Exercise Relationships to Build Proficiency: Reformer Edition

Control Push Ups on the Reformer

Hey there!

I've been thinking about you. Thanks for sharing your time with me and for becoming a subscriber.

Did you get a chance to read my bonus blog post How to Fall in Love with Exercises you HATE?

I hope so.

Click here to subscribe if you missed out on this little gem…

The more you know…

Tree on the Short Box

Speaking of exercises you hate… it's time for another footnote to last week's post.

Oh the Pilates Method… so many opportunities for learning.

Lost in a sea of traditional order options it's easy to get muddled.

And that's what Pilates friends are for! A big shout out to Samantha Walley of Vital Balance Pilates for remembering all the things from our time with Jay Grimes that I have forgotten.

Last week I considered relocating the Short Box Series to later in the order when adding the 2nd Long Box.

Well that, friends, is one option I learned from Romana.

It is Romana that allowed for just keeping the box with you after the 1st or 2nd Long Box, then turning it to be the Short Box. I make a case for this option in an older post that you've all showered with love: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

Done in this manner you are saved one trip to get the box: You'll go get it for 1st Long Box (1), and get it again for the 2nd Long Box (2), finally keeping it for the subsequent Short Box Series.

Jay Grimes, however, doesn't care how many trips you make to get that box. You'll fetch it thrice (1st Long box, 2nd Long Box, Short Box), enjoying a welcome passeggiata each time you need it.

You've got all these options available to you within the structure of the order of exercises.

There is no wrong, only better and better choices to be made depending on any given scenario. And your Pilates education and experience will help you to choose wisely.

And in any event, there's always another Reformer workout on the horizon for you to begin. Again.

Exercise Relationships

Joe Pilates never leaves us unprepared.

How many times can I tell you why I love the Pilates Method?

Reason #196 is that your path is well-thought-out. Follow the path with “patience and persistence” and you'll always arrive at a complex exercise with confidence.

Joe Pilates is a master of taking a familiar skill and turning it (literally) on its head.

To progress your workout, it's helpful to revisit the basics to see where the seeds of a complex Reformer exercise first begin to germinate.

Oh boy, the plant metaphors… just one peril of being a plant parent!

Headstand 2

Headstands 2 on the Reformer

I've been working on The Headstands on the Reformer for probably decades. They are not great, but you don't get better at exercises by leaving them out. For the past few years, I've been toiling in the fundamentals building my proficiency and whittling away at a bad movement habit.

So now they're back. They're already better than they've ever been.

“When one exercise gets better, they all get better.”

The Pilates fundamentals do their magic. But how do you arrive ready and (sort of) willing to do the Headstand 2?

Ladies and Gentlemen… the Tendon Stretch!

Ever notice we have many exercises all called the Tendon Stretch?

And a bunch more exercises that include an element reminiscent of the Tendon Stretch?


Tendon Stretch: Footwork Edition

Tendon Stretch in the Footwork Series

Yes. It all begins with the Footwork. Never thought I would be that person.

The lift you cultivate here, all “comfy” and supported from head to toes will serve you well once you've upended yourself into the Headstand 2.

Stomach Massage Series

Stomach Massage Series on the Reformer

Essentially the sitting-up-now version of Footwork, the Stomach Massage Series sets you well on your way to the Headstand 2. This series, like Footwork, also goes on for a long while, building (beating) the skill into you.

Just sayin'. Again probably not an accident.

Full-On Tendon Stretch

Tendon Stretch on the Reformer

Looks can be deceiving but this iteration of the Tendon Stretch has all the components of its lying down Footwork relative: you must stand on your feet and use your crazy lift to survive the exercise instead of riding the carriage like you're at Disneyland.


SemiCircles on the Reformer

Finally back in the ballpark of the Headstand 2, the SemiCircles force you to keep your lift or forever be squashed into the gaping maw of the Reformer.

And now upside-down and backward, you arrive at Headstand 2.

Now it's all making sense, right? Your Pilates teacher has been harping at you to lift since the workout began and boy, do you need it now.

Gravity's a bitch. But it's also very communicative.

The Complex Reformer Project

Control Push Ups on the Reformer

Tracing the roots of the Headstand 2 back to nearly the very beginning of your Reformer workout is just one example of Exercise Relationships.

If this sounds like your kind of fun, join me in the month of February for a new online workshop, The Complex Reformer Project.

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll tweak the Pilates Project POV to look for skill sets in the fundamentals for all those fancy exercises just like the Headstand 2.

Overhead I hear you cry?

Snake/Twist and High Bridge?

Star even?

Oh yes.

Space is limited. Reserve your spot today.

And stay tuned for my March workshop where you'll link it all together with transitions!

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  1. Oriane Eisenbarth says

    Oh wow what a pathway from footwork to those advances exercizes. So inspiring and fun to follow your thoughts and inputs. Lot’s of thanks Andrea! Hi from Berlin, Oriane

    • Hi Oriane,

      Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words on this noble Pilates experiment 🙂 Lots of Pilates love to you and yours! xox

  2. Yeah!! I’ve never attempted Headstand 2…too scary…but seeing you in Footwork and then…there’s Tendon Stretch, etc….and then….there it is, Headstand 2! Ah, yes, I see it! Seems more “doable” (even thought I’m still not ready for this H2 doozy). Love seeing/reading about these relationships! In Tree, are you actively pushing on the frame to get more lift or ?? I’m not there yet either…on the rare occasion I get my hands back there I think I pull on the corners? Heck, I don’t even know it’s all too fast, furious and intermittent for me to remember! But, seeing this I’m thinking of “pushing” to get lift would be better!… like in Semi Circle…

    • Hi there –

      As far as the “super complex” exercises like the Headstands, I don’t find them to be as crazy as some of our other Reformer exercises like Snake/Twist and the Long Spine Massage. Yes you are on your head, but otherwise, the movements are straightforward. Headstand 1 is very much like the Up Stretch and here of course you can see that Headstands 2 is a Tendon Stretch in disguise. However, this is the “basic” version of Headstands 2… eventually it gets a few more moving parts… patience Grasshopper 🙂 (saying this to myself as well)

      Very good question about my hands on the frame in the Tree. Yes, I am actively pushing into the frame trying to lift my whole trunk longer and up my body toward my hands. I am doing this for a couple of reasons actually. To keep the lift in the trunk on the inside – it’s easy for me to flop upside down and “relax” and that isn’t wise as you have to return up to the top leg. Also, I am using pressing into the frame as a stepping stone for making it all the way down to the floor to press up in the High Bridge. Right now I can get to the floor but my center usually falls apart. So for a bit I will press the frame and then “walk” my hands from there to the floor. Eventually, I won’t have to stop there on the way down… and some day there will be leg circles again.

      It does help like in the SemiCircles – good eye! I have pulled on the corners of the frame as well – both are good for fostering the lift we are after here. I love exercise relationships 🙂
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing this great question here.

      • I’m very excited to get back on the R. I will def. try this as I usually “relax” quite easily back there ;-0

        As for Headstand(s). We’ll get there! Thanks for this very cool answer!! x

        • I have a renewed enthusiasm for the Reformer – I can feel real change and little by little even the horrible stuff is getting better.
          The Headstands feel different in my body – not easy by any means – and I wonder if I will ever get to the 1 leg version? It’s hard enough with 2 legs LOL so I am not in a hurry 🙂
          You are so welcome and thank you so much for reading and for being awesome! xox

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