Build a Super Hero Suit with Criss Cross

pilates criss cross (2)I love exercises where you can tell right away that you’re doing your body good. Simple Criss-Cross is one of my favorites because it works your intercostals, the muscles in between each of your ribs.

These muscles can:

Draw your rib cage inward, giving you a “V” shape, like you’re wearing a Super Hero suit. I’ve seen people lose 4 inches around their rib cage with this exercise alone.

Assist you in standing more upright – aka less slouchy — which makes everyone look and feel better.

Increase your breathing efficiency with better oxygen transfer. That makes runners faster, singers stronger and swimmers more efficient.

pilates criss cross (3)


Begin in Supine/Knees Bent position: lie on your back with your knees comfortably bent, feet flat on the floor.  Line up your hip bones, knees and feet.  Allow your low back to curve naturally. In other words, don’t push your back to the floor.

Set-up your 2-way reach by squeezing a ball between your knees and pressing your feet down on your mat.

Cradle your head in your hands; elbows wide.

  1. Inhale to prepare for the movement.
  2. Exhale as you peel your left shoulder blade off your mat, keeping your elbows wide. Your goal is to twist so far that you can peek at your opposite elbow. Keep your lower body still; rotate your rib cage.
  3. Inhale as you come back to your start position. Pretend that someone is holding you up and you need to work hard to roll down onto the mat.  Put as much effort into this movement as you did into your first.
  4. Exhale as you peel your right shoulder blade off your mat, keeping your elbows wide.  Inhale on the way back down.
  5. Repeat twisting from side to side for 2 minutes. Don’t want to use a timer? 20 slow twists to each side is perfect.


During your rotation, get all the air out, even if it means you’re holding the position longer. Draw your ribs in, as if you’re about to zip up your superhero suit and you aren’t sure it’s going to close.

Keep squeeeezing that ball and pressing your feet down as you twist your upper body. The devil is in the details —- creating two-way reach will turn on all of the muscles in your Pilates Powerhouse, the muscles that make up your torso. (hey, if we’re going to do this, let’s get as much out of it as possible, right?!)


Repeat after me: Momentum Steals your Results.  Move slowly and deliberately, even when it seems like you’ve already completed the work phase of a movement.  When you make every movement deliberate, you boost the effects of your exercise. Think of it this way: if your goal is to train your muscles to hold you in an hour-glass shape, slow makes sense.  If your goal is to be to reach out and grab something quickly, then feel free to move quickly. In my opinion, 10 slow, precise criss-cross repetitions are always better than 50 quick, sloppy repetitions.


Your hands are behind your head to support the weight of your noggin. Don’t go crazy and yank on your neck — that will create a cranky neck. Moderate your exuberance, use enough effort to support your head without annoying your neck.

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