put that long front to the test with arm circles, shaving and bicep curls. Whew! I feel accomplished when it’s done.
    Thanks for your blog

    • Kathryn,

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your kind comments 🙂 The series you mention is a great one – I always use the Thigh Stretch to work the position of the low body in this series. Getting a long front is a challenge for me, and I agree it is a wonderful sense of accomplishment after this sequence…oh and then of course you cannot rest on your laurels for too long…and must do the Snake/Twist…grrrr…

  4. Thigh stretch remains a great challenge for me. Someday I will figure it out…But for now it’s the side kicks that give me the opportunity to use the strength of my seat to create the length that my back so needs. In the side kicks position my hips can find just the right placement in order for all the muscles to fire (the buns on my right side are all too ready to take it easy). It took me years to figure that out and a fair amount of clenching in the process, so I’m quite committed to the regular practice of the side kicks series to get me back to normal health, just like Joe intended.

  5. Pull up on the Wunda Chair – that’s a whole body exercise. 🙂

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