Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

About last week…

In last week's post, I challenged you to visit a few of your nastiest exercises. Did you get bored with them? Or did you get better at them? How did it go?

I'd love to know.

TBH, I decided on my 3 exercises quickly but only managed to visit them a few times… sign me up for another week.

So far I am neither bored nor better.

My 3 exercises to continue to wrangle:

Ladder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercises

Side Sit Ups, Side Stretch, and the Backbend.

Clearly I need to hear Joe Pilates' words again:

“Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you in keeping faith with yourself.

So I'll keep the faith at full speed for another week at least. How'd you do with your exercises?

Meanwhile…

Jump into a new series with me this week!

Nearly 2 decades into this amazing method, I'm finally (mostly) ready to tackle the-most-basic of all basics: Footwork on the Reformer.

Let's. Go.

Footwork at a Glance

In the traditional Pilates system 4 exercises begin our Reformer workout:

  1. Toes – the official name, but dare I say, Balls
  2. Arches
  3. Heels
  4. Tendon Stretch

For the record, I've never been a fan.

Kerry DeVivo of Excel Pilates Annapolis, one of my first teachers, used Footwork as her go-to workout on busy days. Not all the exercises on the Reformer, there was no time. 

JUST the Footwork.

She loved it.

Ugh.

Why subject yourself to such torture?

Even my most horrible Mat exercises would be more fun than Footwork on the Reformer all by itself.

#FootworkProbs

At first, I found the Footwork exercises to be frustrating. So much focus on the minutiae of my misbehaving foot, arch and ankle was such a drag. Not to mention I had the quads of 10 men… *sigh*

Can't we just move on to the Hundred and all the fun stuff?

What's really going on here?

I need an attitude adjustment…

Let's Zoom Out

Jay Grimes and Vintage Pilates (and time) have liberated my Footwork series.

I'm more than just a pretty pair of feet…

Joe Pilates was often asked, “What is this exercise for?”

“The BODY.”

Good answer! Thanks, Joe.

Footwork is your first big warmup of the lower body.

Footwork on the Reformer

The Hundred continues this theme of warming up, now for the upper body.

100 on the Reformer

What a pair!

#fullbodyworkout

Mobilizing and lengthening the back is more vital than perfect legs, feet, and ankles – at the moment. 

These things take time.

Most importantly MOVING through this series plucks you out of your busy mind and into laser focus: controlling your body. You may even sort yourself out on your way to the Tendon Stretch.

Joe Pilates has your back on this one.

Literally.

Can you be long, tall and straight like the Reformer behind you? Nope, but it's the trying that counts.

The Footwork series is a great place to take full advantage of your most supportive friend, your partner in crime, the Reformer.

Ready? Set? Footwork!

A whole Pilates studio of apparatus lies in wait to exploit your Footwork skills. Surely all of our 500+ exercises in the Pilates Method will benefit.

Footwork on the Reformer is the very first skill to haunt you (perhaps even taunt you) on every apparatus you visit.

Footwork on the Reformer

It's your very first squat!

Joe Pilates takes it easy on you at first. You are horizontal, fully supported by the apparatus and free from pesky gravity.

Check out these Pilates morsels! See if you can find their inner Footwork

Frog on the Reformer

Frog, in many iterations and on multiple apparatuses, is the ultimate Footwork clone.

Pumping on the High Chair

Pumping on the High Chair puts our Footwork (and our Frog) upright. I find changing the relationship to gravity can be a huge help in honing our Footwork skills.

Centering on the Ped-o-Pull

Focusing on your inner Footwork can make even grueling exercises on the Ped-o-Pul possible. In the photo, I am using a bit of Footwork to help with my Centering exercise.

Wow! The scope of the Footwork exercises makes it a whole lot more fun.

Now for something completely different (NOT)

Our Footwork series also provides a strong foundation in formidable exercises:

Greg Swan on Barrel

Swan done on the Ladder Barrel puts the strength of your Footwork to the test.

Headstand 2 on the Reformer

OMG it's a moment of Tendon Stretch from our Footwork series smack dab in the middle of the Headstand! An old familiar friend despite the challenging position…

Tower on the Cadillac

And you can clearly see some Footwork skills in my personal nemesis, Tower on the Cadillac. Thanks, Joe Pilates, someday I will learn!

