Each month I do exclusive video classes for my Patreon supporters and this month the 30 minute video is core/balance. It got me thinking about the pilates table top movement and common mistakes I see. So I decided to turn mythbuster and share a breakdown of the Yogalates single leg table top ab exercise here on the blog.
Table top in itself isn’t a huge issue but there are 3 common mistakes I see in this single leg drop movement. Maybe mistake is too harsh a term. Let’s call them “non-optimal experiences”. Or maybe even things you should just bring your focus to during the movement. You can learn all about them in the video below.
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How to do single leg table top ab exercise
When we look at this exercise it looks super simple, but there is a lot happening “under the covers”. And, there is a lot of potential to cheat! This exercise starts in “table top”. Begin by laying on your back. The knees are up over the hips. Shins are parallel to the floor.
From this starting position we contract the through the core. From the right hip, lower the right thigh away from the chest, and towards the front of your mat. The foot may touch the floor. Then lift the leg back to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg, and that it one repetition.
Mistake #1 – moving from the knee
One of the biggest mistakes I see when people do this single leg table top ab exercise is that they move at the knee rather than the hip. This provides ZERO work for the abdominals. I demonstrate this error in the image below.
You can see here that the angle of the knee joint changes, and my foot is coming close to my butt. This is incorrect. See the difference in the two examples below.
In order to provide stabilization load to the abdominal muscles my thigh bone needs to move away from my chest, and the foot needs to come towards the front of my mat.
Mistake #2 Knees come in towards the chest
The second key mistake I see in the single leg table top ab exercise is that the knees and thighs come too close to the chest. This is in fact a modification for those with little core strength.
If this is the reason you’re doing this variation then have at it. But, if you are wanting to get the core stronger, the static knee needs to be ABOVE the hips. As show below.
Again, it’s not “wrong”, it’s a modification. For more resistance to the core muscles keeping the non-moving leg stacked over the hip gives more challenge. Don’t believe me? Try it!
Mistake #3 Back arches A LOT away from the floor
From class members, one of the biggest comments is always something along the lines of “Should my back be arching away from the floor?”. The answer is… not really. In this exercise we want to use the abdominals to stabilize the torso. If you have weak abdominals lowering one leg can be quite the challenge and the abdominals give up, the lower back lifts, and the ribs pop up away from the floor. You can see in the image below my lower ribs are popped up, and there is a big gap between my lower back and the floor.
The fix for this is to limit your range of movement. Perform the movement and figure out the range of movement where you torso and pelvis remain static, as soon as they shift you’ve lost the stablization. And consequently, the strength.
Use the assistance of a yoga block, or something. Place it where your feet would touch the floor and just tap the object instead. This can be a great way to increase your core strength incrementally. Lowering the height of the object. NOTE: This is a great option for working towards double leg lowers!
Bonus: Excessive movement of upper body
The body is an integrated machine. Quite often if we don’t compensate in the lower half then we begin to do funky things with our upper half. Compensation will travel somewhere. One thing I often see is people’s shoulders moving. What I would call a little ‘shoulder pump’. Due to the load of the lower half, the lower back stays down but the shoulders squeeze into the chest.
If you notice this movement of the upper body, then reset. Perform the single leg table top ab exercise WITHOUT moving the upper body and notice where the compensation travels. Is it that you’re trying to do a variation that’s too challenging? Do you need to regress? Perhaps reduce the range of motion? Compensation travels somewhere. UNTIL we become strong enough, and progress over time.
I know it’s a struggle right now to get to the gym, classes or your usual source for health and wellness information, so I hope these tips were useful. Let me know in the comments what other content you’d like to see. Movements or poses you’d like me to discuss.
- Have you done this ab exercise before?
- What core exercise is your favorite?
- Do you have any “problem exercises” you struggle with?