The Pilates System: Russian Splits on the Reformer

The Pilates System: Russian Splits on the Reformer

Hey there all you awesome Pilates people,

I hope you've had a good week of dynamic opposition in your workouts. Thank you so much for the emails, comments and good cheer you've been sending my way. It's lovely to hear from you!

London and Portsmouth I will be comin' atcha very shortly. Private and semi-private lessons are filling up – please send me a message if you'd like to snag one for yourself.

I would so enjoy meeting you.

Can't get to see me in person?

Check out my YouTube channel for workouts, exercise tutorials and Pilates inspiration.

Schedule an Internet Lesson and have a full-on private lesson with me wherever you are in the world.

All Hail the Russian Splits

The Russian Splits in our order of the Reformer exercises is potentially the very last exercise of your Advanced Reformer workout.

Now we'll work into the full split for which our Front Split exercise has deftly prepared us.

Like our Side Splits and Front Splits, the Russian Split is 3-exercises-in-1.

For security in this exercise, place a pad on the headpiece of the Reformer and also, if necessary, on the footbar for your back foot.

  • Facing the back of the Reformer, stand on the carriage with both hands on the shoulder blocks.
  • Place your back leg into position on the footbar first.
  • Support yourself with your hands on the shoulder blocks and step your front foot into position halfway onto the headpiece.
  • Keep the back leg straight. Bend your front leg into a deep lunge position.
  • Holding onto the shoulder blocks, extend your front leg forward 3x. Be careful not to lock out your knees.
  • Now repeat the same thing but with no hands: arms cross in front or place hands behind the head.
  • Bring your hands back to the shoulder blocks, straighten both legs and close the carriage.
  • Now for that split: without locking the knees, power the exercise with the back leg and center, reaching the carriage out for a full split 3x.
  • Despite the seductive split, work to close the springs with control. Find your Elephant for efficient carriage-closing goodness!
  • To exit the exercise, bring the front foot onto the carriage first and then bring the back leg down.
  • Repeat on the other side.

What could go wrong?

For years I struggled to keep my back leg even remotely straight.

Tight hips and a sluggish butt make this split exercise a challenge. The next day you may wonder “Why does my butt hurt so much? What have I done? Oh yes… the Russian Split…”

Giving your heel a firm placement on the footbar will assist you as you reach through the back leg.

I like to imagine I am working my back leg (although it remains stationary) in tandem with the movement of the front leg.

I smell 2-way stretch!

Work to find your center to power the action of your front leg. Pull your leg into center more than pushing out the carriage.

Finding your seat will help to marginalize the thighs and hips which may try to take over…

Balancing in this deep squat position can be a challenge. Work this exercise well with your hands on the shoulder blocks before you take your hands away.

30 Day Wunda Chair Challenge: UPDATE!

Today is Day 6 for me.

Even with only a few days into the challenge I feel a new strength in my standing positions. And I mean in life – standing at work all day long and feeling my center instead of in my hips and legs.

Hmmm…

Day 1 got my hopes up for the Star. I felt very strong and successful in the exercise.

Alas, on Day 2, my Star skills were nowhere to be found. Oh well, 28 more days to go.

To soothe my ego after the Star debacle, I added the Twist for myself as a yummy stretch and a feel-good ending.

Find more information on the Twist here.

Lest we forget our trusty companion the Small Barrel…

For the record, I continue to work my Small Barrel exercises before hopping onto the Wunda.

We need our skills of Frog and Scissors wherever we go in the Pilates studio.

On the Wunda Chair we have a wham-bam series of 3 exercises at the end: Going Up Front, Mountain Climb and Star. The Small Barrel skills remind us the center is king!

I am amazed at the ease one can find in the strength of the center. We must resist! the tendency to make the Mountain Climb a max-out-your-legs exercise.

Thanks to the Small Barrel – and of course Karen Frischmann – I was surprised and delighted to have greater stamina, balance and control despite being perched high on top of Mt. Wunda.

Although some #pilatesproblemsolving will be necessary for the Star… stay tuned!

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Stay tuned for more tutorials on the Wunda Chair exercises. Leave your requests in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2017!

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

For Andrea

A big thank you to Studio Flo Pilates for hosting me this past weekend.

It was a pleasure to be in your studio and get to know your teachers. I love connecting with fellow Pilates nerds! Thanks for stimulating such a wonderful conversation on the order of the Reformer exercises. I look forward to future collaborations with your bustling studio!

