You’ve Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Thank you, lovely Pinterest followers for making the above image into my most popular pin.

Pinned 206 times as of this writing, it's the mantra I use to improve my teaching skills.

Every. Day.

Let's throw down the gauntlet and aspire to greatness.

Choose Wisely

When skill-building in the Pilates system we are faced with a never-ending series of choices.

It's a Pilates choose-your-own-adventure! The choices you'll make will lead you and your clients along the Pilates path in as direct a manner as possible.

OMG this is the Holy Grail for Pilates instructors.

It's a tall order, I know.

But time is on our side and they tell me Rome was not built in a day. We'll move toward our goal incrementally each day.

Success in the Pilates method is more marathon than sprint. Keep this in mind.

  • Day 1: you will plant the apple seed.
  • Day 2: you will not yet be enjoying a juicy apple!

Patience, grasshopper.

I choo-choo-choo- choose you

Joe Pilates has given us numerous opportunities to choose wisely.

Take a look around the studio.

In addition to our old standbys the Reformer and the Mat, we've got a trio of chairs and of barrels.

It's the collection of exercises on these 6 pieces of ofttimes peripheral apparatus that we can turn into one of our greatest assets. Within this grouping of chairs and barrels lies the perfect spot to work on a variety of connections for lots of different folks.

The Spring Remains the Same

At first blush, the work you'll do on the Chairs and Barrels may feel different from the Reformer and Mat exercises. But remember they are all part of a larger system.

All Systems Go

When viewed through the lens of the entire Pilates system the 3 Pilates Chairs and 3 Pilates Barrels become remarkably similar to our old friends the Reformer and the Mat:

For example, on the Chairs the springs are familiar.

  • They assist us.
  • They offer us support.
  • They remind us with a bang when we've gotten out of control.

We must use our lift and always aspire to close the spring with control.

This is the main objective of any apparatus with springs.

In Elephant on the Reformer you will close the spring.

Same for the Pull Up on the Wunda Chair.

I think I'm gonna like it here.

In comparison, the Barrels are bereft of springs and therefore more similar to the Mat. Like the Mat, they require you to fasten some of you into the apparatus while other parts of you reach long and away. The round shape of the barrel apparatuses allows gravity to work in our favor for a change.

The upper body reaches over the fastened in lower body in the Roll Up.

Arm Circles on the Spine Corrector again fasten you into a seated position while the upper body reaches back over the barrel.

We can get even more support here, and a template upon which to correct our upper backs, chest and shoulders.

Quite a nice little bonus.

Scrubbing Bubbles

I have found several exercises on the Chairs and Barrels that fall into the category of exercises I call “The Scrubbing Bubbles.”

What?

Yes, I'm always on the lookout for an exercise I can use to do my work for me.

Get ready for the Chairs and Barrels, friends…

We only have one exercise!

Arm yourself with the premise of the Pilates method and you are all set for a Chairs and Barrels choose-your-own-adventure!

Our mission:

To find the 2-way stretch at its most advantageous.

The Arm Chair

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

One of my favorite go-to exercises on the Arm Chair is simply the Arm Circles.

Small or big circles, the Arm Chair with its light springs really teaches people how to use their back muscles instead of their arms and shoulders.

And make no mistake, it is the Chair that is teaching the exercise. I am merely a guide. At first, this apparatus will be unfamiliar to the student. With repeated practice and time, you'll watch these exercises greatly improve, magically, before your eyes.

The Rowing Series (#3,4,5,6) is a frickin' dream here. The back of the Arm Chair is supportive and communicative.

The Rowing exercises on the Reformer will reap the benefits of diligent Arm Chair practice.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Photo courtesy of Fredrik Prag of Pilates Scandinavia

The High Chair

Going Up Front is an amazingly valuable exercise and the High Chair is a safe and sturdy place to work it.

Talk about lift!

The vertical orientation of the Chair communicates the 2-way stretch clearly.

The springs provide strong support and assistance to lift the pedal.

What goes up…

Must come down…

WITH CONTROL.

In opposition of the lift upward, here students can discover their lower body.

Now with a new awareness of the lower body, the student can begin to find their seat and sort out their hips.

Weaker sides rejoice!

And for those of us who are a bit unbalanced, uh… who have imbalances… (like moi) Going Up Front will provide years of challenge and entertainment.

Give it a go. Use your 2-way stretch to pull yourself apart at the waistline.

Reach begets lift.

The Wunda Chair

On the Wunda Chair you'll find one of the most effective tools for perfecting Footwork on the Reformer.

Whoopee!

It's quite a Scrubbing Bubbles exercise for me.

Footwork on the Wunda Chair

A combination of being upright plus the action of closing the springs as much as possible – and it is possible – greatly improves the work of the seat and the entire lower body.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates ApparatusYou've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates ApparatusYou've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

And your Footwork on the Reformer will be the better for it.

Especially for the folks that overuse their legs in the Footwork on the Reformer and have a hard time finding length in the back (guilty), being vertical is amazingly helpful.

And you haven't really felt your scoop in Footwork on the Wunda until that pedal closes.

