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.

Brilliant!

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.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

The Side Kick Series and our exercise for March 23, Swimming, deserve to be together in an Another One Bites the Dust post.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Well here we are.

Achieving greater proficiency in a difficult exercise can be a game changer methodwide.

Read about a few of mine here and here.

Another One Bites the Dust

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Side Kick Series shares the same fate as our very-most-favorite leggy exercise, the One Leg Circle. Lots of flashy leg moves distract us from the main event.

Our center. The Powerhouse. All we've cared about in our Mat workout thus far.

Aw, but look: my leg…

The Side Kicks literally turn our One Leg Circle on it's side. Our unsupported backs must remember back to a time when we got to lie down. A simpler time indeed.

Now you must:

  • Keep your back lifted and tall.
  • Will your center to remain steadfast.
  • Don't be content to recline and lounge on your arm.

Side Kicks Series Foreshadowed

Side Kicks Series follows a crackerjack pair of helper exercises: Spine Twist and Jackknife.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Remember the lift in our center we seek?

Spine Twist threatens to twist it out of us.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Next the Jackknife brilliantly connects our lower body into our center – which is awesome – while we control and lift ourselves upside down.

Holy harder than lifting up in a seated position!

Jackknife gets our seat into tip-top shape to wrangle our hips in today's exercise the Side Kicks.

Joe Pilates provides us with all the tools we need.

How nice.

Swimming 2017: Livin' the Dream

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

In 2013 I wrote my most recent post on Swimming. From flail to fantastic, right?

It's all in The System.

All around the studio when we begin our Pilates lessons we have sturdy support for our backs.

Lying down for Footwork on the Reformer, sitting up on the High Chair and lying on the Cadillac for Arm Springs and Leg Springs are all foundational exercises. All offer full support of at least our backs if not even more of our body.

The major tenet of the Pilates Method is to create length and decompression in the back. Joe gives us the support of the apparatus as a template to find exactly that: a long and lifted back position.

Joe Pilates recommends us to

“lie down and try to make the whole length of the spine touch the floor, likewise the shoulders and arms, stretched above the head.

You can't do it, but trying is what counts.”

This neat little trick proves a great help to repeat this skill in exercises done on the stomach like Swan and Swimming.

Try it:

  • Lie down as you would before the Hundred or Teaser.
  • Pull your belly button in and up to the nape of your neck.
  • Use your muscles to make you the same shape as the Mat.

(It's impossible. But Joe gives us big points for trying)

  • Now remember what you did and turn onto your stomach for Swimming.
  • Now on your stomach, create the same shape of the mat as when you were lying on your back.
  • Slowly start the exercise without disturbing what you've set up in your center.
  • If you've got it then swim faster like Jaws is chasing you.

The MATness Continues

Now over halfway through the MATness I hope your daily Mat habit is in full swing.

Joe Pilates gifts us The Mat exercises to maintain our bodies. I'm not surprised they are included in a book called Return to Life.

The Mat is the perfect antidote to life's daily onslaught. The exercises here and all around the studio allow us to live – famously – with zest and pleasure.

All exercise photos in this post are featured on my Mat poster. Jaws not included.

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

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions! 7!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions! 7!

Welcome to the 7th installation of Transitions! Transitions!

We’ve been working our way through the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

Post Short Box and into the Short Spine Massage

Perhaps my very favorite transition!

Just as you were efficient in your set up into the Short Box, try to work with the same economy of movement to return the box, pole and pad to their respective spots.

  • Step off.
  • Place the pad where it lives.
  • Take box and pole back to their spot.
  • Done!

Remember way back to our Long Box transitions?

(Check out this video for a quick recap of how to be your own Pilates minion!)

If you've been following along, your straps will be already set up for the Short Spine Massage. All you need do is pick them up.

  • Place your straps in one hand.
  • Walk as much as you can to sit on the Reformer and lie back.
  • Lift your feet into the straps and enjoy!

A word about getting into the straps for Short Spine Massage

Notice I use the word ‘lift' to get your feet into the straps. I know, not a surprise…

In the spirit of a-little-exercise-before-the-exercise, work to lift yourself and therefore your feet to the straps without moving the carriage. 

Do not pull on the straps to move the carriage and straps to your feet. Remember you are about to do the Short Spine Massage. You should be able to lift yourself into position for this exercise.

Think of it as good Pilates etiquette.

Post Short Spine Massage and into the SemiCircle

You've got 2 options for extricating yourself from the straps post Short Spine Massage. I use them both depending on how much Reformer I will be doing in my workout.

1. The Fun Way

This one's a bit of “Look what I can do!” and is of course another exercise-after-the-exercise kind of transition.

  • Begin another repetition and pause when your hips are over your shoulders.
  • Use control and lower your legs to be approximately parallel to the floor.
  • Flex your feet to allow the straps to fall off your feet and into the well of the Reformer.
  • Roll down onto the carriage with control and continue to SemiCircle.

The Fun Way is the right transition to pick if you will be working more at an intermediate level and finishing up your Reformer with just a handful of additional exercises. The straps can be deposited into the well because you will not need them for the rest of your workout.

If you plan to proceed to Chest Expansion and beyond, I would choose option #2.

2. The Make-your-future-self-happy Way

You know you will need the straps (handles) again for Chest Expansion and beyond so you will place them exactly where you will need them next: where they live behind the shoulder rests.

  • Finish your Short Spine Massage.
  • Remove the straps/handles from your feet.
  • Undo them so the handles are free.
  • Replace the handles onto the pegs behind the shoulder blocks. Later you'll find them all set up for Chest Expansion.

With the straps all sorted out, you're ready to slide down the carriage to position yourself for the Semi Circle.

Enjoy this short video tutorial. 

Questions? Please leave them in a comment below.

Thank you so so much for watching!

In case you’ve missed one…

  • Check out the first Transitions! post to learn the purpose of an efficient Pilates transition.
  • Catch up on the 2nd post as well and move smoothly through the Rowing Series.
  • The 3rd installment will enhance your scoop and take you successfully into the Backstroke.
  • We hashed out the Big Transition into the Long Stretch Series into shape in post 4.
  • Transitions! 5! took us deep into the rhythm of the Stomach Massage Series.
  • My favorite, the Short Box Series gets the royal treatment in post 6.