Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks I've been obsessed with focused on my Pilates apparatus du jour, the Small Barrel.

It's amazing the discoveries to be had with just these few exercises done daily.

True to form I was surprised (not really) by how my Small Barrel Project has infiltrated my Reformer and Mat workouts.

When one exercise gets better, they all get better, right?

Not news – exactly – but a new experience.

In last week's post I declared the Small Barrel exercises to be a microcosm of our entire method of 500+ exercises.

True, but how do we apply this to our teaching?

Back in the day…

I vividly remember when I knew lots of exercises on the Small Barrel, Spine Corrector and Ladder Barrel, but had no idea what do do with them as a teacher.

When and why would I take someone to the Barrels to better their skills on the Reformer and Mat?

Maybe I didn't even know to ask this question…

How do our Pilates barrels fit into the greater Pilates system?

The Premise of the Pilates Apparatus

Even without springs, the Barrel apparatus offers us all the benefits of support and assistance to better our Pilates skill set.

Remember that's why we're here on our Barrels… to take a fresh look at an all-too-familiar skill we need to improve.

Small Barrel Project Recap

Today is day 21 on my 30-day Posture Intervention on the Small Barrel.

Wow. Only 9 days to go.

Although I may never stop doing these 10-15 minutes of exercises.

Observations from this last week:

  • My back feels fantastic all the time.
  • Weak side and tight hip have come to an understanding with the Barrel's feedback.
  • My head is now completely in contact with the barrel in the Arm Series.
  • I've got a more complete connection along each side of my body from toes to fingertips.
  • My lower body connection is stronger.
  • I've found my seat in exercises in which I didn't even know I needed it: Hip Twist and Helicopter.

Moreover I've furthered the following skills (just to name a few) that I can take to the Reformer and the Mat:

  1. Connecting the upper body (shoulder girdle and arms) into the center
  2. Finding the seat creating length in the low back and extending the hip
  3. Balancing the body side to side to untwist myself

Those are some biggies…

Let's take a closer look.

1. Connect the upper body (shoulder girdle and arms) into the center

Here we are on the Small Barrel:

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

On the Reformer we'll use the connection here, the waistline reaching all the way to the hands into the apparatus (the pole in this case) to sharpen our Rowing Series.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And our Short Box Series

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And our Hundred

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

You see how this goes.

2. Finding the seat to create length in the low back and to extend the hip

Our Small Barrel exercise(s):

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

The lower body exercises done on the Small Barrel emphasize the strength of the center driving the action of the lower extremities.

Guess what?

We'll see this scenario everywhere…

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

SemiCircle utilizes the stomach and seat to lengthen the back and extend the hip.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And the same thing in the Snake/Twist but – whoopsie – upside down.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And upside down again for our old favorite Knee Stretches Knees Off.

3. Balancing the body side to side to untwist myself

I've often been told that no one is entirely symmetrical. Strength imbalances from sports, old injuries, surgeries and the like can create one side that likes to bully the other.

Sometimes there may even be a little twist in there to wrangle.

Well we've got an app(aratus) for that.

The Small Barrel exercise:

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

In this simple exercise, the Scissors, which shows up every 5 seconds in our Pilates workout in one incarnation or another, we've got an opportunity to see how one side of the center affects the other.

What happens in the center when one leg reaches away? The Small Barrel can give us wonderful information on imbalances in the back and hips.

Where will we use this skill again?

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

Oh Tree, is there anything you can't do? Use the feedback from the Barrel to inform your center here where you don't get the luxury of support from the apparatus.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

OMG look familiar? Again, in the Side Kicks Series you must figure out what's going on in your center sans support and feedback.

So jump on those Reformers and dust off your Mats.

Flaunt your new skills in your next workout!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here’s where to find me in 2017

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  1. Hey there!
    Loving the barrel-of-love challenge ???? Such a great idea Andrea!
    I recently visited my osteopath and she remarked that my shoulders were the most open that she’d ever seen them! Plus have way more length in my low back and my diaphragm is much freer than usual…I continue to feel taller and my spine my mobile.. best news though is that the alignment of my legs is much improved!! I am somewhat knock-knee’d ???? And I caught sight of myself in the long mirror as I stood teaching and was amazed to see that my legs were straight!! I think my arches have lifted – presumably connected to the extra lift in my body and my seat connection being stronger ???????????????? So yay ???? for that! Just to put that in perspective I’ll be 55 (eek????) on Sunday and I have never managed to stand with good leg alignment ???????????????????????? Until now!!
    BTW totally agree about the rowing series feeling more fabulous than ever!!
    #stilllovingthebarrel???? #permanentfixture????
    #rockon Andrea and all you lovely pilates geeks ❤️❤️????????????????

    • Hi there! Interesting about the leg alignment! Great! Sounds like everyone indulging in the Barrel Challenge is getting some serious body love. I find it amazing that, really, just 5 minutes a day can make this much difference! Andrea had me imagine I was on the Barrel during a bunch of Reformer exercises and I don’t know how the brain-body thing works but it does! And, like you had mentioned Alessandra, feels like the back is more “grounded” when on the Apparatus. This week I have found that doing Side Sit Ups on the Ladder Barrel are much “easier’ I have more length, my body isn’t as twisted and they are way more controlled. Imagine! Let’s see where we are in ten more days 🙂 Happy early birthday! 🙂

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