The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Stomach Massage Series

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Stomach Massage Series

The Stomach Massage Series on the Reformer is just one example of the cumulative power of the Pilates method. Valuable skills reside in the 4 exercises found here. They will serve you well as you advance along your Pilates path.

I invoke the Stomach Massage Series countless times during my workday:

“Remember that moment in Stomach Massage 3? It's the same thing now (in this other exercise).”

Often I hear the Stomach Massage Series is disliked, misunderstood, maligned and/or cast aside.

Awww, frownie face…

It's my fervent hope you'll come to find as much value and juiciness in this series as I do.

Find out more about each of the 4 exercises in this fundamental Reformer series in a related post.

What's in a Name?

Nearly one year ago I published my first post on the Stomach Massage Series.

I utilize these exercises every single day in the studio so it was hard to believe it's been a year since I've devoted an entire post to the Stomach Massage Series.

True, no one is happy with the name of this series.

Waaaahhh…we want our massage!

Consider that in each and every moment of these exercises our stomach – our center – is leading the way.

This is one of the challenges: sustaining the depth of engagement of the stomach gives a deep internal massage (and shower!) to our organs and our backs.

Consider also the wind-relieving potential of these exercises. We're not talking about abs glistening in the sun here, we're talking about the health of our bodily systems.

In my future post post on Pilates and its myriad benefits to our digestive system (I promise), the the Stomach Massage Series will be at the top of the list. I tell you it goes deep!

And if you are stiff, persevere!  There awaits for you a wonderful global stretch of the back.

How does Stomach Massage fit into the Order of Exercises?

I have a deep love and respect for Joe Pilates' original order of the Reformer exercises. It's a wonderful puzzle to examine and explore. As a result we move still closer to Joe's vision for training our bodies.

Seated on the Reformer, the Stomach Massage Series echoes our first series on the Reformer, Footwork. Footwork coupled with the lift of the Rowing Series (which also precedes the Stomach Massage Series) progresses our workout from lying down to sitting up.

Also in this series a new element is revealed for the first time: rotation.

See? You don't want to miss the excitement!

How do I know where to sit?

Depending on our training and our body, we may have been asked to sit on the very edge of the carriage. This may indeed be an eventual goal of the exercise, but what if it's not today's goal?

Let's find a place to sit that will be advantageous. This placement will help to find success in the exercises.

You'll know you're in the right place if you can tangibly feel the lift in the low back and maintain it without leaning back as the carriage moves. Stiffer folks may need to sit back a bit further for a bit.

What about overworking hips?

You may find for yourself or students that hips and thighs want to take over in the Stomach Massage Series. Maybe this discomfort even causes you to dislike this series.

Don't blame the exercise.

What are you doing for this elsewhere in the system? If tight hips and thighs are taking over in this series, it's more than likely they're showing up in all the other exercises as well.

We all have muscle groups that are strong – very strong – and like to do everything for us.

Find places in the system to focus on opening hips and thighs and you'll strengthen the stomach and seat.

Some possibilities:

Strategies for a Tight Low Back: Getting to the Bottom of it

Got a Stiff Back? You need the Pilates Barrels!

Think Like a Sculptor: The Pervasiveness of the Thigh Stretch

Over time with your newfound skills you'll reap even more benefit in the Stomach Massage Series.

Um, how do I keep my pants on?

A little fringe benefit of getting out of the hips and legs will also keep your pants on!

Amazing 🙂

From Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series:

Keep your pants on!

“So why do my pants come off?”

I have heard teachers answer this questions numerous times thusly:

“If you use your stomach, your pants will stay on.”

While I do believe this to be true, it’s not quite the whole story.

To work this exercise well (and avoid wardrobe mishaps) use this recipe for maintaining a well-fitting pant:

Press your feet firmly into the footbar.

  • Press your heels fiercely against one another.
  • Find your upper stomach and your seat. Use them to push into the footbar and move the carriage.
  • If you can work primarily in the powerhouse (stomach and seat) and less in the legs, you’ll have a great chance of keeping your pants on.
  • Give it a go!

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Want to see videos like this on other exercises? Tell me all about it in a comment below.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Body Shapes in the Pilates System: Basic to Advanced

Body Shapes in the Pilates System: Basic to Advanced

For Nan-Young

Recently on the blog we've examined the value of categorizing the exercises in the Pilates Method.

