1 Pilates Uber-Concept PLUS Introducing the Workout Quickie!

1 Pilates Uber-Concept PLUS Introducing the Workout Quickie!

Welcome new subscribers!

I am thrilled to have you along for the wild ride through our beloved Pilates method.

Check out my most popular post to date: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

Just a few morsels for you this week, Pilates friends!

This weekend I've been treating myself to birthday goodies. I think all of you deserve a gift as well.

The gift is from Joe Pilates to all of us…

Following up on last week's post, here's another take on how to utilize our apparatus and exercises at the Wall.

See what you think – and maybe all those exercises on the stomach will become our new favorites. 🙂

Introducing the Workout Quickie!

My 2nd treat this week is a quick and vigorous, brief but necessary Pilates workout on the fly.

Use it for a little pick-me-up during your work week.

Thanks for watching and for being some of the best-ever, most-awesomeness-possessing Pilates peeps around. Cheers, big hugs and a juicy back stretch to you all!

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

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27 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 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 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

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: “This is for you.”

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

For Jodie

One of the best things about a Pilates workout is that it thoroughly conditions the entire body. With the Pilates Method you are guaranteed a full-body workout.

Reputedly, Joe Pilates treated everyone like an Olympic athlete. Clients would move on the Reformer, move on the Mat and then when the body was fully warm and invigorated Joe would give you a specific exercise:

“This is for you.”

Not because you had a broken this or that, mind you. Joe didn't waste time talking about what your ailments or weaknesses were, he just had a few extra moves to target your specific needs.

Because talking doesn't change the body…

Something for Every Body

The Pilates Method is versatile. There's always something for the body in front of you, whatever their ability, whatever their fitness level.

As Pilates instructors, our purpose is not to stampede toward the injury, this is the job of Physical Therapists.

The Pilates instructor must workout the whole body, avoiding or omitting what is not available or not possible. Our student is more than just a weak ankle or a disc problem. Without minimizing the pathology, we must strive to give the student a full-body workout.

And yes, this may be challenging.

We want to keep our student safe, erring on the conservative without being alarmist or overly cautious. It can often be a fine line.

But! We've got our “this is for you” section of the workout to infuse a bit of Pilates magic.

Thanks again Jodie, for your request of this post:

“I was thinking [about a post on] the best exercises to strengthen and stabilize the ankles. Thanks again and looking forward to the post.”

Serendipity abounds!

I am literally in the midst of ankle/foot exercises with clients who have restricted movement in their ankle and/or foot due to old injuries, tensions and health conditions.

So my mind has been awash in the “ranking” – if you will – of just such a group of exercises.

Which exercises are the most manageable to begin?

Which ones will build strength in an advantageous position of the body (maybe lying down)?

Which require strength and balance and supporting your own weight?

And the beat goes on…

But let us begin at the beginning…

Regardless of the issue, the client must get their workout, with allowances made for what is not available or not possible.

Both of my clients have been working steadily on their list of Reformer exercises, a few Mat exercises, a bit of “this is for you” and an ending.

Please note that my specific individuals were reasonably fit women who walked into the studio just fine on their ankles and feet. They let me know about their physical history, but they were not so limited as to not be able to use the Reformer for Footwork, Stomach Massage, etc…

Working on their Reformer and Mat exercises gave me the chance to watch them in motion. And I could see that in both cases, there was a considerable amount of tension in the ankles and feet. Those ankles wanted to do everything!

Over time, as I watched I also planned my strategy…soon, as they build strength I will seize the moment to unleash more “this is for you” brilliance on them.

I include the exercises I've chosen from most fundamental to most challenging.

The Plan in Action

Remember, the workout is tantamount to addressing the issue, in this case, a weak ankle.

Currently only one of the fundamental series on the Reformer is not possible: the Knee Stretch Series. The position of the feet for this series was too much for one ankle.

No worries. We've got lots of exercises 🙂

So the first of my “this is for you” exercises will stand in for the Knee Stretch Series for now: Pumping on the High Chair.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

A similar movement pattern in a different orientation, Pumping on the High Chair is even more supportive and nurturing of the stomach/bottom strength I am after.

Soon I began to notice that as the body got stronger, most of the ankle tension subsided. It did not disappear entirely, but so much improvement was made by simply doing the workout: focusing on the strength of the center of the body, getting more flexible and strong in the back, and essentially lightening the load of the body on those ankles.

OMG tell me it doesn't all come back to lift!

Now I must seize the moment. There is strength growing steadily and more “this is for you” can happen.