Lights! Camera! Footwork?!

Joe Pilates starts you off right away with the fundamental skill of the Footwork series.

Visit your Footwork and all your fundamental Reformer exercises in these videos:

Use the first one for a detailed deliberate pace and the one below for the same group of exercises done at a brisk pace:

Need help finding your bottom and actually using it in your Footwork series?

Check out this video as well:

Have an amazing Pilates week. You got this.

The Pilates Apparatuses: What’s in a Name?

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

Lately I've been spending considerable time with my Foot Corrector.

Although there are countless exercises one can do with this lovely device, I've been focusing on the basics: the foot positions we also use for Footwork on the Reformer.

  • Toes
  • Arch
  • Heel
  • Tendon Stretch – Which on the Foot Corrector I call The Massage. How nice.

For more details about these 4 exercises check out this recent post.

It's working!

I am amazed at the power of this little device to correct my feet.

I've known for years that my left foot has a fallen arch and poor alignment with the joints of my leg. In my training program I was encouraged to lift up the arches of my feet when standing.

Well you know, these things take time.

To coerce the arch of my foot to lift (or move at all) or what muscles would even be in charge of said action was a big ol' mystery.

Enter the Foot Corrector.

Repeated use of this humble device is teaching me how to pull up my arch into my center. Oh yes, it's all connected…

Literally correcting my foot.

Did you just hear that sound?

It was my mind. Blown.

I love when that happens.

So get out those Foot Correctors and experience the magic.

I have been working just the 4 exercises I mention at least once every day. If I have a long day of standing, I might do them a few times throughout the day.

See what you think 🙂

Wait! We have other Correctors…

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

If you've been reading here for a while you'll remember my love for Joe's other device, the Spine Corrector.

I have a great respect for Joe's apparatuses which happen to include the word ‘corrector' in the title.

Clearly he wasn't kidding.

Joe Pilates' brilliant Spine Corrector is an anti-gravity machine worthy of a daily habit.

Check it out in these related posts:

The Toes Knows

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

Oh the cute tiny apparatus. Pocket-size, travel ready and with a spring!

Also called the Toe Tensometer, Joe's Toe Corrector lives up to its name: both of them.

Tensometer

(from Wikipedia)

It is usually a universal testing machine loaded with a sample between two grips that are either adjusted manually or automatically to apply force to the specimen.

3 exercises I enjoy on the Toe Corrector:

(oh dear, the whole name thing…)

  • Single Toe Pull
  • The Bunion Eradicator – a classic.
  • Seated Single Leg Pullcan you long the back?!

Single Toe Pull

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

  • Sit up tall with legs long out in front of you.
  • Hold one side of the TC with an index finger. Put the other end over each toe one at a time. I like to start with my left pinky toe and work left to right until all toes have had their turn.
  • Pull each toe forward 5x with the goal that only the working toe moves and the others are still. This probably will not be what you see happening.
  • Persevere.
  • Work to locate the muscles of the center that move each of the toes. This should keep you busy for some time.

The Bunion Eradicator

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

Classic Toe Corrector magic, this one.

It can be done as above, legs long out in front of you. I enjoy the seated version.

  • Sit tall on the edge of a chair or Reformer with feet planted firmly on the floor.
  • Press all the toes firmly into the floor.
  • Place the TC on your big toes either above or below the joint. I like above.
  • Keep all toes on the floor and pull the big toes evenly away from each other 5x.
  • Hold one bog toe in place and move the other away from center 5x.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Single Leg Pull?

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

I love a daily dose of Pilates déjà vu…hmmm haven't we been here before?

  • Keep the TC in the same place as for the previous exercise.
  • Hold one toe down on the floor and bring the other knee up toward your chest.
  • (Your big toe will pull upward on the TC)
  • Hey look Single Leg Pull!
  • Lift your waist up out of the hips and work to find length in the back in this exercise. Not easy…

See what you think 🙂

Enjoy this short video tutorial on a related subject: Footwork on the Reformer!

Stay tuned for further tutorials on the  Footwork series.

Got a question you want covered in the discussion?

