3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

The premise:

Joe Pilates created all The Pilates apparatuses to help you to do the Mat better. Okay.

To help Client X – Let's call him Mr. X – better his mat exercises you take him to the Wunda Chair.

A bold move. Me likey.

The Wunda Chair is a choice for challenge. Very different than lying Mr. X on the Cadillac for an exercise, you have brought him to the Chair, where he'll receive nothing short of a kick in the pants, German-style.

No doubt you have chosen an exercise that will challenge Mr. X in a way that when he returns to the Mat again next time, his exercises will be ever more manageable after his encounter with Wunda.

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

1.  Don’t lose your Sh*t, K? 

Remember it’s still Pilates – you’re just on the Chair. The exercises may feel different but you can stay calm and (1) apply the same work and tactics that serve you on the Reformer, Mat and Cadillac to those pesky Chair exercises, and (2) rise to the challenge of the Wunda and come away with new skills to serve you all around the studio.

Footwork: The Footwork on the Chair is a great boon for the Footwork on the Reformer. Challenge Mr. X to find a Tall Back sitting up and help him to work his bottom. He'll gain more control to close the pedal and ultimately to close the carriage on the Reformer.

The Push Down: The Roll Up just got even more brilliant!

Going Up Front: I find this exercise to be particularly helpful to find connection and strength for the Front Splits on the Reformer. Not to mention a host of other stuff…

2.  Your objective on the Chair: control your muscles to close the spring.

Hmmm…where have I heard that before?

On the Reformer your one over-arching goal is to close the spring with control. Almost without exception the carriage goes out only so you get to control it on the way in. Brilliant!

On the Wunda Chair this means the pedal does not push you around.

Closing the pedal is the work of the exercise.

Yup. It’s all about control. Freakish, gut-wrenching control.

3.  What exercise(s) on the Chair can you use for Mr. X’s whatever?

The Wunda Chair: How did we get here?

Moreover, now that we are here – what shall we do?

Does Mr. X need more Round for his Elephant? More Round and control for the Teaser? Does he need help to sit up straight and tall?

Lucky for him we have the Wunda Chair: wundaful exercises to help all of the above and more:

  • Some Pull Ups for his Elephant!
  • Hey, some Teasers he can do on the Chair! Nasty but happy to help.
  • And Backwards Arms exercise to help him sit up taller. He will be so happy…
Related Post: 4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair:


Must. Have. More. Wunda?

Join me on November 16 @ Studio S Pilates, Temecula, CA

Click on the image for more details.

Thank you so much for reading!

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairIt's no secret that the very first exercises you learn on the Wunda Chair can be challenging. The small size of this apparatus can leave you and your clients mostly hanging out in space bereft of support.

Gone is the luxury of lying down on the Mat, Reformer or Cadillac.

The Wunda Chair is compact. Stylish, even.

You've still got a “mat” area, per se, but oh, it has gotten teenie tiny…and rarely do you perch on it…

Working on the Chair – and taking clients there as well – can definitely up your game.

The Wunda Chair has panache!

To the uninitiated, it looks so unlike the other larger apparatus. Your client is intrigued…

They can feel the excitement in the air…

What's going to happen here?

Wait until they find out they must lift up the pedal with their stomach. Whaaa?

The 4 Must-Have Exercises

  1. The Push Down
  2. The Pull Up
  3. Spine Stretch Forward
  4. Teaser on the Floor

2 great pairs that work oh-so-well together.

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairThe 1st dynamic duo: The Push Down and the Pull Up

Joe Pilates' genius has given you The Push Down where the lower body is fixed and the upper body moves, and exactly the opposite scenario in The Pull Up, where the upper body is fixed and the lower body is mobile. My gosh, they make a great pair.

Oh, and what are they good for?

Remember you are here at the Chair to get better at the Mat.

What fun. Happy to help!

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairGiven the shape of these two exercises what can they help your client achieve?

What other exercises do they remind you of?

I love The Push Down and The Pull Up to reinforce the Round shape. Use them to improve the Elephant and Knee Stretches on the Reformer as well as the lying-down-counterpart of The Push Down: the Roll Up on the Mat. Get help from the The Pull Up to work on the Snake/Twist on the Reformer.

It doesn't get any better than that.


4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairPair Deux: The Spine Stretch Forward and the Teaser on the Floor

Deep within so many of the Pilates exercises there exists The Spine Stretch Forward. In the midst of the Roll Up and the Neck Pull on the Mat, in all of the exercises done on the Short Box and the Rowing Series on the Reformer you'll create your own tug-of-war within yourself. You will scoop the stomach in and up as you reach your back further up and over your aforementioned stomach.


4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairThe Teaser on the Floor can give your client a great assist to strengthen their Teasers – on the Mat and beyond. Using what you have just cultivated in the Spine Stretch Forward will help your stomach to make the Round back of the Teaser and pull up that pedal. You will use your stomach to close the spring with control to create and strengthen the Round shape of the Teaser.


