Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

For Isabel

photo courtesy of Jack Coble and Pilatesology

Hello and welcome to this week's Pilates Project!

I'm in love with all-things-hanging-upside-down on the Cadillac.

So I can't believe I haven't already featured this exercise, the Hanging Pull Ups, in a previous post. Nor have I mentioned the iconic finishing sequence in which it appears – the Traditional Ending.

The Traditional Ending on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Working steadily on your Cadillac exercises, over time you will learn a challenging little series of exercises as a finish for your workout.

The Traditional Ending is comprised of 5 exercises:

  • Breathing
  • Spread Eagle (above in photo)
  • Pull Ups
  • Hanging Pull Ups
  • Half Hang/Full Hang

You also have the option for an embellishment in the midst of your Hanging Pull Ups, the Twist Pull Ups. Of course! More on this thrilling variation in the video at the end of this post.

The Traditional Ending is a wonderful opportunity to play, cavort and challenge ourselves within the spacious canopy of the apparatus.

While we're having fun we'll also perfect a fundamental skill in the Pilates system: the connection of the arms and upper body into the larger muscles of the back.

Connecting the Upper Body into the Back

If you're ready to tackle the Hanging Pull Ups and the Traditional Ending you're no stranger to using your back muscles to support and power the movement of the upper body.

By now you've used this skill successfully in exercises like the Hundred, Arm Springs Lying Down and Chest Expansion on the Cadillac and Arm Circles and the Rowing series done on the Arm Chair to name just a few.

The major difference between the above exercises I mention and the Hanging Pull Ups is now you must support your entire body hanging in space.

Which means (1) this is not merely an arm exercise, and (2) oh gosh, we must use our lower body too.

Hello full body exercise!

What's to be done?

Step 1: The Order of the Universe

Work on all your other exercises… of course.

Step 2: I Pilates Projects

Let's look at some helper exercises for our Hanging Pull Ups. Later we'll examine the entire Traditional Ending series for more challenge assistance.

I've chosen 5 exercises which speak to me. Give them a try and see what you think.

If you find additional exercises which serve you – great! Please share your successes here in a comment and let me know what exercises work their magic.

1. Arm Springs Lying Down

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

This exercise is the very first ‘arm springs' exercise we learn.

Our entire body is supported and we can feel our back muscles on the mat behind us. The spring is sufficient to coax our entire body into doing the exercise.

This is not your ordinary arm exercise.

Using the position shown in the photo above, press the feet into the mat to enliven the lower body. It's usually the part of the body that is just lying there which must do all the heavy work.

Consider the Arm Springs Lying Down from a different POV:

When we push on a spring in Pilates we must lift our center in the opposite direction. Consider this exercise to be more of a back exercise than an arm/shoulder exercise.

If you were standing up, the Arm Springs Lying Down would become Chest Expansion.

2. Teaser (part 1) on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

The very first moments of this exercise are chock full of connective goodness!

Again you have the feedback of the mat behind you. Plus you now have the unwieldy Push Thru bar which must be controlled.

A-ha! The plot thickens…

Learning to move and control the Push Thru bar here will reward you majorly in all your other exercises.

  • Use the heel of the hand to connect and resist the bar as it comes toward you.
  • Control the bar as it begins to change direction.
  • When the arms reach upward connect to the back muscles to move the bar with the center instead of the shoulders.
  • Repeat up to 3x. And then of course, Teaser!

Now you're ready to connect your upper body into the back without being on the mat.


3. The Rowing Series on the Arm Chair

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Here on the Arm Chair you'll have the exact same feedback from the apparatus, this time sitting up instead of lying down. See how you do.

If you've not experienced the four Rowing exercises here you're in for a real treat.

Rowing exercises on the Arm Chair:

  • Rowing 3 – From the Chest
  • Rowing 4 – From the Hip (above in photo)
  • Rowing 5 – Shave
  • Rowing 6 – Hug

The Arm Chair provides valuable information to take with you for your Reformer Rowing series. You'll find the connection and feedback from the chair to reinforce your tall back position wherever you are tall and away from the support of the apparatus.

4. Rolling Back (with eyes on the prize…)

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Occasionally there's an exercise with mass appeal.

I find Rolling Back on the Cadillac to be just such an exercise. No matter what the quality of the students' rolling up skills, everyone benefits from and enjoys this exercise.

It's often a nice segue from outside the studio into the workout.

Here we can begin to work on the lower body component of our Hanging Pull Ups.

  • Reach your lower body and heels against the upright poles of the Cadillac. Use your willpower. Really make it happen.
  • With all of your body supported by the apparatus, hone your focus to find your back, stomach and seat.

Think of this support as a help to our next lower body exercise, the Short Box Series.

5. The Short Box Series

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Practicing this meat-and-potatoes exercise can have a focus which will support our Pilates Project.

Forget about all the beautiful choreography happening in the upper body.

Just for a moment.

  • Commit to finding the lower body in this series to root the body and power your amazing Short Box skills.
  • Work the strap reaching the heels underneath and keeping it oppressively tight around the ankles.

You no longer have the luxury of pressing your heels into the apparatus.

Remember our other helper exercise, Rolling Back. Imagine the support and information you received and focus today on the lower body work in our Short Box Series.

See what happens. You might even surprise yourself.

The Traditional Ending on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Let's take a look here at one of my favorite components of the Pilates Method: the Order of the Universe.

Even our order of exercises is a help for our Hanging Pull Ups!

Our first exercise is Breathing, also an effective helper exercise and a great start to support all of our body weight in space.

  • Keep everything in a strong line.
  • Reaching the lower body long toward your big toes.
  • Find your skills from your Arm Springs Lying Down: move the bar toward you and connect into the back.
  • Work this exercise well and enjoy this invigorating finishing sequence!

Thanks for watching!

What are your favorite exercises to work on the Hanging Pull Ups? 

Share your success in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2018.


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  1. Oriane Eisenbarth says:

    Thank you Andrea for all the important details (like how to measure distance for trapeze), which I was not taught in my teacher training. The set-up creates the basis for the work, after all. Great cues also.

    • You are so welcome Oriane. I was thinking that readers would enjoy seeing this series. You are correct – the set up helps and supports the exercises. Thanks for your kind words and for reaching out to connect here 🙂 Cheers to you!

  2. You made that look very easy = it.is.not. 🙂

  3. Deborah Wagman says:

    Thank you Andrea,
    Always and I mean always inspired by your knowledge and teaching skills !!


  4. Very helpful, thanks! I also wasn’t taught how to measure. More please! 🙂

  5. Excellent explanation. Grateful to share your knowledge. I have a traumatized shoulder but I’m a few trying to run this series. Valuable help. Thank you!666

    • Thank you so much Sueli for your kind words and for reading and watching the videos 🙂 Stay tuned for a Rowing Series on the Arm Chair video – this is perhaps the nicest place for your shoulder and the Rowing Series. Thanks again for reaching out to connect with us and sharing your thoughts – welcome!

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