The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 1

Thanks again to the lovely Lesley Logan for collaborating with me on this YouTube video series.

Over the course of 3 posts we'll take a closer look at the 6 exercises which make up the Rowing Series on the Reformer:

The 6 Rowing Series exercises as they appear in the order of the Pilates Reformer exercises:

  • Rowing 1: Into the Sternum
  • Rowing 2: 90° 
  • Rowing 3: From the Chest
  • Rowing 4: From the Hip
  • Rowing 5: Shave
  • Rowing 6: Hug

Generally we learn our Rowing exercises in the reverse order, sometimes in pairs. You might learn only Rowing 5+6 at first.

Or maybe you'll learn Rowing 3-6 and do them for a while before adding Rowing 1+2.

Looking at the demands and complexities of the Rowing exercises, Rowing 5+6 – while not a walk in the park – are the most straightforward of the 6 exercises: the back shape remains the same throughout the entire exercise and you have only one movement pattern to learn.

In Rowing 3+4 there are multiple moves per repetition and Rowing 4 includes both a Round back and a Tall back.

Rowing 1+2 have more complex choreography, more than one back shape and more coordination is required to close the carriage with control.

So for this week's video collab we'll look at the last 2 exercises in our Rowing Series.

Rowing 5: Shave

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 1

The Shave is perhaps my least favorite of the Rowing exercises. Keeping a long and lifted back shape is a challenge for those of us with tight upper backs and shoulders. Here's a few tips to help us love our Shave exercises:

Get a jump on it in the Transition!

  • Keep arms long and flip your handles.
  • Reach arms down and forward with the palms up. As the arms get overhead turn palms to face downward and bring the thumbs together and the forefingers together.
  • Bring arms straight overhead and bend into the starting position.

Now for the exercise!

  • Place hands at the base of the skull if possible with the palms facing back of head.
  • Find your scoop and your seat and reach arms straight upward on a slight diagonal.
  • Bring fingertips together. Press them firmly against each other.
  • Resist the spring as the hands return to the starting position, elbows reach out to the side.
  • Repeat.

Bonne chance!

Rowing 6: Hug

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 1

Recently the Hug has become one of the most challenging exercises. It's not easy being tall and lifted! Again you'll get a jump on your Tall back with an efficient transition.

  • In the midst of your last repetition – with arms overhead – open arms into the Hug position keeping your back tall.
  • Pull your stomach in to move the carriage.
  • Sit up super tall and S-L-O-W-L-Y reach the arms open.
  • The handles should be vertical. Notice if your pinky finger doesn't want to touch the handle. Insist that it does!
  • Repeat.

Enjoy this short tutorial collaboration.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna see more video collabs like this one?

Suggest your favorite exercises in a comment below!

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  1. Nour AlAmer says

    Yay!! a collab on the one i hate lol especially 1 & 2
    Thank you for addressing this one! i am going to learn to love it i promise!!!

    • Me too! It is not a favorite of mine either as you know… but yes many years from now we shall love it! Any other collab requests, please let me know – xox see you soon!

  2. mmmmm….Shaving and Rowing!! SO HARD!! But you crushed it 🙂 Question…It’s eye opening as I’m seeing identical body holding patterns as I progress …. So you know how when I do the Hug my arms are never straight, well check this, also with Shave my arms kinda can’t go straight. I have the shoulder “ok” to get my arms behind my head but upon straightening the elbows, the shoulders seem to hike up and it’s hard to truly straighten the arm AND keep the thumb and first finger pressing…maybe I’m over thinking it…does that makes sense? Will experiment but I do know Rowing is a thing that will never get old or easy! #nerdout

    • Workshops and tutorials on the Rowing Series will continue until the end of time! LOL Your plan does make sense, yes. Persevere…check out Lesley’s video and see what a bad ass she is doing the Rowing 3+4 on 2 springs… so interesting how different bodies need different things… 🙂

  3. I love Shave. And Hug. LOVE them. The Shave is such a fantastic stretch for my arms, chest, shoulders, and just feels good. Hug just makes you feel strong and powerful. My faveorite cue for Shave is: follow your hands with your sternum. This seems to get lots of axial elongation happening instead of collapsing down when the arms reach up!

    • Oh gosh, thank you so much Amy, for some love for these 2 exercises. That is a big statement in my book. And thanks for this correction – I love it – I am she who’s sternum is never up so I love it. Thanks for watching and for sharing your thoughts and tips here with us. Welcome!

  4. Alessandra Niccolai says

    Oh shave is definitely my least favourite! In fact it’s possibly the only exercise that I currently practice that feels very uncomfortable in my body????.. that’s a Pilates hmmm???? or as you say ‘just notice…’ I ‘know’ intellectually that it’s linked to Swan on the Cadillac, but it’s difficult to actually ‘feel’ that in my physical body… I’m with Cor and those hiking shoulders????And I find it difficult to find my seat in that one too and I kind of crumple in the spring… ???? think that could be a clue right there????
    Well I’m just about to board my flight home.. so I’ll be practicing that one next week… #pilatesgeekonboard #nerdout????????

  5. Bravo Excellent travail excellente approche. CONTINUEZ AINSI MERCI

  6. Love these series, Andrea. The cue by Amy Sasso – follow your hands with your sternum – feels very nice. Love your cue – hands to tail – in 1&2. Thank you for making these videos. Always nice to hear others teaching as well.

    • Thanks Andrea – yes that’s a great addition from Amy Sasso – thanks for joining in here and sharing with us 🙂 And yes, more videos to come… I also take requests if there is an exercise or concept you’d like to see featured in a tutorial video… xo

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