You will use the springs in the same manner as you do on the Reformer.


How did we get here? We're talking about the Wunda Chair!


What is Mantra #1? 

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair

Yes! So on the Reformer the one over-arching goal is to close the spring with control. By learning to control the springs as they close you are learning to control your stomach, your powerhouse, your center, your body.

On the Wunda Chair this means the pedal does not push you around. The pedal pushing you around is the equivalent of the Reformer springs pulling the carriage in with a big BANG, reputedly the worst sin you could commit in Joe Pilates' studio.

Control. You reign supreme.

Don't let that pedal push you around.

Use your 4 Must-Haves to improve oh-so-many other exercises:

  • Elephant
  • Knee Stretches
  • Snake/Twist
  • Neck Pull
  • Teaser 1,2,3
  • Hip Circles
  • Spine Stretch Forward on the Mat
  • Open Leg Rocker
  • Push Thru on the Cadillac
  • Going Up Front on the Wunda Chair
  • The Short Box
  • Teaser on the Long Box
  • The Mountain Climb on the Wunda Chair
  • The Rowing Series on the Reformer

And the list goes on and on…

Join me on November 16 @ Studio S Pilates, Temecula, CA

Must. Have. More. Wunda.

Click on the image for more details.

Thank you so much for reading!

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Why Spine Corrector?

If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.

Joe Pilates, Return to Life

In keeping with Joe’s philosophy it makes sense that he would invent an apparatus capable of correcting and encouraging the spine to become more flexible. Jay Grimes often speaks of Pilates as being ‘all about opening' and the Spine Corrector (and Small Barrel) is a perfect example. We can open the entire front of the body including the chest, shoulders, hips and thighs while strengthening the back and the bottom.

Joe has given us the magnificent Spine Corrector. I know many exercises have been taught here: the Mat exercises, the Rowing Series and the Short Box.

But it is called Spine Corrector.

I believe this name defines its raison d’être. So let’s put it to good use.

Here you'll plant the first seeds of back bending which will one day grow into the apple tree of the High Bridge.


The no-pillow zone

99.99% of the time gravity is not our friend.

Constant and diligent work is necessary to keep our bodies lifted, upright and vibrant.

What luck! Pilates injects moments of inversion into our workout to help us out.

Lengthening the back over the hump of the Spine Corrector for the Arm Circles can allow the neck and upper back to hang upside down for a brief respite before returning to our upright and often hunched-over lifestyle.

This position may not be the epitome of comfort at first, but

  1. this is your workout
  2. you’re not going to be be there forever
  3. you are not propped up to watch television.

So lose those pillows!

They do not allow the ‘corrector' to work it's magic on your upper back and only support the tension that you are working to fix in the first place.

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Look! Here's the top half of your backbend! You are long, supported and building strength for the backbends on all the other apparatus where it may not feel quite so luxurious.

Here you can see a connection to other back strengthening exercises as well, for example Rowing #3 and #4. Now you are further challenging yourself in this extended position, with the upper body just as connected into all of the back. So work your Rowing well. All roads lead to the High Bridge.

Mat + Spine Corrector = A Match Made on 8th Avenue

Often underused today, the Spine Corrector was the Mat's best friend in Joe’s studio. After a full Mat workout or even just a portion of one the Spine Corrector was often a natural progression to continue your workout. Two great tastes that taste great together!

It also happens to be a great place to introduce the Scissors, Bicycle and Shoulder Bridge exercises before you must face the harsh reality of doing them on the Mat sans Corrector.

It’s a great place to work on so many things, really. “Don’t worry, we fix.”

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

Now to work on the lower body part of the backbend with the Scissors, Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, etc… to open the hips and thighs.

This is the long reach of the lower body connecting it into the back, stomach and bottom.

Keep yourself rooted into the Spine Corrector underneath you and create length and strength in the low back for a safe and strong backbend. You can find this same lower body reach in the Leg Springs with the back long and supported by the Cadillac. As you reach into your straps for the Short Box on the Reformer, you will again get this preparatory work toward the High Bridge.

Build a Better Backbend with the Spine Corrector

And then of course you can get busy with your love/hate of all things one-sided all over again. Reach little left leg, Reach! You can do it! 3 cheers for our voluptuous round friend Spiney C!

Related Posts: One Sure-Fire Way to Backbend in Pilates

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Check out my Continuing Education Events.

Gifts from Joe Pilates

Gifts from Joe Pilates

If you that have yet to experience the Pilates mat exercises using Joe Pilates' original strap and handles I urge you to seek out, dare I say, a properly equipped studio mat and try it out. Do what you have to do.

It is a misconception that the strap at the end of the mat is only for beginners. It is forever and for everyone. The strap can assist you to get so much deeper into the body especially as you become a more proficient student of the method.

