The Cadillac: Simply the Best

The CadillacOne of my favorite elements of the Pilates System is that nothing is arbitrary.

“There IS a reason,” says Joe Pilates, for all of our protocols and exercises and apparatuses.

Each apparatus in the studio has a special purpose or it wouldn't be there, right?

All the apparatuses exist to assist and support your efforts. And of course, they mingle their help with challenge, like everything else in this brilliant method.

Joe Pilates' First Invention

What niche does the Cadillac fill in the Pilates studio?

Like so many things in the Pilates Method – the Teaser, the Hundred – the Cadillac has a reputation.

She's the favorite “feel-good” and “stretchy” workout your clients demand. Who cares about the oppressive Reformer, that unforgiving Mat or those impossible Chairs?

And it’s always the Cadillac who welcomes you when you “just want to wake the f*** up…”

The Best of its Kind

It's rumored that Joe Pilates called his invention the Cadillac after a mid-20th-century advertisement proclaiming General Motors' Cadillac automobile to be the best of its kind.

A couple of years ago I investigated this story.

And does anyone complain about having to use the Cadillac? I've only heard glowing reviews from clients – the Cadillac is decidedly more popular than the Reformer… or the Mat… or anything else in the studio really…

Cadillac as Laboratory

The repertoire of Cadillac exercises is vast.

And there's something for everyone.

On the Cadillac, you'll find…

  • …an easy place to lie down if you can't get down on the floor.
  • …a mat that offers full-body support and is a template for your tall standing position (lying down).
  • …a place to get assistance to learn how to roll your body up and down on the Mat.
  • …a boatload of exercises which can be straightforward places to learn not-so-straightforward exercises on the Reformer and Mat.
  • …a place to advance your standing exercises with assistance from a spring.
  • …a nice place to hold on while you balance on one leg.
  • …a great place to invert the lower body for beginners.
  • …a fun place to invert the entire body for advanced practitioners.

Oh gosh there's so much to do here! So many possibilities within the canopy of the Cadillac

Pilates Confession Time

I've never liked the Leg Spring Series on the Cadillac.

Nope. Not one bit.

It's not that I don't do them… I've been doing them for years. They're not great, but little by little they get better.

Curiously, I love love LOVE the Frog and Circles on the Reformer.

What makes the same exercises done on different apparatus so…different?

And by ‘different' I mean vexing.

See what you think:

 

The Cadillac version

Frog in Leg Springs on Cadillac

 

The Reformer version

Frog on the Reformer

Looks kinda the same, right?

But looks can be deceiving.

What's the same?

  • The position of most of the body is the same. In both exercises, you have each foot in its own strap.
  • The choreography is the same.
  • The support you receive from the apparatus is similar.

What's different?

  • The Cadillac is not a moving platform.
  • On the Cadillac, each foot is directly attached to the spring. The Reformer connects you to the spring system which resides underneath the carriage. On the Cadillac, this direct attachment to the spring makes control more difficult.
  • The position of the upper body and the arms is different. On the Cadillac, the arm position is advantageous to help lift and engage the entire trunk of the body. It's also the most solid support you get in the exercise here.
  • And look at the position of my ribcage. Never underestimate the power of the headpiece on the Reformer.

Think about the Footwork series we do (everywhere) on the Reformer.

It's very reminiscent of the Frog, yes?

That footbar is so solid and supportive. Yet fleeting.

Joseph Pilates giveth and Joseph Pilates taketh away…

Over time, you'll ween yourself from Footwork done with the stout footbar to the less supportive long black straps for the Frog to the foot-directly-connected-to-spring instability on the Cadillac for the Leg Spring Series.

“These things take time,” Jay Grimes tells me.

Where are we going?

Think of the Cadillac as a stepping stone from the compressive support of the Reformer and Wunda Chair on your way to going it alone on the Mat.

Some support you'll receive from the Cadillac will be considerable: All that stuff with the Push Through Bar. It's probably not an accident the push-thru springs are the heaviest springs in the studio.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Cadillac: the Roll Down Bar…I smell unstable support here!

