Thursday Tips: Cross Ankle Release

Nemesis Trick: Cross Ankle Release (CAR)
Also Known As: Layback, Layout, Recliner, Straight legged release

I’m going to be super honest and say that this trick took me a LONG LONG time to feel really secure and solid in, just because of the way that my legs and body are shaped– again, not every trick is right for every body, but there are a few things you can do to make the move feel more stable. Just a note: I give my students the riot act on this one: if you are not engaged and active through your legs the entire time, and conscious of what you are doing, then you CAN slip and fall out of it. There are some horribly sad tragic stories about people who HAVE fallen out of it, so know that this is NOT a beginner more and that you need to be careful each and every time you do it.

Your legs are holding you up, and on the pole, so you need to get as much tension and squeezing exerted on that pole as possible. One way to do this is to really turn your knees in towards each other, like in this picture:

So the whole time that I’m in the CAR, I’m actively turning in from the hip. Another is to make sure that you are SQUEEZING your butt as hard as you possibly can, which should push your hips forward… Below, you can see the GOOD version, with the hips pushed forward because the butt and quads are squeezing like you are juicing a lemon. And the bad, to the right, where the legs aren’t engaged. Do you see the difference?


The more that you push your hips forward, the easier it is to keep the pole between your thighs and prevent it from slipping to between your knees.

Here’s one way to get into the CAR: from an advanced plank, which is also called a superwoman. I like this entry into the CAR because you have an exit strategy right up until you get fully into the trick, so if your legs aren’t feeling that secure you can bail out of it safely. It also forces you to keep your hips pushed forward and squeeze through your legs and butt the entire time. You start from a sit on the pole, with the pole close to your crotch.

Cross your legs over one another, and squeeze them together towards the pole.

Flex your bottom foot to trap the top ankle, making sure to roll your knees in towards each other.

Set your arm (same side arm as the top leg) below your butt on the pole and lower your top hand so that it’s about a foot above your hips. Start to lean back, transferring your weight more into the bottom arm as you maintain a super squeeze through your legs and butt.

Open your chest and arch. As you do this, you will feel the top hand become less secure until you are fully arched. Make sure to continue to push your hips forward and use that bottom arm as a support to get you through that awkward moment.

After you arch fully, you should be able to use the top hand grip again to keep your chest up while you slide the bottom arm as low as you possibly can.

Once that bottom hand is super low, shift your weight back into that hand and release the top hand off the pole. Keep squeezing with your legs! Have I said that enough?

At this point, your head should be below your hips and you should feel the hold of your legs taking more of your weight. Slowly take the bottom hand off when you feel confident, and you are now in your CAR!

As you get more advanced, you can keep both feet pointed and work on leaning straight back into the CAR from a sit, without transitioning through the whole rigamarole with the hand on the bottom, etc. The pole should stay between your THIGHS the entire time, and not slide up to your knees. The problem is that every body is shaped slightly differently, so while the tips above generally work for nearly everyone, some people find it more secure to roll their knees OUT instead and you may need to experiment with where the pole is placed between your thighs (but be sure to engage the butt and legs and push the hips forward no matter what!). It may hurt slightly less to have the pole an inch or so away from your crotch. Yes, this move hurts like a mofo– you’re using thigh skin friction to stay in place. If you have a long torso (like I do!) you may find that it’s much more difficult to hold a more horizontal CAR, simply because your torso is heavier then your legs are. You can also try switching which hand you put on top and which you put on bottom, to see if that helps you feel more secure as you go into the move.

Be careful as you sit up, because that causes your hips to drop back (like the BAD picture above) and you will feel less secure. Make sure you really focus on squeezing those legs together and rolling in the knees. A great way to get more comfortable with the move in general is to do sit ups: lay all the way back and go fully into your CAR, and sit all the way up (ah, super ab crunches!).

If you have questions or tips for readers, please share in the comments!

Tomorrow’s post: Saying Goodbye…