Lay it on me in a comment below.

Hey Southern California…

Saturday January 21, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching in Michele Tandy's beautiful studio. Just a couple spots available for private lessons, contact Michele to book. Register for the 10am Mat class here.

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Here’s a bit of what’s cooking for 2017:

Thursday – Sunday May 11-14, 2017 Equinox, London UK

Contact Jayne O’Brien for more info and to register.

Friday – Sunday September 22-24, 2017 Pilates Mödling, Mödling Austria 

Join me in Mödling, Austria just 20 minutes from the capital city of Vienna. This is an event not to be missed! I’ll be offering lessons, mat classes and workshops. Workshops include: The Teaser: The Truth will PrevailOn the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises and 3 Chairs + 3 Barrels = 2-way Stretch and more.

Contact Andrea Seipel for more info and to register.

Saturday + Sunday October 7-8 2017 Everybody Pilates, Portsmouth UK

Contact Amy Kellow for more information.

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Hey there all you Pilates cats and kittens 🙂 I hope you had a great week of oppositional reach from your strong center.

A hearty thanks for being awesome subscribers and sending your Pilates love. It totally makes my day. I'm so glad you find the posts and videos to be helpful to you on your Pilates path.

And I'm thrilled to learn my posts have now been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Korean.

Thank you so much friends, hugs and kisses to you!

Current Pilates Obsessions

A lovely by-product of surrounding yourself with Pilates apparatus is the ability to dial deeply into each apparatus. Current obsessions include the Toe Corrector, Foot Corrector and the Ladder Barrel.

If you've been following my blog for a while you may recall I broke a bone in my foot earlier this year.

Along with some therapeutic massage, I've been putting my Foot Corrector to the test.

Just a few standard exercises are really making a difference. And my feet need maximum correction…

The exercises are essentially the Footwork exercises of Reformer fame:

  • Toes

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

  • Arches

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

  • Heels

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

  • Tendon Stretch (which I like to call The Massage – not sure it has an official name? And the socks help to move smoothly as you press.)

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Actually I didn't know my foot felt stiff and owie until it felt amazing again.

Clearly Joe Pilates wasn't kidding: pay attention to apparatus promising ‘correction' right there in the name.

Now for the Hacks…

One of the challenges in my workout is the delicate balance between precision/working properly and pace. Our Pilates exercises should MOVE!

The magic is in the movement.

I've used the following hacks with great success. Essentially I pick one thing that strikes my fancy and apply it over every exercise I will do.

Literally. Try it on and see what happens in the exercise.

How does my one thing feel in this exercise? In the next? In the one I hate? Etc…

1. The Pilates Concept Hack

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Initially Pilates trains our bodies with exercises fully supported by the apparatus which gives us vital feedback.

Think about all the lying down exercises done on the Reformer, Cadillac and Mat. Even the High Chair gives us a fully supported seated position.

The support and feedback of the apparatus teaches us how to find length in the back. I believe this to be the major tenet of Joe Pilates' work.

I desperately need the concept of ‘finding length in the back' in exercises where I am devoid of support or contact with the apparatus.

Can I remember what the apparatus has taught me repeatedly over all these years?

This is not a test. This is for the win!

Read more about this hack in a recent post: One Pilates Uber-Concept PLUS Introducing the Workout Quickie

2. The “It's just like that other exercise!” Hack

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Got a favorite exercise that illuminates a challenging skill? Seize the day!

This hack is a favorite of mine. You know my fondness for The Long Back Stretch.

It's my favorite game of “Let's pretend.”

And it's really an offshoot of our signature hack: We Only have One Exercise.

Treat yourself to a workout in which you search for the Double Leg Pull in every exercise. It's a game-changer.

Check out these recent posts to see this hack in action:

3. The Apparatus Hack

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Every day I become more enamored with the Spine Corrector.

Again, the word ‘corrector' in the name should be all the information we need. It can be one of our greatest teachers.

The Spine Corrector should be everyone's favorite hack.

Jay Grimes describes the Pilates Method as “all about opening.” The Spine Corrector fits brilliantly into this POV.

Perfectly positioned to open the back, the hips, the shoulders –  it's pretty much the place to open the body and enhance your execution of your Pilates exercises – the Spine Corrector is the Pilates equivalent of your best friend.