The Cadillac Project

You know how much I love a good Pilates Project. In September my workshop focused on the Wunda Chair.

Join me in January 2021 for a deep dive into the vast repertoire of the Cadillac. On the Cadillac, there are so many ways to enhance and challenge our Pilates workout all around the studio.

Go full-on remedial to reinforce fundamentals, or channel your inner circus performer with gravity-defying exercises hanging from the canopy.

I love to work the system via the lens of a good ol' Pilates Project.

Currently, I've got 2 projects in the works for my body – I'll bet you can guess LOL

My Cadillac Project #1: Building Symmetry

  • Leg Springs Series
  • Leg Springs Series – One Leg
  • Airplane (with the Airplane board)
  • Roll Back with One Arm
  • Tower
  • Tower – One Leg
  • Monkey
  • Monkey – One Leg
  • Shoulder Roll Down (the Sari)
  • Push Thru
  • Push Thru One Arm
  • Standing Stretches in the fuzzies
  • Standing Boxing
  • Standing Lunges
  • Squats
  • One Leg Squats

Wheee!

This one's a wild ride that takes me from lying down to the one leg squats.

All is possible on the magnificent Cadillac!

My Cadillac Project #2: Creating the Round Back Shape

What makes a round shape? It can be a struggle for me. Notice some exercises even make both of my projects!

  • Leg Springs – One Leg
  • Airplane
  • Roll Back
  • Tower
  • Push Through
  • Reverse Push Through
  • Seated Tower
  • Half Hang

What kind of Pilates Project will you create on the Cadillac?

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll explore the fundamental forces of 2-way stretch as you experieince as many of our meat-and-potatoes Cadillac exercises as time will allow.

You'll build a Pilates Project of your own along the way.

The Cadillac Project will meet 4 Thursdays in January: January 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2021.

Class time is 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Cadillac or Tower Unit
  2. Pilates experience

Just a few spots remaining.

Use this link to join in the fun:

Yes! I love the Cadillac!

Get a glimpse of The Cadillac Project in this week's video.

Thanks for watching!

Pilates in the Year 2020 and Beyond… what I’ll be up to in 2021

The Path to Mastery 2020

Hey there!

Who else can't believe it's October?

It's good news, somewhat. It's my favorite month! It's got my birthday right smack in the middle of it on The Ides of October and it's got Halloween. So that's a plus.

On the other hand, 2020 pretty much feels like the year that will never end.

At least there's oodles of time to commit to your Pilates practice.

Who else is really excited about things you can control?

I've been thinking about you and your Pilates workout.

Maybe you've come across this book?

Amazon.com: Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates and His Legacy eBook: Steel, John Howard: Kindle Store

In Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates and His Legacy, author John Howard Steel shares his experience and friendship with Joe and Clara Pilates. He also gives us youngsters a window into what it was like to work out in the Pilates' gym.

Yes, gym.

Everyone was responsible for his/her own workout: working, moving, sweating, and getting in “the zone.” This is the laser focus of the Pilates workout. This is ownership of your workout. Your hour of learning about YOU.

Moving. Focusing. Letting the exercises do their magic. Over time. Even if you don't think you're particularly good at them. Trust. They are working.

Movement heals.

Movement heals if you actually MOVE.

You make moving it along a priority.

Steady as she goes…

You know me, I'm a reformed slow-poke (ha ha pun not intended!). I'd like nothing better than to micromanage my body and get it all to work together perfectly.

Maybe you wish you could do that too.

Wishing doesn't make it so.

Think for a moment what that movement gives to your mind as well as your body.

Pilates is positive. It's up and forward. It is the internal housekeeping of your body. You are massaging your very guts for an hour. It's the gift you give yourself so you can run, walk, play and indulge in your life, your life's work, your pleasures.

