Criss Cross

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The Criss Cross “Bicycle” is an abdominal flexion and rotational exercise that uses breathing techniques to enhance the exercise.  You will learn how to maintain a contraction of the retus abdominus while rotating the spine left to right with the oblique muscles.  This exercise will also teach how to isometrically contract the rectus abdominus when the pelvis is in a posterior tilt and the lumbar spine is in an imprinted position. 
Muscles Used:

Flexion of the neck and Spine:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longus_capitis” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Longus capitis[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longus_colli_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Longus_colli[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectus_capitis_anterior” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Rectus capitis anterior[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sternocleidomastoid” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Sternocleidomastoid[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transversus_abdominis_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Transversus abdominis[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectus_abdominus” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Rectus Abdominus[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdominal_internal_oblique_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Abdominal internal oblique[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdominal_external_oblique_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Abdominal external oblique[/popit]

Rotation of the spine:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdominal_internal_oblique_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Internal Oblique[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdominal_external_oblique_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]External Oblique[/popit]

Flexion of the hip:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliopsoas” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Psoas Major[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadriceps” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Iliacus[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamstring” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Tensor Fasciae latae[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Satorius[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Rectus Femoris[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Gluteus Medius (anterior fibers)[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Gluteus Minimus[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Adductor Longus (assists)[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Pectineus (assists)[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Adductor Brevis (assists)[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Adductor Magnus (assists)[/popit]

Extension of the hip:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Gluteal Maximus[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Bicep Femoris[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Semitendinosus[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadriceps” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Semimembranosus[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Adductor Magnus (posterior fibers)[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteus_maximus_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Gluteus Medius[/popit]

Flexion of the knee:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliopsoas” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Illiopsoas[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadriceps” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Quadraceps[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamstring” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Hamstring[/popit]

Extension of the knee:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluteal_muscles” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Gluteal Muscles[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadriceps” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Quadraceps[/popit]

Hands behind the head:

  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deltoid_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Deltoid[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pectoralis_major_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Upper pectoralis major[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teres_major_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Teres major[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicep_brachii” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Bicep brachii[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coracobrachialis_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Coracobrachialis[/popit]
  • [popit url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triceps_brachii_muscle” height=”400″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”no”]Triceps brachii[/popit]
Set up:
  • Lie on your back with your spine in a neutral position.
  • Place hands behind the head just at the notch at the base of the skull.
  • Have your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Level 1:

  • Once in position, place your tongue behind your top teeth. Take an inhale through your nose to prepare.
  • Simultaneously exhale through your nose as you energize your pelvic floor and nod your chin towards your chest. Let your head slide on the floor to stretch the back of your neck. Continue to lift your head and shoulder blades off the ground. Your chin should not touch your chest but be positioned like you are going to hold a golf ball between your chin and chest.
  • Lumbar spine in an imprinted/braced position with a posteriorly tucked pelvis.
  • On your next inhale begin lift your left foot off the floor to a table top 90 degree position and rotate your right shoulder towards it.
  • Rotate to the opposite side and switch knees. Place the other foot back on the ground.
  • Complete 10 repetitions and never let you shoulder blade touch the ground.

Level 2:

  • As you become more proficient at the exercise you can begin to lift your feet off the ground and extend one leg to straight. Start at a table top position with feet lifted off the ground the knees bent at a 90° angle with your body.
  • Maintain this posture until you are able to do 10 repetitions without losing your imprinted spine.

Level 3:

  • Begin to lover the legs towards the ground to increase the challenge of this level. You can lower the legs straight to a 45° angle and maintain your imprinted spine.

Level 4:

  • To increase to an advanced level you will have straight legs that will scissor and hover above the ground about 2 inches while you maintain an imprinted spine. You must find a balance between your head and legs so that your lower rib cage does not leave the ground and your lumbar spine stays on the ground.


The Criss Cross is always challenging no matter your level of fitness. Choose what is best for you that day. Exercise is about finding what works for you and what your body needs. If you have neck strain or injury you can still increase your abdominal strength by keeping your head on the ground. Do the exercise as performed earlier just with your head on the ground.  If you are unable to maintain an imprinted spine or do an abdominal crunch while performing the exercise please return to “how to” do a crunch, pelvic tilts, pelvic floor engagement and exercises. 
What you may feel:
Neck strain is common when learning how to do this exercise. You can help alleviate strain on the back of your neck by placing the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. This will help activate your neck flexors and relax your neck extensors. 
  • Do not let your head hang behind your shoulders. If your neck stays in a straight position you will feel neck strain. An adult head can weigh around 10 to 11 pounds (4.5 to 5 kg).
    • Make sure your abdominal muscles do not push out like a bread loaf. Let your transverse abdominus pull tight like a corset to stabilize your spine and keep your organs from pushing against your abdominal wall. This engagement will allow you to maintain a neutral position and create a flat abdomen.



  • Maintain a imprinted spine with your lumbar curve on the mat.
  • Maintain your crunched position by keeping your rectus abdominus in an isometric contraction.
  • Try to keep the tips of your shoulder blades just off the mat as you beat your arms up and down.
  • Breathe with smooth inhales and exhales, five beats per inhale and per exhale.

Try the following technique if you are looking to focus on learning how to maintain a neutral spine while doing an abdominal crunch:

  • Begin by laying on your back with your feet on the ground.


  • Place your hands underneath your lumbar spine as you do your upper abdominal crunch.


  • Try to have minimal pressure on your hands as they are under your lumbar spine do not tuck your tail or squeeze your gluteal muscles.


  • Repeat the crunches for 10 reps or until you learn how to maintain a neutral lumbar spine and pelvis while doing upper abdominal crunches.


*** There are many schools of Pilates which have many different techniques and choreographies applied to the same exercises. The information contained within this website by no means is meant to replace the advice, judgment and expertise of a fitness professional. If you are ever unsure about how to perform an exercise contact a fitness professional who can guide you and watch your body move through the exercise. As with all physical activity consult your physician before beginning a regimen, use sound judgment, listen to your body, and know your limits. ***


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September 17, 2015

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Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 at 5:36am
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