Stretchy Band Exercise

One basic and accessible exercise is a simple stretch of the leg/foot/ankle done lying down and using a stretchy band.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

These 2 particular cases didn't need this exercise, but I have used it with success with an older lady who had LOADS of tension in her ankles/shins and calves. It made her very happy and appeared to ease the tension in her limbs as well as her mind.

  • Assume a Single Leg Circles-esque position.
  • Alternate reaching the heel, then reaching the toes. Use your stomach to hold that leg up as much as you can. This is not an arm exercise.
  • Alternate moving the foot to each side, stretching the outer side of the calf/ankle and then the inner side.
  • Repeat 5-8x.

The Towel Exercises

These 2 simple exercises feel so nice and can be a gentle way to get more movement into stiff feet and ankles.


  • Sit up with the feet on a towel on the floor or a box, feet together, knees together.
  • Press feet firmly into the towel and open up the toes into a v-shape with the feet.
  • Lift up the toes and front part of the foot as much as possible.
  • Bring feet together and then put them back down onto the towel. Repeat 3x.
  • Reverse: Lift toes and front of foot up together, open to the v-shape, place the feet down in the v-shape, press onto the towel and drag feet together to the starting position.

Note: when dragging the feet together, the towel may get crumpled. At this point the teacher can hold the towel in place for the student.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."


  • Sit up with the feet on a towel on the floor or a box, feet about hip-width apart in parallel.
  • Lift up the toes and front of foot spreading all the toes wide.
  • Grab the towel with your toes and pull it down and towards you (you are attempting to pull and gather up the towel underneath your feet).

Note: If you cannot actually pick up the towel itself and move it, not to worry. It's the trying that counts. You are essentially trying to make a little “fist” with your toes.

  • Once you let go of the towel, spread the toes wide again and repeat 3-5x.
  • Reverse: Curl the toes under in your little “fist” and push the towel away.
  • Lift up the toes and spread them wide. Repeat 3-5x.

You are gathering the towel towards you and then pushing it all away again on the reverse.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

2×4 Exercises

Now that I have experienced the magic of this little apparatus, it's just my favorite thing in the Pilates Universe.

At first, we have the standing version of the Tendon Stretch from Footwork.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

They have already done this lying down. This exercise can help them to find more powerhouse in the lying down version as well. More importantly we can work on using more center (which they have to use because they are standing up) than ankle.

And here's where they figure out you can't just fall down into your heels, you must stay lifted, up and forward!

Always a good lesson.

Later we can add a more challenging variation, which I like to call Standing Foot Exercise. This is a combination of Tendon Stretch-esque movements: bend the knees, lift the heels, straighten the legs, lower the heels, and its reverse.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

The Achilles Stretch

The Achilles Stretch can be done on the Wunda Chair and the High Chair (Electric Chair).

I find the full-body challenge of this exercise feels so good and thorough while it works to strengthen and stretch the ankle/foot.

If you have a weaker side, this is for you!

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

On the Wunda Chair, if necessary, you can select an appropriate spring tension for your student. I like 1 top + 1 bottom spring.

The Wunda gives more of a manageable spring tension and then later when the student is stronger you can challenge them with the stronger springs on the High Chair.

  • Stand with toes very close to the Chair.
  • Use a pad and the cradle of your hands to support your knee. Keep foot and knee in front of the corresponding hip, not in the center.
  • Keep your knee still and stand strongly in your position.
  • Work to use your stomach and seat to extend the foot and then control the lowering of the heel. Only the pedal and foot position should move.
  • The position of the body is reminiscent of the Elephant. Use all those same muscles.
  • Repeat 3-5x on each side.

The One Leg Push Down

The One Leg Push Down feels like the standing version of the Pumping on the High Chair or the Footwork on the Wunda Chair. You gotta use all the same stuff!

Watch the student do this one and see everything you need to know about the alignment of their hip, knee, ankle and foot. It is a simple move, but not easy to do well.

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

On the Wunda Chair, the spring tension can be adjusted. I enjoy using 2 bottom springs, and then for a challenge I use 1 top + 1 bottom spring. A long pole can be used for balance here as well, if necessary.

The High Chair gives you the help of holding onto the handles, however the spring tension is considerable. Despite this tradeoff I love the version done on the High Chair as well.

It feels like the TRUTH!

Although you may want to avoid sitting down the following day…

Part 1:

  • Stand very close to the Chair.
  • Use all of your standing strength to push the pedal down with the heel lifted. This is a stomach and seat exercise.
  • Stand evenly in both legs when you get the pedal down. See if you can feel both sides of the buttocks at work.
  • Don't change anything and use your seat and your lift to control the pedal up all the way. It should close quietly.
  • Repeat 3-5x each side.