It was a fun 2 months of focus on the Reformer. Thanks also to Studio S Pilates for hosting my Transitions workshop in the month of March. You guys are always a good time 🙂

If you're like me, maybe you too can't get enough of the Reformer?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the studio…

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Our beloved Pilates method: so many exercises, so little time…in our workout hour.

Many of you participated in my recent Small Barrel Project.

I was thrilled to learn you found the Barrel exercises to be as helpful jaw-droppingly informative as I did. The Spine Corrector packs quite the Pilates connection wallop.

Reformer? Check.

Small Barrel and Spine Corrector? Check, check.

Wunda Chair?

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Anyone??

I find myself so wrapped up in my Reformer and Mat workouts, that the Wunda Chair in my studio literally gets dusty.

Oh dear.

The Mat exercises function as a barometer for “How's it going?” – are all our exercises on the Reformer and around the studio truly making our skills better and therefore our Mat exercises better?

Given this POV I propose the Wunda Chair exercises challenge our skill building in the same way. Now the playing field is tiny, mostly above ground level and fierce!

The exercises done on the Wunda Chair are sometimes familiar: Swan, Teaser, Horseback, Spine Stretch, Star. However our Mat surface here on the Chair is minimal.

No lying down and not much room to sit or kneel.

Our Wunda Chair exercises put a different spin on our fundamentals:

  • The Roll Up on the Mat and the Elephant on the Reformer become the Push Down.
  • The Knee Stretch Series on the Reformer morphs into the Mountain Climb.
  • The Wunda Chair closes up the parameters for our Spine Stretch.
  • The Frog shows up everywhere: Arm Frog, Frog Facing Away and Frog Facing Chair.
  • Swan Dive is similar minus the support for our prone body position.

With our beloved Pilates method we're always in familiar territory and yet NOT.

I plan to implement a Dust Off Your Wunda Chair Challenge for myself.

30 days.

13 Exercises:

  1. Footwork
  2. Pull Up
  3. Push Down
  4. Spine Stretch
  5. Teaser Stretch
  6. Swan/One-arm/Dive
  7. Teaser on the Chair (video tutorial at the bottom of  this post!)
  8. Mermaid Seated
  9. Flying Eagle
  10. SemiCircle
  11. Going Up Front
  12. Mountain Climb
  13. Star

Wanna play along?

Let me know in a comment below if there are exercises in my 13 that are unfamiliar to you.

I'll film a video of this full Wunda 13 Workout and also highlight unfamiliar exercises in a tutorial of their own.

Let me know what you'd like to see next!

A few of the exercises are daunting, and please know I feel the same way.

And if you've got a favorite to stick in there, feel free. There are sooooo many good ones.

13 exercises?!

Yes. My list began with 10 only to grow to 13 as I couldn't part with a few faves.

Teaser on the Chair

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Today's exercise will start us off with a bang. I find it particularly hair-raising, but with further exploration and connection I am gaining more control.

Sweet, sweet control.

In the video at the end of this post you'll find tips to refine your Teaser on the Chair:

  • Teaser on the Floor is a strengthener of our Round shape and of our Teasers all around the studio.
  • Teaser 1: legs remain in the air
  • Optional pumping the pedal: remember our priority of closing the pedal with control.
  • Teaser 2: legs lower and extend the hip.
  • Teaser 3: Everything down, everything up. Jay Grimes described this version to me as “just like rock-a-bye baby…” as I was sweating buckets of course.

Enjoy this short tutorial. 

Share your successes in a comment below.

Related Posts:

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

For the past 6 years I have been on a steady course to build my body – and my voice – within the Pilates method.

Serendipitously Seth Godin, my favorite marketing-and-more guru, popped this gem into my inbox:

Like riding a bike

People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten.

What they don't mention is how we learned. No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video.

You learn by doing it. 

Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again. 

PS this approach works for lots of things, not just bikes. Most things, in fact.

Learn by doing. YES.

And learn by doing it wrong – YEEEEESSSSSS!

Using repetition to improve your skill, over and over.

It's a must for the Pilates method.

Joe Pilates has similar advice in his brochure, Pilates' Universal Method, Balance of Body and Mind:

You cannot make yourself strong, healthy, and attractive or magnetic by reading all the books in the world on this subject – or using all the electrical mechanic apparatuses…

No man or machine can correct or create vitality, power or health for you; everything comes from within, you have to unfold it.

Joe didn't call his book Let me Return you to Life.

Joe Pilates' manifesto is called Return to Life Through Contrology.

Notice the imperative tense and the understood subject which is YOU.

[YOU] Return to Life!