A Pilates workout by yourself or with an instructor should leave you feeling empowered, emboldened and ready to take on the world. Maybe sometimes you'll be amazed by what you do!

That's my favorite part.

That moment when you accomplish even one moment that surprises you.

I remember the last one of those very vividly: 5 brisk Teasers on the Guillotine. At the end of my lesson. Of the Mat. Yeah, totally didn't see that coming…

Meanwhile…

A big thank you to everyone who participated in my September workshop, The Wunda Chair Project. It's been a fantastic month of learning and examining the lion's share of our Wunda Chair exercises. The Wunda is truly inexhaustible. It's amazing what can be accomplished and addressed on this petite but mighty apparatus.

As you might have guessed, I'm a big fan of the Pilates Project.

There's a ton of Pilates Projects on the blog. Read a few more of them here, here and here.

(Pilatesology subscribers, check out this Pilates Project on the Control Balance Step Off on the Reformer.)

The Pilates Method is ripe for this kind of exploration. As one workshop participant put it so perfectly, “My whole life is a Pilates Project!”

I feel you.

That moment when you've got one wobbly side of the Mountain Climb and it suddenly dons on you:

This is not the Pilates Olympics. The goal is not a flawless Mountain Climb. The goal is to walk tall and with confidence as you go about your day being your very best self.

That feeling – that confidence – is priceless.

Good news:

A Pilates Project for the Cadillac!

The Cadillac

The Cadillac is where the magic happens, right?

It serves everyone you could possibly conjure up: from the frailest individual to the circus performer to everyone in between.

From Leg Springs and Arm Springs to the Standing Arm Spring Series and the Flying Squirrel, there's an opportunity to improve all our Pilates exercises in the studio.

I had a reluctance I could never place with regard to working on the Cadillac.

Oh, I'm always on board for hanging upside down, but historically I'd rather shoot myself than do the Leg Springs series. And why do so many people LOVE those lying down Arm Springs? They are ridiculous!!

But the first step is admitting you have a problem.

What luck! I've got several 😏

Having recently “conquered” the Wild Wild Wunda, I hope to build a more proficient relationship with the Cadillac… with some hanging upside down fun included at the end for my reward, of course.

Remember everyone's favorite Pilates problem, imbalance side-to-side?

Well here's what I've come up with on the Cadillac for exactly that:

  • The Hundred (however you like it. Just get it done. Springs or no springs)
  • The One Leg Spring (crossover style or spring on the same side as the leg, pick your poison)
  • The Leg Spring Series (light – arm – springs for me)
  • Arm Springs Lying Down (Just go to your happy place on the Ped-o-Pul)
  • Rolling Back (everyone's favorite Roll Up)
  • Rolling Back One-Arm Side Stretch (Good Times)
  • Side Leg Springs (front/back and circles for now)
  • Airplane (Using the Airplane Board for now)
  • Flying Eagle (I have high hopes for this one)
  • Push Through Bar Series Tower, Monkey, Teaser, Reverse Push Thru, Mermaid, Swan, Shoulder Roll Down, Push Thru Front (actually enjoying this series more lately)
  • Rolling Back Bar Series – Chest Expansion, Thigh Stretch, Rolling In + Out, Rolling Stomach Massage, Long Back Arms (still a challenge, this series, but some nice rolling to sneak in)
  • Traditional Ending – Breathing, Spread Eagle, Pull Ups, Hanging Pull Ups + Twist, Hang! (Bonus video on this one!)
  • Standing Arm Springs – Butterfly, Squats, One Leg Squats (of course)
  • (Another video with more Cadillac “favorites.” I filmed this a while ago, so I may be lying) 😂

2021 Monthly Online Workshops

Study up on your Cadillac exercises and join me in 2021 to nerd out again, Pilates Project Style!

January: The Cadillac Project

In a total of 8 workshop hours, we'll look at the fundamental forces from our Wunda Chair exploration and take them to the Cadillac. It's a win-win for sure, by the sheer size and support of our Cadillac apparatus.

