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:

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 Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Side Splits

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Side Splits

For Corrie

Full disclosure: Side Splits on the Reformer has never been a favorite.

While not as formidable as exercises like Snake Twist and the Neck Pull, Side Splits has always felt a bit scary and precarious for me.

And I think I know why…

I've just completed the bulk of my Reformer workout. I'm wrung out. Sure I've been lying down for a bit. Thanks to Joe Pilates' order of exercises, I've used Running and Pelvic lift to bring myself back to center.

What a great time to stand up on the Reformer???!

#not

The Series of 3

Side Splits is the first exercise in a series of 3 splits. Stay tuned for future tutorials on Front Splits and Russian Splits (If I am truly feeling generous – and brave – I'll upload a video on the 4th split exercise we have, the Big Splits also called the Grand Écarté).

But I'm getting ahead of myself…

Side Splits on the Reformer

At first glance this exercise comes out of nowhere. It's an exercise that makes me think “Hmmm, how is this exercise like all the others?”

Lest we forget our mantra:

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Side Splits

Upon closer inspection, the Side Splits is a full-on powerhouse power move.

Now into the standing portion of our hour-long workout, soon we'll need to walk out of the studio and into our daily life. Thanks, Joe Pilates for an amazing send off!

Let's not get distracted by the split maneuver. Remember our primary objective is to close the springs with control.

And the action of the Side Splits makes us have to  – literally – pull ourselves together.

Side Splits Step-by-Step

Use 2 springs if Side Splits is a new exercise for you. Ultimately you'll do the exercise on 1 spring.

  • Step up onto the carriage 1 foot at a time.
  • Place 1 foot onto the frame of the Reformer.
  • Keeping the carriage closed, work your foot on the carriage (heel-toe) across to be in front of the shoulder rest and directly in line with your foot on the frame.
  • Press your feet into the Reformer and lift in and up in your center.
  • Press the carriage out and hold 3 counts.
  • Bring the carriage in completely and hold for 3 counts.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Bring the foot on the frame onto the carriage and turn toward the springs to get to the other side.
  • Repeat on the other side.

What's this about an embellishment?

  • On the 3rd repetition hold the carriage open as you lower your body over your legs.
  • Roll back up to standing.
  • Close the carriage.
  • Repeat the embellishment with the carriage closed and then proceed to the other side.
  • On the other side you'll do a standing version of the Saw in the same manner: with the carriage open and then with the carriage closed.
  • More deets about these embellishments in the video…

Update: The Small Barrel Project

Today I am 15 days into my self-imposed posture intervention, the Small Barrel Project.

Wowza. Halfway there!

What amazing fabulousness has happened in week 2?

  • I've gathered more intel about the little twist in my body and how it's all tied into strengthening my weak side. Not new information but a new tangible experience of it.

Ah now I understand…

  • I've gained a new understanding of just how much work the center must do to effectively work the seat and open the hips. This will give me plenty to work on in the remainder of this challenge…
  • My neck is now happiest during my exercises. My neck is often annoyed that I am not perfectly postured in every waking moment. Well, at least I'm on the case.
  • I've found a delicious and unexpected Arm Chair moment on the Small Barrel: our old friend the Hug. I'm thoroughly enjoying the open-arms-out-to-the-side position: maintaining a strong anchored-into-the-barrel position with the barrel as a template for my upper back.
  • Most importantly I've noticed the Small Barrel exercises are a microcosm of the skills I work on in my Reformer workout: shoulder blades anchoring into the back, effective use of my seat, connecting to and stretching the sides of my body to my arms and hands, stretching the fronts of my thighs, working my weak side. Perfect your skills here and take them all around the studio. Again not a surprise, just a refreshing reminder.

#weonlyhaveoneexercise

Enjoy this short video.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here’s where to find me in 2017

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

In last week's post I threw down the gauntlet.

I've given myself a 30-day posture intervention on the Small Barrel.

Today makes 7 days in.

23 more to go…

What I've been doing…

Today's video workout features my 30-day Small Barrel workout. I do my exercises at least 2x each day. I like to do 1 time in the early morning before I start my day and another time later in the evening after work.

I've done my exercises as late as directly before bed.

That's nice too.

What I've noticed so far…

  • I now feel back muscles that run up and down the center of my back. It feels like I've convinced them to work to hold me up better.
  • My back feels fantastic.
  • I've become hyper-aware of how I hold myself in daily activities: when I look into the mirror to apply makeup I have particularly bad head-forward-crunchy-neck-posture…how NOT beautiful.
  • I curl my body up when I sleep. These exercises done first thing in the morning feel amazingly invigorating: such wonderful wake-up exercises!
  • In this video my shoulders are more flexible overhead than I have ever seen in photos of myself. Interested to see how this develops over the next 23 days.

Observations from others…

Body awareness during everyday tasks has been a big eye opener for other Small Barrel Project participants.

How we use our bodies during our daily lives is a big part of our day, right?

And generally we do these slumpy things to ourselves. How nice to have our round apparatus to help us stay upright. Thanks Joe!

Exercises in this video…

Circles (with 1lb. weights)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Up/Down

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hug

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Breathing (with bar)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Change position on Barrel

Circles

The Small Barrel Project: One Week in!

Scissors

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Bicycle

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hip Twist

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Helicopter

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Rolling/Rest

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Enjoy this short workout. 

Join me for 30 days and let's see what happens 🙂

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here's where to find me in 2017