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?


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.


Why subject yourself to such torture?

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


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!


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.


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.

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  1. Stephanie Weibel says

    I love this post, I love all your posts, I’m a terrible subscriber because I did not actually get around to voting for you last week, but I meant to! I find delight and inspiration in all your hilariousness … And humility. Thank you for making me take another look at the footwork, I was just thinking about it this morning! And last week I used in my classes the idea that we are not getting bored, we are getting better! Also, I totally stole that quote about it’s a rollup not to throw up… That was a riot.

    • Hey Stephanie!
      Thank you so much for reading and for all your kind words on my blog. I so appreciate it! Ha ha hilariousness and humility – isn’t that Pilates in a nutshell sometimes? LOL I have been jamming on Footwork all around the studio as well 🙂 It really is educational…and humbling… Thanks for sharing your thoughts here with us and keep up the good work! xox A

  2. Another great one, Andrea! I, too, am always looking for my seat especially in footwork and was trying to explain it to a client this morning and failing miserably! You give great verbiage and this will help me a lot. Thanks

    • Thanks so much Julie! It’s hard to describe right? I think so too. I find the more I can do it myself of course I get better and better words to tell others what to do… and lots of touching and poking bottoms if necessary LOL. Thank you so much for watching and I hope we can see each other soon. xox A

  3. I love how you said that footwork is a warmup for the lower body and the 100 is a warm up for your upper body. I mentioned footwork as warmup to a client today and then said the 100 is a warmup too. She asked why two warm ups? Now I know (and should have realized)!!! 🙂 I love all these wonderful Pilates moments when I get another “click! That makes perfect sense! moments” and in all honesty I have more and more of them since finding your blog!

    • Hi there –
      Thank you so much for reading and for reaching out to connect with us here. So glad you are finding my posts to be helpful to you. Yeah the warmup is thorough isn’t it? I too am a big fan of that combination of Duh! + Aha! moment in Pilates. So glad to hear my blogposts have been a help to you and your teaching. Thanks so much for sharing and keep up the good work! xo

  4. Alessandra Niccolai says

    Must admit I’m with Kerry De Vivo here….????????‍♀️ Footwork is my go-to exercise even if I’ve no time to do much else… it’s grounding and comforting to me, although it took me a while to love it quite so much when I switched over to classical apparatus from slippy-slidey contemporary springs…???????? .. I love it even more on Jay Grimes Contrology reformer which really gets you connected to your messing ❤️❤️❤️ Yes ..I’m a #footworknerd????
    But you know that already ????????

  5. A!! Great to see Footwork everywhere…everything is everywhere right? Today, I will focus on finding it! 🙂 Thanks love that your writing the blog again!!!

  6. Love this! You are such an inspiration.

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