The Cadillac Project will meet 4 Thursdays in January: January 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2021.

Class time will be 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Cadillac or Tower Unit
  2. Pilates experience

Use this link to snag your spot:

Yes! I love the Cadillac!

 

February: The Complex Reformer Project

Thanks so much for this request, Laurel.

Build a strong Pilates foundation and the complex Reformer Exercises will come.

You probably know them by name or reputation: Overhead, Snake/Twist, Star, Backbend, Balance Control Off, Headstands, High Frog and Russian Splits.

These exercises are some of the most challenging exercises in the traditional Reformer repertoire.

If you do these exercises already or you're looking for the skills (for yourself or your clients) to work toward these bad boys in the future, this workshop is for you.

Using our Pilates Project POV, you'll find skills in the fundamental Reformer exercises to combine and transform into your very “favorite” complex exercises. In a total of 8 workshop hours you'll look deep within the traditional Pilates exercises.

  • Where do we begin to build our Snake/Twist skill set?
  • How and where do we find the components for a successful Star on the Reformer?
  • How can I start to learn the High Bridge?
  • Do I push the Reformer out with my head?
  • What exactly is closing the carriage??

The answers to these questions lie in the exercises you learn in your very first Pilates lessons.

The Complex Reformer Project will meet 4 Thursdays in February: February 4, 11, 18, and 25.

Class time will be 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Reformer, classical apparatus preferred
  2. Pilates experience

Use this link to snag your spot:

Yes! I love Complex Reformer Exercises!

 

March: Transitions on the Reformer

Hot off the heels of wrangling your complex Reformer exercises, you'll tackle all those elusive moments-in-between.

Proficiency in the traditional Pilates System creates one continuous chain of movement. This is your ultimate goal on the Reformer and on the Mat.

Often the transition from one exercise to the next is more challenging than the two exercises you're connecting. It's true.

Transitions. The moments in-between. This is where the stuff of life happens!

Picking up a bag of groceries. Reaching behind you. Getting in and out of the car.

Transitions are a part of everyday life. And that's when you really need your Pilates workout.

For the unexpected.

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll examine getting in and out of all your standard Reformer exercises. You'll set yourself up for success!

Transitions on the Reformer will meet 4 Thursdays in March: March 4, 11, 18, and 25.

Class time will be 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Reformer, classical apparatus preferred
  2. Pilates experience

Use this link to snag your spot:

Yes! I love Transitions on the Reformer!

 

Thanks for your consideration. And for your willingness to jump into Pilates Playtime.

Until we meet again I hope you'll work out with me on the Reformer:

 

The Wunda Chair Project: A New Online Workshop

Wunda Chair Pilates Project

Hey there!

Lately, I've ventured away from the Reformer and gravitated toward the piece of apparatus that often gathers dust in my studio. Sad, but true…

Maybe this sounds familiar?

It's the Wunda Chair I've been consistently spending more time with and, oh boy, is it making me smile and use my powerhouse!

Joe Pilates and the Home Workout

Well before Covid-19, Joe Pilates knew you needed a piece of apparatus perfectly designed to use at home, even in the smallest of New York City apartments.

Enter the Wunda Chair.

Each August, Joe closed his studio to escape the oppressive heat in the city. In my understanding, Joe would encourage/badger/force his clients to purchase his Wunda Chair to exercise at home while the studio was closed.

Joe selected a handful of exercises appropriate to the client to help them maintain their workout until September when they could return to the studio.

It's this story about Joe (plus a new amazing book on the Wunda Chair) that was the inspiration for my current Wunda workout (book review coming soon!).

I Smell a Pilates Project…

If you've been reading and following me for a while you know that I am quite the crooked sister.

No one is perfectly symmetrical and imbalances provide a challenge: do the exercise on one side and then on the other side. This gives you a ton of information about your body, right?

In daily life, I find I don't stand evenly on my feet. Instead, I shift my weight mostly onto my right side when sitting or standing. Especially standing.