Oh, scoop…right…

Use your seat to get a smidge more lift upon pressing the pedal down and then really push that pedal away – resist it – as your stomach lifts in and up to close the spring.

Holy opposition!

I'm telling you, this exercise is golden.

The 3 Pilates Barrels

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Yes. There are many kinds of exercises that can be done on these round apparatus, but I take my cue from the name of one of them: Spine Corrector.

Why are we here?

The answer to this question is very important. The name ‘spine corrector' is the key to understanding the purpose of working on all the barrels. They are all about opening: opening the spine, the chest, the hips, the shoulders. Correcting imbalances in the back.

Get ready for gravity to be your best friend.

The Barrels, especially the Small Barrel and Spine Corrector, pair beautifully with the Mat, which is also bereft of springs. In Joe Pilates' studio the Mat and the Spine Corrector/Small Barrel were constant companions.

Jay Grimes refers to the Spine Corrector exercises as a kind of coda to the Mat exercises.

They go together,
Like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong
Remembered forever
As shoobop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom
Chang chang changitty chang shoobop
That's the way it should be, wha ooohhh
yeah!

Just for the record, Jay did not sing this to me…

The Small Barrel

I simply adore this little guy.

Both the Small Barrel and the Spine Corrector (depending on the body) are my favorite exercises to use to alleviate tension in the arms and shoulders.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

The Arm Circles Series (including Breathing, pictured above) is a wonderful way to introduce students to their backs. They must have a powerhouse first of course, just look at that position.

How easy it would be to just lie back and let it all hang out, no bueno.

I love this series of exercises. It is simply brilliant at communicating (over time) that we should use our arms and shoulders less and find more lift and connection to the trunk of the body.

The waistline must lift as the arms reach – almost as though you could stretch yourself all the way over to the other side of the Barrel. Not just your arms, YOU. Lifted up. And over there.

The Arm Circles get my Scrubbing Bubbles vote!

The Spine Corrector

The series of 3 Mat exercises that are done on the Small Barrel and Spine Corrector are just wonderfully delicious.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates Apparatus

Scissors, Bicycle and Shoulder Bridge are brilliant for teaching the long reach of the lower body. Men with tight thighs, hips and lower backs benefit so much from these 3 exercises.

I love this series for whittling away at those who cannot sit up in Spine Stretch Forward without being all bunched up in the hip flexors. Gradually the Spine Corrector will do all of your work for you.

Plus you've got the Thigh Stretch on the Mat for those peeps and the Tree!

Sigh…what was life like before the Tree?

The Ladder Barrel

The Mack Daddy of the Barrels, the Ladder Barrel does all the Spine Correcting of the other 2 smaller barrels by upping the challenge and being part jungle gym as well.

Here's another place to do the Tree as well as a challenging Backbend series that takes your Roll Up to a whole new level.

You've Peaked my Pinterest! 6 Indispensable Pilates ApparatusConnection to the back? Check!

Lower Body Reach and your seat? You'd better get that together before approaching the Ladder Barrel.

The Ladder Barrel is truly the go-to place for success in the Swan. Gravity is your friend to find length in the back you never knew you had.

This is not an easy exercise and often it's no one's favorite. However, love for Swan on the Ladder Barrel is often found in perhaps the unlikeliest of places.

You've Peaked my Pionterest! 6 Indispensable Apparatus

Male client. 6'8″. Gratz Ladder Barrel. His fingertips literally touch the ceiling and he spans every inch of the Barrel. And. He. Loves. It.

It lights him up. He's got a lot of back to lift and lengthen as well. And he does it beautifully. Check out his Teaser here.

His Swan photo forthcoming…

Want to learn more?

Join me October 1-4 at Everybody Pilates, Portsmouth, UK and – poof! – this post will turn into a workshop!

You'll enjoy 4 jam-packed days of Pilates with me and Karen Frischmann who'll be debuting her new Masterclass format – exciting!! And of course, Amy Kellow and her amazing staff.

#Pilatesbestiesunite

Register today.

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.

What???!!!!

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

Wait.

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!

Pilates Projects: 10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake

Welcome to the first post of my new blog series: Pilates Projects.

In the Pilates method, the mastery of a complex exercise can require strategy. What luck!

We've got a whole system of perfect tools for the job.

February 10, 2013 began the Chinese New Year. The Year of the Snake. Yes, I am late, but I've still got half of 2013 left to strengthen my Snake. I had best get busy.

Holy frijoles if we ever have a Year of the Twist. Yeesh.

Build your Snake well and the fireworks will come.

The Snake (also referred to as Snake/Twist to include the next exercise in the series) is a complex exercise originally done on the Reformer. It requires skill, great control and coordination of the body and mind. And by mind I mean the desire and will to do this exercise. One must want to do the Snake, it's not really gonna show up on its own…

10 exercises + 5 apparatus = 1 Awesome Snake on Reformer.

Often one or more components of an intricate exercise may create a roadblock to the exercise. For this reason I have chosen 10 exercises with which to closely examine, refine and breakdown this exercise into more manageable parts. The better you become at these 10 exercises the better and stronger your Snake will be. When one exercise gets better, everything gets better.