The exercises done with the strap are the Roll Up, Single Leg Circles and the Neck Pull.  In just these three exercises the strap can do wonders for your back. To work the strap well, the stomach must exert an oppositional pull on the strap to such a degree that the strap remains ridiculously taut. In this way you get some assistance on the mat – in just a few exercises – amidst a sea of other exercises where you are left to your own devices.

The handles are used to do the Roll Over, Single Leg Circles, Corkscrew, Swan and the Jackknife. For some individuals lying on the back and having hands on the handles is a HUGE stretch. I vividly remember using them myself for the first time. I could not believe how big a stretch it was. It was of course, just what I needed, and I am sure my chest would have caved in on itself by now without these blessed handles in my life. Make no mistake, the handles are not for the injured. But little by little as one gets stronger and ultimately uninjured the handles will turn into injury-prevention. Brilliant!

Of course intellectually I believe Jay Grimes when he tells me these things, but I have also been using the strap and handles for years now so I do not have an immediate point of comparison.

Until Now.

Recently I filmed some mat classes for Pilatesology. Often to appeal to a wider audience at home that may not have a mat with strap and handles, I am happy to ‘kick it strapless' and use a rubber roll up mat for the workout. I did not digest the full meaning of what the strap really does for me until my lesson a couple days later.

My lesson revealed an unfamiliar clunky spot, a flat unbending spot – let’s call it an ‘abyss’, since that’s what it felt like – in my back. Hmmm…what is that? Has that always been there? Ok, moving on…my workout felt great, hard and necessary. It was only afterward that I suspected the ‘abyss' was in a part of my back that is usually taken care of by the strap. Alas, I didn’t know what the strap was doing for me until it was gone. I did not know what I was missing! Well, I did, but now I do.

Not to get up in anyone's grill, but I must shout the truth: Nothing about the apparatus is by accident.

Joe knew what he was doing and spent his entire life obsessively fixated as only a genius inventor can. We have 11 major pieces of Pilates apparatus today not counting the small apparatus – okay, let's count – 6! 6 beautiful small apparatus. I am sure Joe threw out twice as many inventions that for whatever reason did not meet his approval. There are countless others of which we even have numerous photos (the V-bed, magic square, balancey-head-thingee-with-sandbags-hanging) that are no longer extant.

So I guess I am saying seize the day! Use the strap and see what happens. Years of Joe Pilates' research, tweaking and sweat went into that thing, don't let it just flop about. He has built in so much help for the body, into both apparatus and exercises. Simply by doing the work one can be the recipient of all Joe's wonderful gifts. Wow, has this turned into a rant?

This could almost fall into the category of Jay said it would… Man, that guy is always right.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

The Arm Chair is perhaps the most underrated and overlooked piece of Pilates apparatus.

Nicknamed the Baby Chair, or the “little old lady chair” for its brilliance with small and frail clients, the Arm Chair is an oft-glossed-over piece of equipment in teacher training programs.

Few studios feature an Arm Chair and generally if a studio does have one at all it may be gathering dust in the corner.

O for a Gratz Arm Chair!

Currently the Arm Chair is garnering ‘new attention’ in the Pilates universe.

A staple in Joe Pilates’ studio, it turns out this versatile piece of equipment is good for everyone. Just try the Rowing exercises from the Reformer on it and you are in for a revelation.

All that time spent talking about getting the shoulders down is superfluous when you have this perfect piece of equipment.

The back of the chair gives you immediate feedback about what goes on behind you in the no man's land of your back muscles.

My arm starts where?

You can now feel if you are connecting into your back or just cranking your shoulders. And ladies rejoice to do Swakate on the Arm chair, originally a man's exercise on the Reformer, where we can have a fighting chance to preserve a modicum of form.

Perhaps ‘rejoice' is too strong a word…

Hang on. Tangent time:

This apparatus can help to illustrate one aspect of Jay Grimes’ magical teaching: One’s ability to choose the most direct route to address any given situation or issue in the body elevates the teaching of Pilates to an art form.

Jay knows how to make the choice of exercises and therefore the Method itself do the work for him.

Jay trusts the exercise to convey the information to the student without a lot of long-winded and therefore meaningless chatter from the teacher. The student can then ‘discover' what the exercise is doing for them ‘all by themselves' and feel like a smarty that knows a secret no one else knows about.

I love it when that happens.

The Arm chair is a wonderful apparatus for the teacher because it gives you such easy access to the person’s body making it also ideal for those tiny Pilates instructors with a clientele of large inflexible men.

Take note – Joe Pilates’ original design of the Arm Chair has a moveable chair back that one must stabilize or control depending on the needs of the person and the demands of the exercise. This means greater versatility allowing weaker clients to work safely and the aforementioned large men to have a challenge.

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I am merely an enthusiastic fan.

Subscribe to receive a Special Bonus Blogpost
How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate
We respect your privacy and never share your information.