It's amazing how much I don't stand on my left side (insert eye-roll emoji here)…

But wait.

I could create a Wunda Chair workout to address this issue!

Excellent…

I LOVE a good Pilates Project! Read about a few of my previous PPs here, here and here.

My Wunda Chair Pilates Project includes about 20 minutes of exercises done standing with one or both feet on the pedal. As a warmup, I've added the Hundred and Footwork, and since feet are on the pedal in the Footwork series I've also included Footwork 1 leg.

Wait this sounds familiar…

As a teacher and/or practitioner of the Pilates System, you learn over time which exercises you do well and which exercises present the most challenge to your body.

Maybe you've also learned these challenges to the body are traditionally addressed in the latter part of a Pilates session in a part I like to call ‘This is for you.'

Think of the ‘this is for you' exercises in your own workout.

It's these exercises that are your personal responsibility; these are the exercises that may not make you feel proficient in your workout, that point directly to your weaknesses, and that you love to forget about and do all the other “fun” exercises instead.

But wouldn't more proficiency in your worst exercises make the “fun” ones better too?

Yes, YES and YES!!

So suck it up and join me for some ugly Pilates!

Using the Wunda Chair exercises below, I've created a new Pilates Project, for my precise ‘this is for you' situation.

The Exercises

  • Hundred
  • Footwork
  • Pull Up
  • Pull Up 1 leg
  • Side Pull Up
  • Table
  • Table 1 leg
  • Tendon Stretch
  • Tendon Stretch – 1 leg
  • Frog Facing Away from Chair
  • Frog Facing Away from Chair – 1 leg
  • Frog Facing Chair
  • Frog Facing Chair – 1 leg
  • Standing Pumping Front
  • Standing Pumping Side
  • Standing Pumping Crossover
  • Going Up Front
  • Going Up Side/Side Mountain Climb
  • Achilles Stretch
  • Mountain Climb
  • Down the Mountain
  • Star

Watch the video at the bottom of this post to see the first version of my Wunda Chair Project.

You can do it too!

In September, I host an annual Pilates Party in my home studio, just north of San Diego. The week-long party includes lessons, open studio group classes, and a new workshop. There's also a lot of eating, drinking, and socializing after long days in the studio.

This year, it's unclear what September will bring, and gathering a bunch of people together in person doesn't seem like the best idea.

But, let's party on anyway, virtual style!

This September I hope you'll join me each week on Thursdays for a 90-minute exploration of the most challenging exercises you need, the greater Pilates System and the Wunda Chair.

Join me this September

The Wunda Chair Project will meet 4 Thursdays in September 2020: September 3, 10, 17, and 24.

Class will meet 9am-10:30am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Wunda Chair
  2. Pilates experience

Use this link to snag your spot:

Yes! I love the Wunda Chair!

Thank you.

I look forward to sharing this new workshop with you.

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Going up Front on the Wunda Chair – advanced variation with arabesque

Welcome to another installment of one of my favorite series: Pilates Projects.

In the Pilates method, the mastery of a complex exercise can require strategy.

What luck!

We’ve got a whole system of perfect tools for the job.

This time I kick it Romana-style with a Pilates-Projects-we-only-have-one-exercise spin:

If Going Up Front – Joe Pilates style – is not exciting enough for you, press on to the balance on the top of the Wunda Chair that I learned via Romana.

Although Romana Kryzanowska gives us this cadenza, it emerges out of a Joe Pilates staple: a challenging foundational exercise on the High Chair now turned into a 3-act play on the Wunda Chair.

Get ready, cause this one's a doozy.

Read with caution: this blog post might just kill you me.

For me this exercise is super hard and crazy, a balance exercise to defy my imbalances. I chose it specifically for a big challenge and for my own amusement.

I do hope you'll play along.

The Plan:

For each movement of the Going up Front arabesque sequence I've chosen a meat-and-potatoes Pilates exercise to help me get my powerhouse in order.