We took a look at the labels “basic”, “intermediate” and “advanced” and how they apply to the body in front of us.

The Shape of Things

In 2012 I completed The Work, the phenomenal program of study at Vintage Pilates‘ in Los Angeles.

Through my study at Vintage (and beyond!) we learn to look at the Pilates repertoire through the lens of Body Shapes.

In the Pilates method we have 5 archetypal shapes of the body (the back):

I find using the body shapes to be a wonderful teaching tool.

We can convey complex exercises to clients by reminding them of skills they've achieved in simpler exercises that share the same shape.

With this POV and the body in front of us, let's ask ourselves some questions based on the evidence of the exercises.

Here are our “basic” exercises:

Basic Reformer Exercises

  1. Footwork
  2. Hundred
  3. Frog/Leg Circles
  4. Stomach Massage Series
  5. Short Box Series
  6. Elephant
  7. Knee Stretches
  8. Running
  9. Pelvic Lift

Basic Mat Exercises

  1. Hundred
  2. Roll Up
  3. Single Leg Circles
  4. Roll Like a Ball
  5. Single Leg Pull
  6. Double Leg Pull
  7. Spine Stretch

1. What body shapes are most prevalent in the “basic” exercises?

I spy mostly the Round and Tall shapes, with a few moments of the Arched Back in our Stomach Massage Series and Knee Stretch Series.

The Short Box gives us one moment of Side Bend and we have a couple Twists in Stomach Massage Series and the Short Box.

2. Why is this?

Pilates begins in the very center of the body.

We'll concentrate on the scoop only for a while. Only when the center is strong can you build up other solid strong things on top of it.

We'll get to the fingertips but it's gonna take a while.

3. What does this say about the organization of the order of our Pilates method?

The order of the exercises is our teacher – make no mistake.

Moving through our “basic” Reformer exercises, our scoop in the Round and Tall positions will strengthen the center the most.

I think about the Round and Tall shapes as familiar, pedestrian movements. Yes, we must learn to find lift in our center, but these 2 shapes promote a deepening in the center.

We are required to pull in and up, but our body parts are not reaching away from center yet in these 2 basic shapes.

Later we begin to reach away from the center more deliberately with Arched, Side Bend and Twist positions.

Our Tall shape is also the foundation on which we'll build our Side Bend and Twist. If our Tall back is not strong and solid, it's only gonna fall apart when we try to Side Bend or Twist, both of which take us away from center.

The Order of the Universe

Joe Pilates trains our bodies over the full repertoire and also within each of his exercise series in the same manner.

Within each series we also find our theme of Round/Tall positions first – strengthening and solidifying the center – before adding Arched, Side Bend or Twist positions which reach away from the center.

Our series in the basics:

Footwork: only in the last of the 4 Footwork exercises, Tendon Stretch, do we reach away from the center. After we've built in the skill of Footwork over 30 repetitions.

Stomach Massage Series: Within this series we reach a bit more away from center as we move from Round to Hands Back, which takes us more upright in the upper body.

From Hands Back we move to the Reach, a position identical to the Teaser exercise.

Finally we'll move the farthest away from center when we add the Twist.

Short Box Series: The exercises in this series progress us systematically from Round to Tall, and later into Side Bend and Twist.

Eventually our Twist will progress to Around the World, perhaps the ultimate in reaching away from center with the upper body.

The Tree is our first exercise done one side at a time and reaching away from center, and over time it will take the position of our first High Bridge.

Knee Stretch Series: Our Round position must stay intact when we change to the lift of the Arched Back.

In these 2 first exercises our range is modest. Finally the Knees Off takes our solid scoop and reaches long and away from center and back again.

4. Why so much Round?

In our foundational exercises, we are quite scoop-heavy. The body is learning and building strength. Yes, there is a predominance of Round shapes and support from the apparatus in our Tall shape.

Read more info on these Round exercises and discover what they teach us about training the body.

But I want it all!

An example of how internal strength and the eventual reaching away from center work in tandem is found in one of the most iconic exercises in the Pilates method:

Body Shapes in the Pilates System: Basic to Advanced

The Teaser requires a deep scoop in the center making this a Round exercise.

However, as you become more and more proficient your strength of center will support the upright lift of the chest and upper back to challenge the position further.

Body Shapes in the Pilates System: Basic to Advanced

But this lift away from the deep center in the Teaser will not happen on day one.

