I am sure that you have seen or done an oblique twist lying on your back. But are you doing it correctly in order to get its full benefits? Toning the Oblique muscles (Internal and External) is a great way to whittle the waist, but if done without proper form can hurt the back, neck, shoulders, and also be pretty useless. There are many variations to an Oblique Twist; here I will just focus on the basic form.
- Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor hip width apart and knees bent. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position (Flat on top and slight space under the low spine).
- Place your arms flat on the floor by your sides to ensure that you have a proper shoulder connection when you come up into your chest lift position. Draw the shoulders together and keep the front of the ribcage down.
- Keeping your neck in line with your torso, slowly curl your head, neck and chest up, to the bottoms of your shoulder blades. Be sure to keep the bottom of your rear ribcage on the floor and pelvis neutral.
- Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers. Lacing the fingers together is important. I tell my clients to imagine their hands creating a cradle or basket to support the weight of the head. Create length in your neck by pressing your head into your hands and hands into your head with gentle and equal force. Keep your chin down, gaze at your knees, elbows to the side and shoulders drawn together.
- Staying in your chest lift by pulling your abdominals back, slowly rotate your torso only towards one knee. I like to inhale when I twist, but some prefer to exhale. I say do whatever makes you feel the most connected to the muscle. The twist should happen only at the space between the ribs and hips. Think of the image of wringing out a sponge. The shoulders follow the rotation, but do not rotate independent of the torso. The hips should stay evenly weighted into the floor/mat and the knees do not move.
- Without leaning the torso backward, rotate to the other side.
Key points or landmarks to remember:
- Do not move your neck or shoulders separately from your waist. All three pieces rotate as one unit.
- Think of the image of the sponge as you twist.
- Your elbows do not move! This is the biggest mistake I see…people trying to get their elbow to touch the opposite knee. Instead, think of your bottom rib rotating towards the top of the opposite hip. This is also the place where you can injure yourself. Pulling your elbow toward your opposite knee will pull your shoulders and neck out of alignment and cause strain in those areas. Big no-no.
One of the principles of Pilates that Joseph Pilates established was precision. You see more results with a precise movement. So once you master the twist with the feet flat, you can progress to the feet off the floor and eventually bending and extending the legs…also known in the Pilates as Criss Cross.
Good luck and happy Twisting! — Jessica Kuiken
Jessica Kuiken is a Los Angeles based Certified Pilates Instructor