I'll focus on what I can do efficiently and with confidence rather than lament why my leg can't go very high, why I may fall off the Chair…etc…

Pilates is positive, right? It's up and forward.

Here. We. Go.

I found it very useful to have a “walk thru” of this one standing on the floor sans Chair. Too much thinky-thinky and I could fall to my death…so please embrace the value of a little rehearsal…

Going Up Front

  • One foot on top of the chair and the ball of the other foot on the pedal.
  • Pull the pedal up and down 2 times. Arms are reaching forward.
  • The 3rd time up you'll arrive on top of the chair to balance on one leg.
  • Bend your standing leg and reach further behind you with the other.
  • Bring your leg to the side, then to the front, bringing arms overhead.
  • Bend the free leg and bring your toe to your knee.
  • Rise up onto the ball of your foot.
  • Lower the heel and reach the leg further behind you, bending your standing leg.
  • Replace your foot onto the pedal and push it down.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Ready for the first moment? I found a Reformer exercise that's a great set up.

Control Balance on the Reformer

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Once your foot leaves the pedal of the Wunda Chair you are in exactly the same position as you are in for the landing of Control Balance on the Reformer.

Except NOW you are on top of the Chair.

Even more reason to stand up strong in your powerhouse!

Tinkerbell on Crack

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Your first move after arrival is to bend the standing leg and reach further into your arabesque (bear with me on the fancy words). This is very reminiscent of the Kneeling Knee Stretch one-leg variation called Tinkerbell.

True, your foot is not reaching up toward your head as in the ultimate version of Tinkerbell (please!) but it is reaching long and away with the standing leg bent a la Knee Stretches.

Tendon Stretch – One Leg – Back to Side Variation

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

I know, this one's so easy to pull out of your ass…

Straighten and stand strong on your leg as you bring your leg from the back to the side. You'll need the same muscles and powerhouse you use in the challenging Back to Side variation of the Tendon Stretch.

Hey, look on the bright side: you might be perched atop the Wunda, but here's a help from that old beastie the Tendon Stretch.

Seize the day!

Tree

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Yes, why not?

The Tree is an amazingly useful exercise for all things one-sided. Reach your standing leg into your imaginary straps (like on the Reformer) and lift your back and stomach as you bring your leg from side to front.

Oh yeah, and remember the goal of this balance sequence.

Can you reach your leg to be a teensy bit higher as you come from back to side?

A smidge higher as you go from side to front?

Trust me, the Tree will help.

2×4 Exercise – One Leg (Tendon Stretch)

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Strike a pose as you bring the foot of your outstretched leg to the knee of your standing leg (call it passé if you must) and rise up to the ball of the foot (relevé) on your standing leg.

Push down into the Wunda Chair and pretend it is the 2×4 exercise.

No biggie, right?

And get ready for one more fancy part before we get to do the other side!

Tinkerbell on Crack²

It's hard, yo, be happy you get another crack at it. Aargh…see how I did that?

Now you'll reach strongly behind you for another Kneeling Knee stretch-esque Tinkerbell. It will help you to lower your foot (finally!) and find the pedal.

Wait. It's not over until it's over.

Back on your 2 legs now, lift yourself tall to control the pedal down.

Whew!

I'm gonna trust you'll do both sides.

Prepare yourself

Be safe, kids. Bring a friend for this one for a boost of balance confidence.

Not Junghee Won.

She'll step back and cross her arms: “I'm not gonna catch you.”

Although that is very motivating to not fall off…

“Why bother? It's so hard and I'm not a dancer.”

I have imbalances and this is a hard exercise for me. But let's see – it's been a few years really since I worked consistently on this variation – anything can happen right?

Consistent practice of the Pilates Method = Something wretched gets better.

Not Romana-doing-the-Star (:42) better, but more hey-that-was-okay better.

A Pilates check-in if you will.

Maybe even your Mat exercises will get better!

#pilatespremise

You don't have to be a dancer.