Part 2:

  • Stand very close to the Chair.
  • Use all of your standing strength to push the pedal down with the heel lifted. This is a stomach and seat exercise.
  • Stand evenly in both legs when you get the pedal down. See if you can feel both sides of the buttocks at work.
  • Hold the pedal down firmly as you lower the heel.
  • Lift the heel.
  • Bring the pedal up and repeat.

Both of these versions of the One Leg Push Down require control, balance and strength. Whoever you are they are a great refinement and challenge of your standing position.

Going up Front

Anatomy of a Pilates Session: "This is for you."

Perhaps requiring the most strength, control and balance for the entire body – not to mention the ankles and feet, Going Up Front is a wonderful exercise for so many reasons.

And for so many people.

It promotes a length in the entire back of the body, as well as an opening of the front of the hips and thighs. It's just so good for everything we work on in our Pilates workout.

And it makes a great ending to a session.

Once you get really super-proficient in this exercise you can add one element that takes it to the next level.

  • When the pedal is down, keep your lift and length in the back and reach the heel down.
  • Lift the heel again and proceed with the next repetition. You can do 3-5x per side.
  • As you lower that heel DO NOT GET ANY SHORTER!!!

Ultimately Going Up Front can also be done on the Wunda Chair where you must create the stability of the standing leg without the support and parameters of the High Chair.

Use your Experience and Intuition

Try out the above exercises on your own body. In this manner, you'll feel their effects and challenges for yourself first. In taking the photos for this post I realized just how tough these exercises can be to do properly.

Straightforward. Yet challenging.

Knowing the exercises deeply in your body will assist you in selecting the appropriate exercise(s) for a specific student.

Use just one or a few in your “this is for you” section of the workout.

See what you think.

Have questions? Let's chat in a comment below.

Thank you so much for reading!

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!


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.


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!


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?


This is the spirit part of Pilates. Arriba!

Round 1: A bit of a crash and burn…


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.


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.



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!

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

The premise:

Joe Pilates created all The Pilates apparatuses to help you to do the Mat better. Okay.

To help Client X – Let's call him Mr. X – better his mat exercises you take him to the Wunda Chair.

A bold move. Me likey.

The Wunda Chair is a choice for challenge. Very different than lying Mr. X on the Cadillac for an exercise, you have brought him to the Chair, where he'll receive nothing short of a kick in the pants, German-style.

No doubt you have chosen an exercise that will challenge Mr. X in a way that when he returns to the Mat again next time, his exercises will be ever more manageable after his encounter with Wunda.

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

1.  Don’t lose your Sh*t, K? 

Remember it’s still Pilates – you’re just on the Chair. The exercises may feel different but you can stay calm and (1) apply the same work and tactics that serve you on the Reformer, Mat and Cadillac to those pesky Chair exercises, and (2) rise to the challenge of the Wunda and come away with new skills to serve you all around the studio.

Footwork: The Footwork on the Chair is a great boon for the Footwork on the Reformer. Challenge Mr. X to find a Tall Back sitting up and help him to work his bottom. He'll gain more control to close the pedal and ultimately to close the carriage on the Reformer.

The Push Down: The Roll Up just got even more brilliant!

Going Up Front: I find this exercise to be particularly helpful to find connection and strength for the Front Splits on the Reformer. Not to mention a host of other stuff…

2.  Your objective on the Chair: control your muscles to close the spring.

Hmmm…where have I heard that before?

On the Reformer your one over-arching goal is to close the spring with control. Almost without exception the carriage goes out only so you get to control it on the way in. Brilliant!

On the Wunda Chair this means the pedal does not push you around.

Closing the pedal is the work of the exercise.

Yup. It’s all about control. Freakish, gut-wrenching control.

3.  What exercise(s) on the Chair can you use for Mr. X’s whatever?

The Wunda Chair: How did we get here?

Moreover, now that we are here – what shall we do?

Does Mr. X need more Round for his Elephant? More Round and control for the Teaser? Does he need help to sit up straight and tall?

Lucky for him we have the Wunda Chair: wundaful exercises to help all of the above and more:

  • Some Pull Ups for his Elephant!
  • Hey, some Teasers he can do on the Chair! Nasty but happy to help.
  • And Backwards Arms exercise to help him sit up taller. He will be so happy…
Related Post: 4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair:


Must. Have. More. Wunda?

Join me on November 16 @ Studio S Pilates, Temecula, CA

Click on the image for more details.

Thank you so much for reading!

Subscribe to receive a Special Bonus Blogpost
How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate
We respect your privacy and never share your information.