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.

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

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

It's hard to believe we are on the cusp of March MATness 2017!

How did it all start?

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

Now in its 5th year, March MATness is a global celebration of the original Mat exercises and brilliant body conditioning system that is our beloved Contrology.

Read more here.

OMG I love the Mat exercises!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

Yes.

It's true.

I'm endlessly fascinated with all of Joe's Mat exercises. He stretches us to the very edges of our capabilities with infinite variations on a theme.

My personal Mat workout consists of the 34 exercises from Joe Pilates and the 3 extra ‘Series of 5‘ exercises reportedly added by Romana Kryzanowska: Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors), Double Straight Leg Stretch (Lower Lift), and Criss Cross. Another staple is Thigh Stretch, an exercise Jay Grimes learned from Joe Pilates in the 1960s.

Which brings my total to a whopping 38 exercises!

Sometimes I like to add the High Bridge after the Shoulder Bridge. Because I can.

And if you can you should.

Every little bit of this workout can be completed in under 30 minutes.

Let's get the party started with the Hundred on Wednesday March 1, 2017.

The Order of the Universe

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

I'm a huge fan of Joe Pilates' original order of the Mat exercises.

What a precious gift from Joe Pilates.

We've got an entire month (and beyond) to focus on his brilliant sequencing.

Thanks Joe.

If you're new to the order of the Pilates Mat exercises get your list of the exercises here.

Stay tuned in March for the debut of My Mat Poster…coming soon!

3 Cheers for our Faves

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

This year I'm thrilled to have a few more favorites on the Mat than in previous years. Maybe you do too.

Since last year's MATness I have come to thoroughly enjoy Swimming.

Way more than I ever thought possible…

Other stretchy favorites include Control Balance and Bicycle.

Don't get me started on the rolling exercises…  #goodtimesroll

Wanna take a closer look?

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

On the Mat, perfecting your exercises can take time.

Use these posts to dive in deep this week and sail on through the weekend:

Maybe you're ready to link your exercises together into one glorious chain of movement?

Tighten up those transitions between exercises all month long:

Or you can watch the playlist on YouTube.

MATness All Month Long

I hope you'll join me here for Mat-centric posts as we move and sweat our way through the MATness.

Got an exercise you'd like to see featured in a post or tutorial?

Leave a comment below and I'll get on the Mat!

And here's where you can find me in 2017.

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 3

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 3

Welcome to Episode 3 of Transitions on the Mat!

In this episode we'll pick up with Spine Stretch Forward.

Post Series of 5 and into Spine Stretch Forward

  • Sit up after Criss Cross.
  • Begin your Spine Stretch.

Post Spine Stretch and into Open Leg Rocker

I'm a big advocate of getting into this exercise with straight legs.

Yes, you can begin with bent legs first to work on the balance of the position if you must. But more often than not one can go directly to the straight leg version in the following manner:

  • Pull the stomach in and curl backward until the weight of the upper body and lower body equalize. Your legs will begin to lift off the mat as you lower your upper body away from them.

(Don't worry about how far back you are going with your upper body for now. Also don't feel you need to be in a hurry to get into your position for Open Leg Rocker.)

  • Pull the stomach in and reach the legs out and upward into your hands (As though you would lift up the legs in the Teaser 3).
  • Keeping straight legs will put you immediately into the most advantageous balance for the Open Leg Rocker. Your legs will be supported by your center.
  • Begin your Open Leg Rocker.

Post Open Leg Rocker and into Corkscrew

And now for one of my favorites of what I call an ‘Embellishment Transition.'

Here you've got a few fun/challenging options to add: additional balancing, a closed-leg verision of Open Leg Rocker, as well as the ultimate version done with heels reaching skyward and holding onto your toes.

You may choose to include any or all of the following 'embellishments.'

  • Finish your Open Leg Rocker (the standard version).
  • Hold the balance and slowly bring the legs together.
  • Slowly open the legs continuing your balance.
  • Repeat 3-5x.
  • Keep legs together holding the ankles. Roll back 3-5x in this “closed rocker” position.
  • Hold the balance and reach heels away and hold your toes.
  • Roll back in this ultimate position 3-5x.
  • Finish in the balance and let go of the toes holding your Teaser position.
  • Control your descent to the mat.
  • Reach for the handles (if you've got them) or place arms by your side for the Corkscrew.
  • Begin your Corkscrew.

Post Corkscrew and into the Saw

  • Finish your Corkscrew.
  • Roll down the center and sit up into your Saw position.
  • Begin your Saw.

Enjoy this short vlog!

Missed an episode? No prob.

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 2

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat 2

Welcome to Episode 2 of Transitions on the Mat!

This episode is all about the infamous Series of 5 – getting in and out of it.

Please note that efficient transitions are meant to challenge stamina and advance your workout.

If this series of exercises is still quite a challenge and you are not in the custom of doing them all in rapid succession, please take care of yourselves. Rest your head if necessary and continue the exercises in this manner.

Post Rolling Like a Ball and into Single Leg Pull

I like the challenge of this transition especially if you have a stiff back. Use your control to not fall onto the mat.

  • Finish your Rolling Like a Ball.
  • Bring your right leg into the position for Single Leg Pull while still in the balance of the Ball.
  • Use your stomach and control your descent to the mat: keep your head up and reach the left leg out.
  • Begin your Single Leg Pull.

Double Leg Pull

  • Finish your Single Leg Pull with the left leg pulled in.
  • Pull your right leg in and hold one hand on each ankle.
  • Begin your Double Leg Pull.

Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors)

  • Finish your Double Leg Pull and straighten both legs upward into the Scissors position.
  • Begin your Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors).

Double Straight Leg Stretch (Lower Lift)

  • Finish your Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors).
  • Reach both legs to the sky and press heels together.
  • Use your hands to hold up your head, placing one palm over the other.
  • Begin your Double Straight Leg Stretch (Lower Lift).

Criss Cross

  • Finish your Double Straight Leg Stretch (Lower Lift).
  • Pull the right leg in as you twist the waistline and upper body to the right.
  • Keep your hands the same as in Double Straight Leg Stretch (Lower Lift).
  • Begin your Criss Cross.

Enjoy this short vlog!

Missed an episode? No prob.