This is the challenge.

Ideally you want both a lift up in the upper body and a deep scoop of the lower body, but the strength of center must take precedence and be cultivated first.

Out in the Field

See what you think in your next workout.

Notice when you find yourself in a Round position and see where you go from there. You'll begin to notice larger sequences of exercises that start out pretty tame and soon blossom into an extravaganza of Body Shapes.

Here's a sneak peak into one of my favorite sections on the Reformer. It's a long one but such a lovely progression of skills and shapes.

In the middle of the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises we have:

Thanks so much for reading. Have a great workout.

If you'd like to see this final list of exercises in a post of its own or in a video tutorial, leave a comment below and let me know!

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in Your First Lesson

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

The Pilates Method is systematic and cumulative.

The skills you'll learn in your very first lesson will lay the foundation toward greater and refined proficiency. Collectively, these skills will serve you well as you progress to the more difficult exercises.

Early on in your Pilates lessons you will learn Footwork and Elephant in your order of the Reformer exercises.

In your order of the Mat exercises you will learn Roll Like a Ball.

Footwork, Elephant and Roll Like a Ball are on our list of “basic” exercises.

Remember: depending on who you are, the Footwork, the Elephant and Roll Like a Ball may be not so “basic.” Tight folks may roll like a brick for a while…the carriage may bang on the Elephant or it may not close at all.

Even these fundamental exercises provide years of challenge for most of us.

But what are we learning in these 3 exercises?

1. Footwork

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

We could discuss the purpose of the Footwork for years. There's a lot going on in these first 4 Reformer exercises.

For our purposes the Footwork serves to warm up the lower body.

Using the lower body as a whole is a skill we'll repeat in every other exercise.

Let's follow our Footwork skill through a Reformer workout.

Think of the integrated lower body movement in the following exercises…

The Hundred

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Frog and Circles

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Overhead

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Coordination

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Swan

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Teaser

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Stomach Massage Series

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

and so SO many more… it's no wonder we start off with the Footwork!

The lower body is learning how to move as a unit.

What about exercises in which the lower body is not the moving part of the body?

Guess what? The lower body must work fiercely in these exercises as well.

Rowing

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Short Box Series

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Chest Expansion

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

The lower body is working as a solid unit to allow freedom of movement elsewhere.

And it all begins with Footwork.

2. Elephant

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

The skill of closing the carriage in the Elephant will repeat over and over again throughout our workout.

Pretty much every time you are facing the carriage and closing it with your whole body you are using the skill of the Elephant.

Let's follow our Elephant skill through a Reformer workout.

Here's a just a few examples of where your mad Elephant skills will come in handy…

Up Stretch

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Up Stretch Combo

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Tendon Stretch

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Headstand 1

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Snake/Twist

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Russian Splits

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

And the beat goes on…

La-di-da-di-DEE…

La-di-da-di-DAH…

3. Roll Like a Ball

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Roll Like a Ball is the first place you will learn to lift your bottom off the mat without assistance.

It's more than likely you'll learn it in your first lesson.

This is a crucial skill you must collect to perform the difficult “advanced” exercises.

Let's follow the skill of lifting your bottom through a Pilates Mat workout. 

Here's just a few times you'll need to lift your popo.

Roll Over

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Open Leg Rocker

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

High Scissors/Bicycle

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Crab

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

Control Balance

The Pilates System: 3 Mad Skills to Start in your First Lesson

And so many MANY more…

You got skills, Baby!

Footwork, Elephant and Roll Like a Ball represent just 3 skills you'll encounter throughout your Pilates workout.

See what you think in your next workout.

Of course you'll find other skills that repeat and increase in difficulty as you proceed through your exercises as well.

It wouldn't be Pilates if you didn't!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Saturday November 27 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You'll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I'll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes (3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I'll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we'll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

The Pilates System: Beyond Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

The Pilates System: Beyond Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

For Nan-Young

At Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles, passionate Pilates students convene from all around the world.

We Pilates teachers seek intimate acquaintance with the source of our beloved Pilates method: Joe.

How did Joe Pilates look at the body in front of him?

One student in particular, Nan-Young, inspired this post. Originally from South Korea, Nan-Young is a delightful fixture at Vintage Pilates. It's a pleasure to witness the amazing work and progress she puts in every day.

Make no mistake, she's a Pilates bad ass.

