The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Down Stretch

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Down Stretch

The Down Stretch on the Reformer is a pet project of mine. As you'll see in the video, the requirements of the exercise and my body are somewhat at odds.

Oh but I do like a challenge.

Years ago at Romana's Pilates Continuing Education workshops, Moses Urbano would give me a lovely assist in this exercise.

Even when Moses was nowhere to be found, when I got to Down Stretch he would magically appear to save me from my sinking, arching low back.

Eek! Pilates emergency!

I also take inspiration from Moses' beautiful Down Stretch. His execution of the exercise is flawless complete with an amazing embellishment.

Hence, my pet project for life.

The Shape of  Things

Ah, the shape…

In the simplest terms, the Down Stretch is a long body shape done on the knees, akin to the previous exercise Long Stretch which is described as “one solid piece of steel from head to heel.”

Yes, you've got to keep it together.

Another requirement of Down Stretch, a Swan-esque exercise is similar to another infamous Reformer exercise, Pulling Straps of Long Box fame. This is a tricky element for me and perhaps for some of you as well: finding sufficient arch in the upper back without the low back falling out all over the place.


And then there's the Thigh Stretch element: Down Stretch requires and promotes considerable opening of the hips and thighs.

Ok, now GO!

The Lower Body

The Down Stretch is just 1 of 7 exercises in the Long Stretch Series, a Reformer series which focuses primarily on the lower body.

The Long Stretch Series

Using the premise of the 2-way stretch, the Long Stretch Series seeks to perfect the reach of the lower body. Despite our firm grip on that foot bar these are not upper body exercises.

I like to describe the lower body as “the lion's share” of the body. It's really the reach down the back line of the body.


Finding length (and therefore reach) of the lower body depends on lengthening the middle back (the ribs/upper stomach must be working) and using the seat to power these exercises.

How about a little inner conflict?

Pilates is a full body workout.

The Down Stretch is a lower body exercise. The lower body is working in tandem with the upper body.

The goal of each and every Reformer exercise is to close the carriage with control.

For the Down Stretch this means both the upper body and lower body create a tug-of-war within our bodies.

Pilates = A 2-way stretch reaching out from a strong center.

Let's get into the position:

  • Keep the lift of the upper body with the lower body firmly attached to the carriage and shoulder rests.
  • Use the lower body to move the carriage. The upper body reluctantly follows.
  • To close the carriage use your lift of the upper body (pull up in the low waist) while the lower body continues to push outward to resist closing the springs.
  • Repeat 5x.

Oh Happy Day!

Diligent work in our meat-and-potatoes exercises often rewards us with a challenge.

A combo. A cadenza. An invigorating embellishment.

With each successive repeptition of the Down Stretch we cultivate an increasing amount of lift in our bodies.

Finally if our lift is suffucient we'll lift both hands high off the footbar and into an extended stretch of the entire front of the body. Wow.

Tell me you didn't see that one coming.

You'll stretch back as far as you can successfully return, potentially reaching as far back to touch the frame of the Reformer. How happy you'll be to resume your workout with the exercise that follows, the Up Stretch.

Enjoy this short video tutorial. Thanks for watching!

For more videos like this one visit my YouTube channel. Looking for help with a specific exercise or concept? Let me know your thoughts and I'm happy to dig in.

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Inside the Pilates Studio: Cynthia Lochard

OMG Inside the Pilates Studio: Vblog Edition

with your host, Alisa Wyatt!

Cynthia Lochard is one of the topmost Teacher Trainers for Romana's Pilates. She continues to travel for months at a time to conduct their Continuing Professional Education seminars around the globe.

Based in Sydney, Australia and with just a hint of an Aussie accent – I love to wait for it on certain words – Cynthia's teaching is steadfast, pragmatic and masterful.

She encourages teachers to to be confident, independent thinkers and to trust in ourselves as well as our beloved Pilates Method. She has a calm and commanding presence that you want to  must soak up and inject into your own teaching.

There is a lovely quote from Cynthia in one of my most-viewed posts (7 Spot-On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest). She was speaking on the proliferance of clients who stop and chat during their workouts and how to combat that in a nice way. Welcome to California!

“Today let's focus on NOT stopping.”

In this manner you give your clients the gift of stamina and endurance that maybe they thought they didn't have. A perfect lesson. How very Clara-esque to lead your student to the brink of discovery without giving it all away. Look what they can do!

Thank you so much Cynthia for your participation in my blog series. It is a true pleasure to have you and this awesome vblog courtesy of Pilatesology.

Enjoy the show!

The transcript of Cynthia's interview:

Alisa Wyatt: So these are the 10 questions that Andrea asks of every instructor that she interviews for this [Inside the Pilates Studio] and for Cynthia Lochard the first question is:

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Cynthia Lochard: The ones I could do well (smiles, laughs). Because I looked good doing it (laughter).

AW: Is there any one?

CL: The arabesques of course…

AW: Oh, lovely! The arabesques, I love it.

CL: They come after the Elephant.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

CL: Oh, but you see, now I was trying to think about that, and I can't… It changes.

AW: Mmm…I like that. Okay, that's a great answer.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

CL: The movement. The simplicity and his genius in how – you know, we're all over-complicating it – and it's just so simple. And every time you realize how simple it is…that really turns me on.

AW: I love it.

4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

CL: A king-size bed with fabulous sheets and those fluffy things over the mattress and lots of feathered pillows and that: a great bed.

AW: You must have the time to spend in it as well. I love that idea.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

CL: Oh, gosh. What's happening – our insensitivity to the planet and what we're doing to it. What's happening, what you can see happening to everything around us.

AW: Yeah, it is a great, great misfortune.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Cynthia Lochard

Romana's Pilates CPE 2013 with Cynthia Lochard

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

CL: Reach.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

CL: (with rapid-fire delivery) Wrap.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

CL: Singing. I always wanted to be a singer.

AW: Are you a good singer?

CL: No. I thought I was when I was younger, I think, maybe…

AW: In the car?

CL: Yeah, the car's a good one… (laughs)

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

CL: “Let's go.”

AW: Nice!

CL: “Get on the Reformer.” (laughs)

10. What did you learn today?

CL: I learned, what I was saying before, that what a great medium this [pilatesology] is for really shedding some light on the Pilates Method and sort of hoping to inspire people to come to it and to really have the experience for real.

AW: Thank you, that's wonderful to hear. Thanks everyone!

Learn more about Cynthia here.

Related interviews:

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