Just do all of these Pilates helper exercises in sequence and you'll look like a dancer.

Well, you'll feel like one. And that's the most important part.

Invincible, remember?

Invigorated!

This is the spirit part of Pilates. Arriba!

Round 1: A bit of a crash and burn…

Well…

I think I need a Pilates Project to help me work on this Pilates Project…

And yes, the helper exercises are doing just that.

I sure do need the help + a healthy side dish of repetition-is the-mother-of-all-learning.

Let's add this after each workout and see what happens in a couple weeks…

Round 2: Several… weeks… later…

How about a little more of that dress rehearsal on the ground?

Build confidence. Find your muscles.

Focus your gaze and breathe.

Now.

Onto the Wunda.

Round 3: Karen Frischmann in the house!

Working on this exercise after my lesson at Vintage, Karen Frischmann had a few suggestions to further strengthen my center for the balance challenge.

Oooh and they all work so well! #karenisthebomb

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit EditionPediPull

Really anything with the arms here. Circles, Centering…

To get the connection of the arms into the center…which I dearly need to ensure I don't take a tumble. #springssohelpful

The center of the Pilates universe? The upper stomach.

A similar exercise on the Pedipull – but kind of in reverse – is the balance on 1 leg taking the other leg front, side and then back…surely this is an awesome helper exercise.

Plus you've got springs!

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit EditionCadillac

The standing single leg springs: not a surprise I left these out.

I cannot be trusted.

I have just started to be able to do them without falling over. This one is most useful for our purposes here: the leg to the back.

Super challenging.

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit EditionWunda Chair

There's a tiny moment on the way to the passé (where your foot will come to be placed at the knee of the standing leg) that can be helped by Going up Side.

Just the thought of Going Up Side gets me more connected to my seat at this particular moment in the balance.

Right when I'm sort of anticipating the ending and I need a little boost.

Perfect!

Reformer

Believe it or not, the passé position is reminiscent of the leg position of the Snake/Twist exercise.  So I'm looking forward to trying that one out too.

You've come a long way, Baby, to use Snake/Twist as a helper exercise.

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Well it has been a wild roller coaster of a ride working on this exercise.

I hope you'll enjoy the short video. My client Gail joins me.

She loves this exercise. She's quite amazing. Gail has a great ability to recover her balance even if she has a bit of a bobble. Alas, I cannot always say the same for myself…

It's hard, yo.

Please know that this is captures just one moment on the journey of working on this challenging version of Going Up Front.

Got an idea for a helper exercise?

Share it in a comment below!

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

For Sally

The Tendon Stretch on the Reformer and its MANY variations is a hot topic for Pilates practitioners and teachers. It's an exercise for which I constantly revise my plan of action.

Elusive some days and a glimmer of hope in the next lesson…it's a roller coaster of a ride.

Oh I can get it done and muscle through it of course.

But I've come to understand that the Tendon Stretch is not an upper body exercise. Hmmm…

Shocker!

Just because you've got that footbar in your hot little hands does not make it an arm exercise.

Repeat the previous sentence 3 more times.

Every Day a Little Tendon Stretch

As a super challenging exercise, the Tendon Stretch is a work-in-progress for me. I am happy to share tips and tricks that have been successful in my workouts – and you may find other exercises that speak to you as well.

If you find an exercise to be helpful to find the lower body, the stomach and seat, by all means go for it. You cannot go wrong.

#pilatesproblemsolving

Remember your mantra:

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

The Reformer helper exercises are in order, so as you workout you'll get a few moments to contemplate the Tendon Stretch along the way. A little Pilates foreshadowing…

We'll begin with our old friend the Elephant.

1. The Elephant

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Oh Elephant, is there anything you can't do? ❤ ❤

The Elephant gives us the basic shape and action of the Tendon Stretch. The position here is more manageable and open and also less precarious than the Tendon Stretch. Less upside down if you will.

Here you are looking for length in the back of the body which you'll need later on as well.