Our Pilates mentors and teachers cannot do it for us. For that matter, our teachers are not even here to tell us what to do. Think of them more as a guide through the Pilates Method.

YOU will return yourself to life. Here's some exercises to help out.

So in the spirit of treat yourself like your favorite client – I've got a few suggestions to implement in this week's workout(s).

1. Be Mercenary.

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

I cannot stress this enough.

As longterm practitioners of our beloved Pilates method we must walk the walk. My own workout also gives me the tools I need to be an effective and compassionate teacher.

Mine the method for your own gain. Look at the method from a selfish POV:

What does my body need and where can I get it?

A big question, I agree.

I rely on my private lessons to help me especially with the first part of this question. Through our training programs we learn the countless tendencies our bodies use to cheat and evade the crux of the exercises.

  • What are some common corrections you heard in your training?
  • What corrections do you hear repeatedly in your lessons?
  • If you've photographed yourself doing Pilates – or even better filmed yourself – what does your teacher's eye reveal to you about your own body?
  • Maybe you have a nagging body issue which is alleviated by exercises x, y or z. This is good information to use on your quest!

I encourage you to think like a sculptor.

Take a look around the Pilates studio for help.

Full disclosure:

Joe Pilates designed a specific order of exercises to take you seamlessly through your workout. The body warms up, works hard and cools down within our order of the Reformer exercises and our order of the Mat exercises.

That being said, some prefer to preface the bulk of their hard sweaty Reformer workout with a few ‘warm up” exercises. For years I did not see the value of this prelude.

I mean, I've got the Hundred, right? What more do I need?

And then I fell in love with the Small Barrel.

2. Effective Skill-Building in your Pilates Workout

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

If you're searching for the magic pill to Pilates happiness, I've found a few series of exercises to efficiently address my weak points and prime my body for success in my workout.

Joe Pilates reputedly built his method on his own body. The least I can do is work to understand the depth of his method on my own body.

What I discover for myself assists me to understand the needs of my clients.

For example, the better I learn to connect my upper body into the center, the more I can help others understand and implement this concept.

Place your own oxygen mask on first…

Connecting the lower body into the center

Okay this one is a biggie for me. It's a skill I desperately need to find lift and length in my tight low back. If this sounds like you or your clients, read on!

When working to find your 2-way stretch, it's easy to get excited about the back connection – connecting the upper body into the center.

Boom.

Only 2-way stretch right? Just 1 more to go!

Um, not so fast.

The lower body is the lion's share of the body…and the pitfalls of broken connection at the hips, knees, ankles, feet are a challenge. You also need to figure out how to use your seat – gosh, so much goes on.

Enter the Foot Corrector.

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

You may be tired of me saying this, but pay attention to the apparatus with the word ‘corrector' in the name. Joe Pilates wasn't kidding.

Use the Foot Corrector frequently – daily – and see what happens to your feet, of course, but also to your center and your seat. Every time you place your feet onto the Reformer, the Foot Corrector will inform your body and serve you well.

Just do it.

Read more about my Foot Corrector exercises here and here.

I require more correcting, please…

Enter the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel)

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

I use all the exercises in this post daily.

Packed into just 9 fundamental exercises – Arm Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing, Leg Circles, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist and Helicopter – there's a boatload of crucial Pilates skills:

  1. connecting the arms into the back
  2. lifting the waist and low back
  3. anchoring the body into the apparatus
  4. finding support in extension exercises
  5. learning how to do a backbend with length
  6. opening the chest and shoulders
  7. perfecting the Frog a fundamental building block exercise
  8. finding the seat to lengthen the low back
  9. stretching the thighs to open up the front of the hips
  10. working one side of the body at a time while keeping the symmetry in the back

Does this all sound familiar? Soon you'll be mid-Reformer workout seeking identical skills.

“Oh it's just like that other exercise!” 

What are the go-to exercises for YOUR body?

Share your secrets in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2017.

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

For Corrie

Wowza, it's been an amazing month of March MATness. I hope you enjoyed all the MAT-tastic images and videos abounding over social media this March.

What a Like-fest!

Thanks again Benjamin Degenhardt for infusing and enhancing our Pilates lives with the 5th annual!! month-long homage to all things Return to Life.

You. Da. Bomb.

Meanwhile, back on the Reformer

If you've been lolling about on your Mat of late, let's dig into our series of 4 splits with gusto!

Side Splits on the Reformer was our first installment of the series of 4 splits that come at the very end of our order of the Reformer exercises.