I hope you find this post to be of help, it was a fun one to create.

Exercises for the Body in Front of You

Jay Grimes tells us “Joe Pilates would take one look at you and know your whole life story.”

Joe Pilates knew what your body needed and would give you a vigorous workout plus some exercises ‘just for you.

In Joe Pilates' studio there were simply “Men's exercises” and “Women's exercises.” Along with Joe's order of exercises on the Reformer and Mat, teachers would consider the body in front of them and select appropriate exercises.

Circa late 80s-early 90s

With the advent of formalized teacher training programs, exercises came to be classified as ‘beginner,' ‘intermediate' and ‘advanced.' The labels were added in an effort to codify the broad range of material and teach it precisely and efficiently.

I have now come to understand these labels as guidelines or as a stepping-off point. As you continually observe your students, keep asking yourself questions about what you see (or don't see) in the body and what exercise you might choose to address this.

Basic Pilates Exercises

The Pilates System: Beyond Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

In Pilates there are no black-and-white hard facts.

We learn rules and guidelines in our training programs, but real-life clients rarely fit into neat and tidy categories like ‘basic,' ‘intermediate' and ‘advanced.'

Everything exists in a gray area. As a new teacher, this can be a scary prospect.

Persevere.

Within the murkiness you'll find liberation. Many options exist and our expertise helps us to choose the most effective exercises for any given individual.

That said, let's first consider the basic exercises done on the Reformer and the Mat.

Basic Reformer Exercises

  1. Footwork
  2. Hundred
  3. Frog/Leg Circles
  4. Stomach Massage Series
  5. Short Box Series
  6. Elephant
  7. Knee Stretches
  8. Running
  9. Pelvic Lift

Basic Mat Exercises

  1. Hundred
  2. Roll Up
  3. Single Leg Circles
  4. Roll Like a Ball
  5. Single Leg Pull
  6. Double Leg Pull
  7. Spine Stretch

What makes an exercise “basic?”

When working with new clients – even those with prior Pilates experience – we often begin at the beginning. Sure they've taken Pilates classes for years somewhere, but in that first lesson we're checking them out to see just what Pilates skills they've got in place.

A basic exercise offers support for the body. Looking at the list above, 5 out of 9 Reformer exercises are done lying down. 5 out of 7 Mat exercises are also lying down. Lying down on either the Reformer or the Mat you are fully supported by the apparatus.

On the Reformer even your head is supported.

How nice.

At the basic level only 1 Reformer exercise has us touching the apparatus with hands and feet only: the Elephant.

Basic Exercises offer straightforward and simple movement patterns. Only 1 of our Reformer Basics works on 1 side at a time: the Tree on the Short Box. There are 2 one-sided Mat Basics: Single Leg Circles and Single Leg Pull, although here you've still got that lying down aspect goin' for ya.

In a basic exercise the body shape is consistent throughout. Nearly every basic exercise on our list keeps the body in the same shape for the entire exercise.

A basic exercise puts the body in pedestrian positions. Lying down, sitting up, standing and kneeling are the only demands of our basic exercises. Most people will be able to do them. We're accustomed to these positions of the body regardless if we've done Pilates or not.

Real-World Basic: Now what?

Armed with your order of exercises and our basic exercises, look at the body in front of you. As the student begins to move through these first Pilates exercises you'll assess the body.

Some questions may arise:

  • Is it appropriate for their head to be up for the whole Hundred?
  • Is the individual in control enough to deal with their feet in unstable straps?
  • Are they stiff?
  • Can they sit up with their feet on the Footbar?
  • Do they feel unsafe sitting on the Short Box?
  • Are the first exercises done on the Short Box already so challenging that you'll leave Side-to-side and Twist out?
  • Should they stand on the Reformer?
  • Can they kneel?

Whew! That's a lot of Pilates problem solving.

Questions like these allow you to determine the appropriateness of even these basic exercises for an individual. Your questioning mind will serve you well as we examine our next tier of exercises: intermediate.

Intermediate Pilates Exercises

The Pilates System: Beyond Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

Many exercises are in the intermediate category. It's huge! I've included the full list with the basics in here too. Intermediate exercises are in orange.

