30 Days to a Perfect Pilates Teaser Exercise

The Pilates teaser exercise, which is part of the classical Pilates mat sequence, has been notorious for challenging people since Joseph Pilates first brought it to the United States in 1923. So don't feel alone if you find it difficult. Also, don't give up.

The teaser is an exercise that is still worth learning because it can help you develop better strength, flexibility, control, and balance. When done properly, a Pilates teaser can also help you create a flatter tummy. Here's how to achieve proper teaser form in your Pilates sequence within 30 days.

Break the Pilates Teaser Down

Young woman stretching
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When a specific Pilates exercise is difficult, it helps to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. In the teaser, for example, we can easily find parts of the chest lift, the hundred, the roll-up, and the double leg lift.

The next step is to work on these movements individually until you're able to do each of them with proper form. This will help you when you get ready to put them all together, resulting in the perfect Pilates teaser.

Once you have the teaser mastered, you're able to place this exercise into your regular Pilates workout schedule. Which individual movement should you work to perfect first?

Begin by Learning the One-Leg Teaser

Woman practising Pilates mat exercise, side view
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Modifying the teaser by keeping one knee bent and your foot flat on the ground (called a one leg teaser) is a good way to begin to learn proper form.

Making this one small change also allows you to increase your strength and muscular endurance as you work to build up to a full teaser.

Next, Practice the Chest Lift

Chest lift/ab scoop

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The chest lift is a good exercise to practice next because it can give you the upper ab strength you need to do a proper teaser.

It also helps support proper spinal alignment—generally referred to as having a neutral spine—and breath, both at the start of the movement and during the roll down.

Then Practice the Pilates Hundred

The Hundred

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The full teaser exercise starts lying down, just as the hundred does. In fact, you go through the Pilates hundred position on your way to a full teaser. It's just that the teaser keeps scooping and rolling up.

Practicing the hundred helps you master this portion of the teaser. It also helps you build the strength needed to go through this movement more smoothly and with greater ease.

If you find the hundred difficult, you can modify this exercise until you are strong enough to do it in full. One option is to bend your knees and do table-top legs.

Practice the Roll Up Too

Roll Up

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Some people feel that the roll up is more difficult than the teaser, but there is still a benefit to practicing this Pilates exercise. Because it has the same kind of upper body spinal movement as the teaser, it can make it easier to master this portion of the movement.

Doing the roll up can also help you practice proper form. It reminds you to keep your shoulders down and your shoulder blades settled in your back as you come back up.

One of the challenges people sometimes face when doing the roll up is that their feet fly up. If you have noticed this yourself, try doing a wall roll down. This can help you learn the movement while keeping your feet in the same place.

You can also practice a pre-roll up exercise such as the supported roll back. This will help you develop the skills needed to do both a full roll up and the Pilates teaser.

Finally, Practice the Double Leg Lift

Double Straight Leg Lower/Lift

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Practicing the double leg lower lift goes a long way in helping you develop endurance in your upper abs. It also helps you build the lower ab strength you need to scoop your legs up in the teaser.

One of the keys to mastering this exercise is to not pull up on your head while lifting your legs. If you find that you're doing this, try doing this movement with your head flat on the ground at first. You can put your hands behind your neck once you feel ready to progress.

Putting the Full Teaser Together

woman almost in teaser
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Before you put all of the individual Pilates exercises together and move into a full teaser, consider what a full teaser entails. This includes:

  • A coordination between body and breath
  • Keeping the flow smooth and controlled
  • Rolling up and down in a balanced way

You can simplify the teaser (and many other Pilates exercises) by thinking of moving from center and along the midline of the body. In this way, the Pilates teaser looks similar to the yoga boat pose, even though it is a bit different.

Full Teaser Instructions

Side view of woman doing stretching exercise
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Now you are ready to put the full teaser together. Begin by lying down with your arms along your sides.

I find the scoop easier to start lying down, but you may prefer the sitting version. In his book "Return to Life Through Contrology," Joseph Pilates refers to this as beginning sitting. Some find sitting slightly more difficult, so it might be your next step.

  1. Extend your legs to a 45-degree angle. You can also start with your legs outstretched if you want a more advanced version.
  2. Inhale.
  3. Exhale, lengthen your spine to nod your head slightly, and begin scooping your abdominal muscles in and up so that your upper body starts to roll off the mat. Simultaneously, your arms come up to parallel your legs. Your fingertips reach past your toes while keeping your shoulders down. (This is a scooping move. The energy moves up the front and down the back with a feeling of support along the backs of your legs.)
  4. Inhale as you come to the top and open your chest, lifting your head slightly to express the length of your spine.
  5. Exhale to roll down. Start from the low abs and use control, rolling down sequentially along the spine. Keep your legs together and think of rolling down your midline.
  6. Repeat three times.

At this point, you are ready to continue through your Pilates sequence. Generally, the teaser is preceded by the side kick and followed by the hip twist.

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3 Sources
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