Today's post and tutorial features the 2nd split in our series, Front Splits.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Full disclosure:

The series of splits come literally at the end of 80 or so exercises done on the Reformer. They are also after the “closure sequence” of the Reformer which I've come to refer to as ‘the beginning of the end.'

The beginning of the end = Knee Stretches, Running and Pelvic Lift.

I often finish my Reformer – due to time constraints or exhaustion constraints – at Pelvic Lift and then I do a bit of rolling on the Mat – without visiting our Control Push Up Series or our series of Splits.

Today I vow to change my (quasi) cheating ways.

Especially for my body – and I suspect for many of you out there – one-sided exercises are crucial to strengthen my one-sided body. Sure they are fun (?) stretchy splits, but more importantly the split series works each side individually.

Just what I need to be skipping doing.

Front Splits on the Reformer

Welcome to Front Splits, all the fun of Single Leg Pull and Going Up Front combined!

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

See the upside down Front Split?

(Scroll down for a shot of Going Up Front)

The Front Splits on the Reformer is a wonderful opening of the hips in preparation for the full-on splits of the 2 subsequent exercises Russian Splits and Big Splits.

Moments in this exercise are reminiscent of the Down Stretch, but done one leg at a time.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Front Splits series has about 4 parts to it which are taught in 2 different orders.

Originally you may have worked the Front Splits thusly:

  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head
  • Kneeling on the carriage one foot on footbar
  • Finishing kneeling balance

You'll see both this order as well as the one I prefer to use now, which is exactly the same parts just reorganized:

  • Kneeling on the carriage with one foot up on the footbar
  • Kneeling balance
  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head

I enjoy the preparation of what is essentially a kneeling thigh stretch – your one-legged Down Stretch! – and the standing strength move as the final moment of each side.

Check out both versions of the Front Splits in the video at the end of this post.

See what you think.

Front Splits Deconstructed

Here you are in a similar position to our oh-so-favorite series The Long Stretch Series.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Oh boy.

Dare I say you may face the same plight of overworking with the arms and upper body in the Front Splits? Remember what's attached to the carriage: the lower body.

The Front Splits – all the splits to be precise – are lower body exercises.

I love the standing moment in the Front Splits as it is Going Up Front on the Chairs all over again.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

What good news!

Work to keep this much lower body action especially when you've got your hands on the footbar.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Stay tuned for our next installment, Russian Splits.

And here's where to find me in 2017.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

In the order of the Pilates Mat exercisesBoomerang sets us off on a rolling spree: Boomerang, Seal and Crab.

Extra points for that.

Most importantly it puts an end to the Leg-Pull-One-Side-Kick-ness section of the workout.

Good news all around.

Finding the 2-way Stretch

The 2-way stretch is an amazing lens through which to view your workout.

With lots of body parts to keep track of, the 2-way stretch creates a streamlined and singular theme for your workout.

Many exercises offer the 2-way stretch in a straightforward manner. Consider our quintessential guide to all things oppositional, the Double Leg Pull.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

Conversely, there are numerous exercises which turn us literally upside down and backwards. The body position of the exercise can challenge our ability to effectively connect our upper and especially our lower body into the center.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

The Tendon Stretch pictured above, can be a challenge to connect and use the lower body efficiently. Our arms and upper body may want to take over the exercise and the support for our feet is not stable.

How to connect?

Another challenging position for me is when I am seated. Finding the lower body connection sitting on my butt seems problematic.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

The Rowing Series 1+2 presents a similar position to our Tendon Stretch but with a different set of Pilates problems. Here we are seated with nothing to reach our feet into and once again at the mercy of our overworking arms.

The Reverse Push Thru on the Cadillac is an exercise presenting a similar body shape.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

All three of the exercises in this post, the Reverse Push Thru especially, have caused me to ask the question:

“How are these exercises, the Tendon Stretch, Rowing 1+2 and the Reverse Push Thru, like all the other exercises in the Pilates system?”

Where is the 2-way stretch?

Enter the Boomerang

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

Notice the similarity of position here in the Boomerang to our Tendon Stretch, Rowing 1+2 and the Reverse Push Thru.

At last!

A good rolling exercise is brilliant tool to illuminate our 2-way stretch.

The interplay of our dynamic opposition is imperative for success in rolling exercises. Lose connection to half of your body and the rolling suffers at best, and at worst it clunks to a stop.

Reach your lower body in the same manner as in our rolling exercise and see how much can come alive in our seated position exercises. It's a game changer.

All you have to do is say the magic word: Boomerang!

Related Mat posts:

And here's where to find me in 2017