Pilates Reformer Exercise # 39: The Semicircle

Pilates Reformer Exercise #39: The SemicircleHow did he know?

Joe Pilates' creation, the Semicircle on the Reformer, is a marvel. How did he decide to descend into the depths of the springs? Certainly he knew it would feel delicious.

A Semicircle by any other name would still smell as sweet

A client long ago christened the Semicircle The Prison Cot.

Two other Rock Star clients have adopted this quirky nickname and truncated it further.

Simply The Cot.

So it holds a special place in my heart…and in my back.

Currently I am more in love with it than ever. I luxuriate in the similarities Semicircle shares with the exercise that often precedes it, the Short Spine Massage: 2 different shapes that demand the same kind of articulation.


What makes a lower body exercise?

In the Semicircle we find the same kind of articulation as in the Up Stretch, another lower body exercise (despite how much we all want to push with our arms on that footbar).

However, in the Up Stretch you can clearly feel the upper stomach/seat-connected-to-the-legs all the way down to the feet secured into the carriage.

I find the undulation in the Up Stretch to be more tangible.

Meanwhile back at the Semicircle, your feet have the footbar to anchor into…and you're facing up.

Yes, I agree. In some ways it's a whole different kettle of fish.

Except that it's not.

The Up Stretch speaks to me in this exercise – and I can call upon the verticality of the Thigh Stretch on the Mat to find the length of the thigh stretch inherent in the Semicircle.

I personally find it challenging to not overuse the legs. Use your stomach and your butt and you may have a prayer of stretching the hips and thighs.

The lower body: not just another pretty pair of legs.

Okay so that's 2 helper exercises so far:

  1. Up Stretch
  2. Thigh Stretch on the Mat

OMG we're halfway to a Pilates Project!


What was that about the Short Spine Massage?

I'm glad you asked.

Last week's post examined the lift necessary for the exercises that are upside down. Well here we are again…

In the rolling exercises and exercises like Short Spine Massage and Semicircle we are seeking greater articulation for our backs.

But not just any old way, kids. We're after the control necessary to roll that thang all the way down from the top in sequence.

I know it's not easy, but a gal's gotta dream…

Joe Pilates has made the scenario a bit more difficult now that we're in the Semicircle…but the quest remains the same!

Take it vertical

Finding the articulation in the Semicircle can really sort out the old hip and thigh areas. I know I have a habit of just jamming my hips upward with utter disregard for all that I preach about lift and length.

Don't be seduced by the hips going up and down!

Sometimes in “thigh stretch-esque” kinds of exercises, it's easy to get pushy with the hips. Old habits die hard, my friends…

What do we want?


When do we want it?


Oh God, now I'm shouting.

So give it a go.

Within your super-articulate Semicircle in your next workout, pretend you are vertical as you work to stretch the hip and thigh and close the carriage: low belly lifting up and out of the hips and the tailbone reaching long and down the back of the leg toward your heels.

Find this gem here in the Semicircle and you are golden going forward: Headstands, Chest Expansion, Thigh Stretch, Backbends, Snake/Twist… do you catch my drift?

Thanks, order of the exercises!

Can't get enough of the Reformer?

Check out my most popular post On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises. Thank you, lovely readers, for your unabashed devotion to all things Reformer. BIG thanks to all of you that have purchased a poster! xo

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