The Warmup

I suggest doing at least a 30 minute warm up if you plan to work just these exercises before applying them to the Snake. Another plan would be to complete a Reformer workout of a similar duration which may or may not include the Snake, then work the 10 exercises, perhaps comparing your first Snake to the one afterward. See how you do.

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer1. Reformer: Up Stretch

Up Stretch is an exercise you most likely have been working for some time. It is straightforward in its symmetry and provides the same lower body action as the Snake. The stomach must reach all the way to the feet on the initiation of the Up Stretch and the lift at the end is exactly what you need to bring the in the carriage at the end of the Snake. The legs are on the moving part of the apparatus which feels more helpful to push into than the position of the feet on the stationary footbar in the Snake. This is a lower body exercise – and it can help you to find the lower body initiation in the Snake as well.

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer2. Reformer: Up Stretch Combo

This challenging variation is exactly what you will be doing in your Snake with the exception of the one-sided-ness. You are getting the lift of the Arched Back shape in this combo and the scoop of the return. You also get some “help” here as you push into the moving part of the carriage to train the lower body for the Snake. In the Snake you must push into the stationary footbar and not be seduced into using your arms to push out the carriage. Best to work this one well first before even attempting the Snake.

 

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer3. Reformer: Elephant

Oh Elephant, is there anything you can’t do? One of the first Reformer exercises you learn, the Elephant never ceases to be at once helpful and challenging. The Round shape of the Elephant is essential to perfect your control and return the carriage all the way home in the Snake.

 

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer4. Cadillac: Arm Springs

The Snake requires back strength to control the upper body on a moving carriage. The shoulders can otherwise be in a precarious position as the body opens up in space above the carriage. Both Arm Springs (lying down on the Cadillac) and the next exercise can help to connect the arms and shoulders into the back.

 

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer5. Cadillac: Back Connection with the Roll Back Bar

This exercise is essentially the first part of the Chest Expansion exercise. The roll back bar is attached to the standing arm spring hooks at the end of the Cadillac. With straight arms press the bar down and toward you. HOLD. Using just this first maneuver you have a terrific vantage point of the fingers, hands, wrists and elbows as you work the bar to connect the arms into the back. Place your hands just as you would place them on the footbar on the reformer: long wrists, all the fingers squeezing the bar evenly and thumbs on the same side as the fingers. Make sure the heels of the hands have contact with the bar. Let the squeezing of the fingers help you anchor your shoulders into the sides of your back. Reach the bar down toward the floor as much as you can – and remember it’s not how far you stand away from the bar that matters. Stand as close as you need to get the connection. As you push down on the bar use the feeling of the extended spring and your force pushing down to lift your stomach in and up in opposition. Take that help from the spring while you can get it.

Now for the part that’s like the Snake: as you return the bar stay connected to your back – the arms reach out to return the bar just as they reach when you start to move the carriage in the Snake. Here you can practice keeping the shoulders less active and get the reach and lift from your back. True this is not in extension like the snake, but well, enjoy it while you can.

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer6. Spine Corrector: Swimming

Now you’re going to take the connection you found in the previous exercise and add the element of back extension. Use your oppositional reach of arm and leg to create a strong diagonal of strength through the front of the body. Reach your right arm away from your reaching left leg and vice versa. Lengthen your whole body along the back and stomach.

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer7. Wunda Chair: Pull Up

Similar to the Elephant on the Reformer, the Pull Up will give you the necessary lift to return the carriage when performing the Snake. You can even use your bottom to push into the pedal as it comes up. In fact I highly recommend it.

 

 

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer8. Wunda Chair: Pull Up with 1 Leg

Here you can make your Pull Up skills more closely resemble those you’ll need for the one-sided Snake. Even with one foot hugging close behind the other one and off the pedal, squeeze the legs together and again find the bottom.

 

 10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer9. Wunda Chair: Side Pull Up

Building on the previous 2 Pull Up exercises you can now get more of the feeling of the Snake with your whole foot (Yay, the heel!) now able to push into the pedal. Try not to let the pedal push you up, control the pedal by pushing into it with the stomach, the bottom, the heel. Keep the free leg in the crossed-in-front-of-the-ankle position, again to approximate the position of the legs in the Snake. Each of these 3 Pull Up exercises illuminates the Snake in a slightly different way, so I like to use them all.

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer10. Mat: Double Leg Pull

What more can I say? We only have one exercise. Can’t be Snake-worthy without a strong center, the two-way stretch out of it and the breath. Arm yourself with the Double Leg Pull as your mantra and move, move, move!

And now…To the Snake I Say!

 

Now you have practiced your scales and you are prepared and nimble for the Beethoven Sonata that is the Snake on the Reformer. The skills have been built into your body to be at the ready for this tricky maneuver. Now I have to quote Jay Grimes: “Take your time. Enjoy it up there!”

10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake on the Reformer

Stay tuned!

Upcoming Pilates Projects include: Control Push Up Reverse, the Star and the Elephant. Plus accompanying videos via Pilatesology.

Leave a comment below to suggest your favorite fancy exercise to be featured in this series. 

Isn't every day a Pilates day?