Intermediate Reformer Exercises

  • Footwork
  • Hundred
  • Frog/Leg Circles
  • Coordination
  • Pull Straps and T Straps
  • Backstroke
  • Teaser
  • Long Stretch
  • Down Stretch
  • Up Stretch
  • Elephant
  • Stomach Massage
  • Short Box – Twist/Reach
  • Short Spine Massage
  • SemiCircle
  • Knee Stretches
  • Running
  • Pelvic Lift
  • Side Splits
  • Front Splits

Intermediate Mat Exercises

  • Hundred
  • Roll Up
  • Single Leg Circles
  • Roll Like a Ball
  • Single Leg Pull
  • Double Leg Pull
  • Single Straight Leg Stretch
  • Double Straight Leg Stretch
  • Criss Cross
  • Spine Stretch
  • Open Leg Rocker
  • Corkscrew
  • Saw
  • Swan
  • Single Leg Kicks
  • Double Leg Kicks
  • Thigh Stretch
  • Neck Pull
  • Side Kick Series
  • Teaser
  • Seal

What makes an exercise “intermediate?”

The Intermediate exercises are many and varied. Some are simpler and less complex than others.

An intermediate exercise will incorporate skills you achieve in the basic exercises. The Pilates method has a POV that's unique. With focus, repetition and consistency you'll accumulate skills to serve you as your workout progresses.

Intermediate exercises include potentially unfamiliar body positions. Now our exercises will include twisting and back extension. You must also lie on your side and be upside down. The rolling exercises are more elaborate than our basic rolling exercise, Roll like a Ball.

Intermediate exercises demand considerable coordination and balance. At the intermediate level our balance will be tested in several body positions and orientations to the apparatus. We'll be standing up on the Reformer for two exercises done kneeling and standing on 1 side. 

Real World Intermediate: Now what?

As you work your student through the manicured paths of the basic exercises you'll make some decisions about moving their workout into the prickly landscape of intermediate exercises.

Let's think of this a little differently. Collect all the skills your client possesses and see what you come up with.

  • Can he lift his hips?
  • Does he roll well?
  • Is he stiff or flexible?
  • What skill is missing that you want to see? What are some things you might use to address this?
  • What does your student do exceptionally well?
  • How about the mental component of the student? The more challenging the exercise, the more the willpower of the student must be present.

Now looking at our 2 groups of exercises, the basic and intermediate, you'll notice basic exercises that may serve as prerequisites for the more involved and challenging intermediate exercises.

This is the key to moving beyond the labels of ‘basic,' ‘intermediate' and ‘advanced.' What does the body need? What is the body capable of currently?

The progression of skills may fall along the lines of our basic, intermediate and advanced distinctions, but maybe not depending on the body in front of you. Assessing your student's skills will aid you in adding more complex exercises over time until they may be able to accomplish all of them and beyond.

Again, much of this depends on the student.

For example, if a student struggles with the Roll Up, you may choose to delay adding the Neck Pull until the Roll Up skill is secured. And why can't they Roll Up? Find some exercises for that.

Perhaps your student rolls very well but is stiff. Open Leg Rocker might build on his rolling skill and challenge/address his flexibility.

Keep thinking about the skills we'll build on as we move from basic to intermediate. Now get ready for taking those skills to the next level when things get crazy in the advanced exercises.

Advanced Pilates Exercises

The Pilates System: Beyond Basic, Intermediate and Advanced

Some students may not do every exercise labeled ‘advanced.' Many of the advanced exercises depend on the strength, control and stamina that must be cultivated from the very beginning.

These exercises are not just going to happen. The student must be disciplined and will themselves to rise to the challenge.

It's not unusual to work for many years to accomplish these exercises. It's taken me considerable time to feel proficient at many of the advanced exercises. And by considerable I mean over a decade…

I've included the full list with the basic and intermediate exercises in here too. Advanced exercises are in orange.