Use the points of contact you have with the Reformer to your best advantage:

  • Reach to the Footbar like you would reach forward in Mat exercises like the Roll Up and the Spine Stretch.
  • Plant your heels firmly into the carriage.

You'll explore these same connections when you get to the Tendon Stretch.

2. The Elephant with One Leg

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Not to be confused with the exercises known as Arabesques, the Elephant with one leg maintains the same round shape we need in the Tendon Stretch.

This is very important for our purposes here.

Later on, after you're a champ at the Tendon Stretch, feel free to Arabesque all over the place.

This is perhaps the first time in the Reformer sequence that you will work a one-leg variation. Guess when the next one will be?

Remember your premise for using the apparatus in the first place. You get support and assistance whenever and wherever you are connected to the Reformer. Two legs on the carriage? No problem. Take a leg off and it now has to work on its own without much support on one side. This is often challenging.

And if you already know you have a weaker side, it can be VERY challenging.

Relax, if you didn't like a challenge you wouldn't be doing Pilates in the first place and now look you've made it all the way to the Tendon Stretch with one leg. BRA-VO!

3. Stomach Massage Series #1

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

I find the lifted curve of the 1st Stomach Massage exercise to mimic the same Tendon Stretch position you'll soon encounter in the very next exercise – so it's a great time to cram.

Thanks, order of the exercises!

Here you'll use the lift of your back and the feet reaching into the footbar to be able to then recreate these connections upside down (and on one leg) in the Tendon Stretch.

You can maintain the lift better in your Tendon Stretch with the Stomach Massage position in mind. Otherwise I find it easy to just drop over my legs – and although I think I have lift – it's really just gravity.

PS – It feels like Elephant. ?

4. Tree

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Another crazy helpful exercise is the Tree. I like this one for refining all things one-sided. A great Tree goes a long way. If you can do the Tree well, you can do anything!

Look at the photo above of the Tree.

Now compare it to the photo of Tendon Stretch with one leg at the top of this post.

Joe Pilates' favorite pastime: If you can do it right side up, surely you can do it upside down.

The Tree is especially helpful for the Tendon Stretch with the leg to the back. Use your fabulous mind  to mimic the support of the strap on your foot here to gain support for the leg reaching back in the Tendon Stretch.

5. The 2×4 exercises

The Pilates 2×4 exercises can be a wonderful tool to work on connecting the lower extremities into the center. You can work your entire body soundly with these simple, effective and brutal exercises.

Pilates projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon StretchPilates projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Let's take it vertical.

You can do it plain and you can do it fancy.

Standing in the heels-together-and-toes-apart (V) position we have what is essentially the 4th Footwork exercise also – awkwardly, for my purposes – called the Tendon Stretch.

Lift, control and balance are necessary to ground the feet and ignite the center of the body.

Repetition is the Mother of all Learning

Time.

Time is another component to factor into these challenging exercises. The one-leg variations are an exercise in stamina as well. Steady practice over many years is often necessary.

I have been doing the Tendon Stretch as a regular part of my workout for over a decade.

For many years I am sure, it was quite bad. But you must begin somewhere. Now in my lessons I get really jazzed to get another morsel of clarity – a glimmer of “Oh, it's just like that other exercise!”

Revel in the amount of time you have to traipse along the Pilates Path.

Persevere in your Tendon Stretch on the Reformer and use these 5 exercises to aid you on your noble quest. Know that other exercises may be of a great help as well. Some other helpers that come to my mind include:

  • Pull Up on the Wunda Chair
  • Tendon Stretch on the Wunda Chair
  • Long Back Stretch on the Reformer
  • The Roll Up

…and the beat goes on. La di da di dee…la di da di dah…

Lift my leg, whaaah? 

Yes, a word about transitioning to the one-leg variations:

Here's a video tutorial to work on lifting one leg to the side. Start with the leg to the side variation before adding all the other ones. You should be quite solid and secure in the standard version with 2 legs first.

Share your progress in a comment below 🙂

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