Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

This Pilates Project has been a loooong time coming.

I believe the Star has been on my list since I began writing this blog over 3 years ago. And I've been working on the exercise itself for over a decade.

It's one of THOSE exercises. These things take time.

So, here we are.

I'm excited to unearth this project for a couple of reasons:

  • (1) it's a super challenging, one-sided exercise I'm just beginning to wrangle properly, and
  • (2) a colleague of mine, Kati Pylkkänen of Core Sport Pilates Studio, has made the Star on the Reformer one of her workout goals for the new year.

Thanks for enlisting my help, Kati. I shall do my best!

Before digging into our helper exercises, here's a few guidelines I use:

A Star is Born

To be a Star you must radiate outward in all directions.

No prob.

To extend your reach out from the center in all directions, let's think of a more fundamental exercise: the Twist in Stomach Massage Series:

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

All parts of the body are reaching in their respective directions.

Now, you must commit to this idea tenfold when working on the Star. Otherwise, since you are no longer seated, you will sink and fall down.

Awww…frownie face…

To be a Star you must become a master of each side of the body doing its respective workload.

Imbalances may make the Star quite a battle. Persevere, it's good for you!

Your standing leg must work fiercely despite that distracting leg waving around in the air. You must find the support the carriage can provide you and use it to your best advantage.

You must have boatloads of lift!

Remember it is your lift that brings the carriage home.

Especially for the leg-circling-flourish final moment of this exercise (just my fancy name) you must use your lift to keep the carriage closed and to get the most out of your reaching legs.

Relax, Joe Pilates has us well prepared.

Now that we've laid the groundwork, enjoy these helpful exercises.

Become proficient in all of these and your Star is on the rise!

1.  Long Stretch

Pilates Projects: The Star on the ReformerWell before learning the Star you've done the Long Stretch on the Reformer. The 2-sided version of the Star if you will.

Remember the Long Stretch and the Star are both Lower Body Exercises. They are not about your arms and shoulders. Stand on your feet firmly here and use your stomach, seat and reach to move the carriage.

2.  The Order of the Universe

Within the order of the Reformer exercises you already have a few exercises to strengthen and stretch the sides of the body and prepare you for the Star:

  • Side Bend on the Short Box which is our first taste of getting the sides to move and work.

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

  • Snake/Twist, a challenging mix of strength + stretch of the sides of the body and here you start to get used to just being on hands and a foot…

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

  • Mermaid is a key exercise to add when working on the Star. It gets everything up and moving in the sides – and perhaps more luxurious than the Star? Enjoy it while you can.

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

3+4.  Two Favorites

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

For me success in the Star is all about the Side Kicks Series on the Mat. And it's super fun cousin the Side Kicks Kneeling.

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

These 2 one-sided exercises present similar scenarios as the Star:

  • each side of the body working independently with one “standing” leg and one working leg
  • the skill of connecting the legs into the center to make this a full body exercise not a leg exercise
  • the movement patterns of front/back, up/down and circles

The challenge of the Side Kick Series is to keep the trunk working. Lying on your side, the back shape is long and lifted, just as though you were sitting upright.

I know, it's easy to fall in to the “loungey” trap in this side-lying position.

“No sexy on the beach!” Romana demanded as we lolled about on our sides.

You can cultivate the lift in the trunk by using your opposition (2-way stretch) away from your long reaching leg.

See, that leg's good for something after all.

You can use other upright exercises, Pumping on the High Chair is a good one with amazing feedback, to find the tall lifted back position with the seat working to elongate the low back.

Same shape, different exercise. I'm sure you've got some favorites of your own as well.

Whatever exercise speaks to you will serve you well. I just mention a few of my favorites.

Which brings me to that old chestnut, the Side Kicks Kneeling.

Joe's upped the ante now. See if all the connections you found in the Side Sicks can work now in your one-sided kneeling position.


Now we are less connected to the Mat.

Side Kicks Kneeling gives us more of what we'll find in the Star: up on one hand now kneeling, which is closer to our standing side-plank position.

Side Kicks Kneeling challenges our lift. It's easy to get stuck in the hip of the standing (kneeling) leg. Increase your lift in this exercise and it will prepare you for the required lift to close the carriage on the Reformer for Star.

Enjoy some Star inspo at :42.

Shine brightly, my friends! 

Share your successes in a comment below.

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  1. I always love your blog posts, and this one made me smile as usual. Does one ever really really conquer the star? It’s fun to keep trying!

    • Thanks so much Steph. You are right…it’s hard to imagine completely conquering the Star…but always a challenge to work towards it little by little with each workout. And fun, I agree 🙂 Thank you for your kind words about the blog, truly appreciated. And thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

  2. Hi Andrea. Great post! Can you please expand on your comment that Long Stretch is a lower body exercise and that you need to stand on your feet.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your question here.

      The Long Stretch Series (and in particular, Long Stretch, as I mention in the post) is about the lower body. The tendency for most practitioners including myself is that most of the weight of the body ends up over the arms, and the upper body wants to push the carriage out. Just notice when you are in position for Long Stretch if you are evenly over both the feet and hands or if your weight is more over the footbar.

      I find that if I think I am standing on my feet (the balls of my feet in this case) I can get more of my center involved in the exercise and minimize the push of the upper body and arms. The lower body hooks into the center all the way up in the upper stomach. You can also think about how the body must be “attached” to the carriage to move it. In this case it is the lower body that is in contact with the carriage throughout the whole Long Stretch Series. Much like the Elephant is an isolation of the lower body, the Long Stretch is the same, albeit in a more challenging position.

      I hope this is helpful, but if you get into the position for Long Stretch and observe where the weight of the body is distributed, you will see what I mean…

      Thanks again and please feel free to post any further questions here too 🙂

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