Advanced Reformer Exercises

  • Footwork
  • Hundred
  • Overhead
  • Coordination
  • Rowing 1-6
  • Swan
  • Pull Straps and T Straps
  • Backstroke
  • Teaser
  • Breaststroke
  • Horseback
  • Long Stretch
  • Down Stretch
  • Up Stretch
  • Elephant
  • Long Back Stretch
  • Stomach Massage
  • Tendon Stretch
  • Short Box
  • Short Spine Massage
  • SemiCircle
  • Chest Expansion
  • Thigh Stretch
  • Arm Circles
  • Snake/Twist
  • Corkscrew/Tic Toc
  • Balance Control
  • Long Spine Massage
  • Frog/Leg Circles
  • Knee Stretches
  • Running
  • Pelvic Lift
  • Control Push Up Front
  • Control Push Up Back
  • Side Splits
  • Front Splits
  • Russian Splits

Advanced Mat Exercises

  • Hundred
  • Roll Up
  • Roll Over
  • Single Leg Circles
  • Roll Like a Ball
  • Single Leg Pull
  • Double Leg Pull
  • Single Straight Leg Stretch
  • Double Straight Leg Stretch
  • Criss Cross
  • Spine Stretch
  • Open Leg Rocker
  • Corkscrew
  • Saw
  • Swan Dive
  • Single Leg Kicks
  • Double Leg Kicks
  • Thigh Stretch
  • Neck Pull
  • High Scissors
  • High Bicycle
  • Shoulder Bridge
  • Spine Twist
  • Jackknife
  • Side Kick Series
  • Teaser(s)
  • Hip Circles
  • Swimming
  • Leg Pull
  • Leg Pull Front
  • Side Kicks Kneeling
  • Side Bend
  • Boomerang
  • Seal
  • Crab
  • Rocking
  • Control Balance
  • Push Ups

What makes an exercise “advanced?”

Within our beloved Pilates method you'll find exercises that speak to your strengths as well as those which challenge and exploit your shortcomings. Revel in your ability to do the former and doggedly practice the latter for years until you whip your body into compliance.

Adding these exercises into your students' workout is very individual. Some you may add quickly and others they may never see…although I never say never.

An advanced exercise is complex, usually including 2 or 3 body positions in the same exercise. Think of your Snake/Twist which requires the body to be round and then arched and then a combination of round and twist.

In an advanced exercise you will be minimally connected to the apparatus. The number of exercises done with just hands and feet connected to the apparatus increases significantly. The student must have a strong center to survive and support the weight of their body while performing the exercise.

Advanced exercises continually place the body in unfamiliar and challenging positions. You'll be upside down now for many exercises. You'll also be rolling off the Reformer and getting back on again.

In advanced exercises you must lift yourself off the apparatus without the assistance of straps. On the Mat we have the Roll Over and on the Reformer we have the Overhead. These are at the beginning of the workout and will continue throughout.

And perhaps most importantly…

An advanced exercise requires a complete focus on the exercise at hand. These exercises are no joke and if the mind is not focused to control the body they can be dangerous. If your student is mentally out to lunch, these exercises may not be for them.

Real World Advanced: Focus and Control

Just like some of the intermediate exercises, we've got several options around the studio to address the demands of these challenging advanced exercises.

Sure the student needs the skills of, for example, Chest Expansion, but maybe not on the Reformer just yet.

What a brilliant system!

Using all the apparatus to build the student's program will progress their workout slowly and steadily.

For example, the Arm Chair will teach 4 of the Rowing exercises brilliantly. The Cadillac can address Chest Expansion and Thigh Stretch (which they'll also be doing on the Mat).

The Spine Corrector will take care of the High Scissors and High Bicycle as well as train your body to be a mean rolling machine. It's just such a perfect apparatus!

The Breaststroke can be developed on the Cadillac as well and there's nothing Tower and Monkey cannot address. Remember lifting the body off the apparatus? Here's your training ground.

Life Beyond Labels

Keep the qualifications of the exercises foremost in your mind as you move past the “rules” and learn to look at the body deeply and effectively.

Keep the student safe and err on the conservative side.

Work to understand the thought behind the labels of ‘basic,' ‘intermediate' and ‘advanced.' With practice and getting the exercises in your own body, you'll begin to see how the exercises early in the workout progress and transform into exercises of great complexity.

Questions or comments about progressing your students? 

Leave me a question and I promise to answer in a followup post 🙂

Stay tuned!

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips For a Full Body Workout

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

One of the very first things I noticed as a beginning Pilates student (way back in the day) was a newfound integrity in motion.

I am not a runner, but I'm spritely and often I'll break into a sprint just to get somewhere faster. If I could cartwheel there I just might…

One day – just a few months of Pilates under my belt – I broke into a run and felt my whole body hang together with a strength that was new. And different. And that had an ease of motion.

Fast Forward…

Last Sunday during a group workout at Vintage Pilates, Jay gave me a (seemingly) tiny correction.