Other than moi…

Let's spend some quality time with our Spine Corrector this week:

Oh and then there's the Arm Chair:

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

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

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2×4 Exercises

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 ExercisesFix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 Exercises

I dearly love my weekly lessons with Karen Frischmann.

I learn so much about the method, I find balance in my own body and I understand more deeply how Pilates as a system all hangs together.

About once a year I have a little check-up lesson with Jay Grimes.

I have questions for him of course. And I will have had plenty of time until my next lesson with him to work on corrections or comments he made.

While doing the Footwork in my most recent lesson with Jay he asked me a question.

“Have you been doing the 2×4 exercises?”

For a nanosecond I thought he was giving me a compliment. I soon came to my senses and realized he was politely pointing out that I should do exercises for my feet.

Well… no.

Too fixated on the Reformer to venture elsewhere in the studio, I vowed I would work on the 2×4 exercises after every workout.

It would take more than half a year to follow up on his advice.

#procrastinationheals

About 7 months later I dusted off my 2×4 and got to work.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Jay suggested it would be helpful to work on the 2×4 exercises in front of a mirror.

Great, I'll be my own Pilates teacher.

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 Exercises

I focused initially on 2 of the standard exercises:

  • Tendon Stretch – the vertical version of the 4th Footwork exercise
  • A classic 2×4 exercise I learned under the name ‘Standing Foot Exercises‘ – a combination of Tendon Stretch-esque movements: bend the knees, lift the heels, straighten the legs, lower the heels, and its reverse.

Looking in the mirror proved to be invaluable.

I have a disobedient foot/leg/side. Perhaps you do as well?

Now I could see my naughty foot and fix it.

That's when the fireworks went off in my center. One small adjustment in my foot/leg turned on all kinds of connections on that side of my powerhouse.

Aha!

Could this be Jay's intention all along?

Who doesn't want to fix their powerhouse?

With any Pilates exercise or variation that I deem ‘good for what ails me', I like to get feedback from Karen in my Monday lessons.

Karen is great at taking what I bring into my lessons and shooting it into the stratosphere of connection. We mined a ton out of the 2×4 exercises and they began to seep into all of my workout.

What's to be done when you cannot connect your lower body into your center because you are upside-down in the Jackknife?

Add a little 2×4 to the mix!

The repetition of the 2×4 exercises in my body can be called upon in exercises where my feet are not in contact with any apparatus.

Perfect for all those upside-down Mat exercises!

Put the ‘Full' in ‘Full Body Workout.'

What's good upside-down HAS to be good for standing up. Good standing posture is no easy feat (oh where would I be without the foot puns).

It's a challenge to fully utilize the lower body in standing exercises and ignite the powerhouse.

#2x4totherescue

I love to use the 2×4 as a teaching tool for the Standing Arm Springs series on the Cadillac.

Remember the Standing Arm Springs are not just arm exercises!

You must rely on all the muscles that make a strong standing position to find success in the Standing Arm Springs.

Let's take a few examples:

Fix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 ExercisesFix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 ExercisesFix your Feet, Fix your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2x4 Exercises

It's easy to get caught up in the upper body action of these exercises. But what's the standing body doing?

Just the simple act of balancing on the 2×4 for the Tendon Stretch exercise will connect the lower extremities into the center.

The 2×4 exercises communicate so much more than I ever could with my words.

A Scrubbing Bubbles moment

Who doesn't want an exercise that does all your work for you?

The 2×4 is a game changer.

It's a great tool to enliven the lower body and prepare you for the Standing Arm Springs.

OMG where can I get one???

The 2×4 – sometimes called the ‘upholstered foot exerciser' is available from most Pilates equipment manufacturers.

Here's a link to one made by Gratz Pilates:

http://www.pilates-gratz.com/collections/accessories/products/upholstered-foot-exerciser-bar

Alternatively, check out this post on pilatesology.com and make your own 2×4 in minutes!

https://pilatesology.com/2015/04/diy-how-to-make-your-own-pilates-2×4/

Enjoy!

How do you make the lower body come alive?

Share your Pilates Secrets in a comment below.

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