DIGGING DEEPER - Get to Know Your Pilates Exercises: Jackknife


By Amanda Turner

For this month’s exercise, I wanted to tackle one of my favorite advanced Mat exercises - Jackknife. I love Jackknife because it not only engages the powerhouse (the abs, glutes, and inner thighs) but also the back of your arms (formally called the triceps). In my opinion, this is the perfect exercise in prep for swimsuit season! It’s nice to take this exercise at a controlled pace at first to build strength and really feel the engagement of each muscle but it’s important to remember that you don’t want to spend a long amount of time on the upper vertebrae because they’re smaller in size and not designed to sustain the majority of your body weight for long periods of time. Taught by Joe himself, Jay Grimes, suggests to take the same amount of time rolling down through the exercise as you do getting into it, so it’s fairly quick - but again, controlled.

How to execute:

1.) Lie on your back, arms pressing into the Mat engaging the back of the arm, knees bent into the chest, send your legs out to 45 degrees (for those just learning the exercise) OR after Spine Twist, roll your spine back to the Mat, press your arms into the Mat, and float your legs up to 45 degrees (if you’re familiar with the exercise).

2.) Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips high into the air allowing your legs to lower to the height of parallel to the floor.

3.) Squeeze your inner thighs and pike the legs high into the air (think about having your toes in line with your eyes).

4.) Use your abs to roll your spine back to the Mat. Using your glutes and inner thighs, keep the legs high (do not let the legs drop toward the face). When first learning the exercise, keep the legs at 90 degrees after rolling the hips back to the Mat. As you advance this exercise you may lower the legs to a height of the legs that is similar to what you use in the Hundred between each rep. Five reps total. 

Exercises that will improve your Jackknife:
~Corkscrew with Hip Lift (Intermediate level)
~Single Leg Circles (Beginning level)
~Open Leg Rocker (Intermediate level)
~Rolling Like a Ball (Beginning level)
~Short Spinal Massage on the Reformer (Intermediate level)
~Long Spinal Massage on the Reformer (Intermediate level)
~Leg Circles and Frog on the Reformer (Beginning level)