Single Leg Circles on the Mat: Jay suggested that as my right leg circles I should strive to keep my left heel constantly pressing into the mat.

Simple enough, right?

Amazingly challenging for me to do. It at least tripled my effort in the exercise. Left side = lazy side for me.

Surprised, I had to ask:

“Why is that so hard?”

Jay's response spoke to the premise of our beloved Pilates Method.

“Now you've got everything working.”

Of course. Nothing working too hard and nothing getting a free ride. Balance in the body.

A full body workout.

A New Obsession

I'm happy to share 3 of my favorite ways to coax ourselves (and our clients!) into experiencing the Pilates Full Body Workout.

1. The Pilates 2×4

May I present to you the humble Pilates 2×4: one of the best ways to entice the body to find strength in standing positions.

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

It's amazing the amount of feedback this little Pilates treasure will give you. Use it regularly to connect the lower body into your center and it will infiltrate and work its magic when you are bereft of apparatus.

Bereft of apparatus = the Pilates Mat exercises

Trying to figure out how to use your butt when you are upside-down in the Control Balance?

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body WorkoutThe 2×4 has got your back. Literally.

Read more about this little gem in these posts:

2. The Magic Circle

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

One magical Magic Circle moment I dearly love can be found in an exercise we teach every day.

The Magic Circle not only makes the exercise better, integrating the whole body, but it also confronts the student with a glimmer of ‘there's clearly more to be had here with this whole Pilates thing…'

The exercise is the arm spring series done lying down on the Cadillac.

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

People love these exercises – they want to strengthen their upper body, tone the back of the arms, etc… And yes, that's all happening, but gosh darn it, I want MORE!!!!

Plus you're working hard, yet lying down and beautifully supported by the Cadillac. So comfy.

Let's insert a little magic here and the transformation to full body workout will be complete.

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

Let me be clear: this is not a new exercise.

I am not creating a way to incorporate the Magic Circle into the Arm Spring exercises.

It's not to kick your ass.

I am using the Magic Circle for a reason: as a teaching tool.

Using it for a few moments, gently squeezing the circle and pressing into the feet as though you were standing will enliven the entire lower body all the way up into the center and the upper stomach.

You'll get all the bigger muscles engaged to help out with the exercises.

Everything working.

The Full Body Workout!

That's what I'm after.

And you'll know who might benefit from this help. You'll get a sense that your student knows what to do, they just need a bit of resistance to get it all going.

Once they get the feeling, take away the circle and just have the legs in the same position but together. Now they will remember the connection with the circle and fully engage all of the body in these exercises.

This is not simply a series of arm exercises. This is full body integration, friends.

All brought to you courtesy of the Magic Circle.

It's done all your work for you 🙂

I like to call this phenomenon a scrubbing bubbles exercise.

Curious? More deets in these posts:

3. The Order of the Universe

You already know of my love for the Order of the Exercises. Find more intel on Joe Pilates' order of exercises and how it benefits your workout in these posts:

The order of the exercises thoroughly prepares you for what's to come in your workout on the Reformer and the Mat. Learning a skill in one exercise with the help and support of the apparatus may assist you in a subsequent exercise when the support goes away.

My favorite example of this (and there are MANY) is the help you get from the Swan – done on the Ladder Barrel or the Reformer – to get a full body workout in the Pulling Straps and T exercises.

Who doesn't want help with those? Grrr…they used to be decidedly some of my least favorite exercises.

Now with the help of the Swan (and my butt!) I find them to be a welcome challenge.

The Swan

In the Swan the lower body is connected to the Reformer. You can use your feet to get support and engagement from the entire lower body.

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

Let's take this ‘lower body Swan feeling' to the Pulling Straps and the T, where the lower body is not connected to the apparatus and the feet are free.

Pulling Straps and T

Pilates: 3 Quick Tips for a Full Body Workout

Now you can get the big muscles of the stomach and seat (SEAT!!!) to give you greater integrated strength.

Brilliant!

Read more about cultivating the lower body:

The Pilates Exercises and the Lower Body: Strength for Life!

Try out these tips yourself in your next Pilates workout.

Be on the lookout for the part of the body that appears to just be sitting or lying down – the unflashy part of the exercises.

It is these parts “in repose” that ultimately must do the heavy lifting.

Questions?

Leave a comment below and let's have a chat ????

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