One of the most common things I hear as a Pilates instructor is:  

“It’s really hard to hold my head up in the ab exercises”


“How am I supposed to hold my head, neck and shoulders up? I feel it all in my neck.”

My response: It’s all in what you do before you lift your head. In my training (at The Kane School), we call the lifting of the head, neck and shoulders the Nod & Curl*.

It’s essentially just that.  A nod of the head then a curl of the head, neck & shoulders upward by swinging the lower ribs back and up into the mat.

Especially when you’re first starting Pilates, it can be quite challenging to accomplish the nod & curl and maintain it for a period of time, like during The Hundred.

Check out this quick video to see how it’s done.


If you’re struggling with this, you are not alone. And it does take some time to condition the neck and abdominal muscles to fire properly.

So, here are some more tips to help you along the way to finding freedom in the nod & curl, especially in an exercise like The Hundred.

 Tip #1 Leave your head, neck & shoulders on the mat during The Hundred. Yep, I give you permission!

  • If you have a neck injury, if you have osteoporosis, or if it’s just too dang hard to keep your head up- put it down!
  • Keeping your head down while in the hundred can be just as challenging as keeping the head up.
  • Work to maintain a neutral spine and let your legs and pelvic position create the abdominal challenge.

Tip #2 Adjust your shoulders at the top.

  • Once you’re up in your nod & curl, if you feel tension or strain, don’t give up right away.
  • Allow your shoulderblades to relax down your back
  • Widen across your collarbones
  • If you’re still feeling the tension, then try tip #3.

Tip #3 Try the nod & curl in the beginning and take rests between.

  • As soon as you feel strain in the nod & curl, place your head on the mat. Then start over and try again.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge of the nod & curl, practice along with us in the video. Start to think about it before you lift your head the next time you’re in class.

Now, leave a comment in the box below to let me know if you are finding success and freedom with the nod & curl.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing. Have a fantastic day.



*Did ya know that the nod & curl can be contra-indicated(a fancy way of saying it shouldn’t be done) for particular types of body issues? Check with me or your own instructor if you are unsure of what is best for your body.

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