The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

For Corrie

Wowza, it's been an amazing month of March MATness. I hope you enjoyed all the MAT-tastic images and videos abounding over social media this March.

What a Like-fest!

Thanks again Benjamin Degenhardt for infusing and enhancing our Pilates lives with the 5th annual!! month-long homage to all things Return to Life.

You. Da. Bomb.

Meanwhile, back on the Reformer

If you've been lolling about on your Mat of late, let's dig into our series of 4 splits with gusto!

Side Splits on the Reformer was our first installment of the series of 4 splits that come at the very end of our order of the Reformer exercises.

Today's post and tutorial features the 2nd split in our series, Front Splits.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Full disclosure:

The series of splits come literally at the end of 80 or so exercises done on the Reformer. They are also after the “closure sequence” of the Reformer which I've come to refer to as ‘the beginning of the end.'

The beginning of the end = Knee Stretches, Running and Pelvic Lift.

I often finish my Reformer – due to time constraints or exhaustion constraints – at Pelvic Lift and then I do a bit of rolling on the Mat – without visiting our Control Push Up Series or our series of Splits.

Today I vow to change my (quasi) cheating ways.

Especially for my body – and I suspect for many of you out there – one-sided exercises are crucial to strengthen my one-sided body. Sure they are fun (?) stretchy splits, but more importantly the split series works each side individually.

Just what I need to be skipping doing.

Front Splits on the Reformer

Welcome to Front Splits, all the fun of Single Leg Pull and Going Up Front combined!

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

See the upside down Front Split?

(Scroll down for a shot of Going Up Front)

The Front Splits on the Reformer is a wonderful opening of the hips in preparation for the full-on splits of the 2 subsequent exercises Russian Splits and Big Splits.

Moments in this exercise are reminiscent of the Down Stretch, but done one leg at a time.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Front Splits series has about 4 parts to it which are taught in 2 different orders.

Originally you may have worked the Front Splits thusly:

  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head
  • Kneeling on the carriage one foot on footbar
  • Finishing kneeling balance

You'll see both this order as well as the one I prefer to use now, which is exactly the same parts just reorganized:

  • Kneeling on the carriage with one foot up on the footbar
  • Kneeling balance
  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head

I enjoy the preparation of what is essentially a kneeling thigh stretch – your one-legged Down Stretch! – and the standing strength move as the final moment of each side.

Check out both versions of the Front Splits in the video at the end of this post.

See what you think.

Front Splits Deconstructed

Here you are in a similar position to our oh-so-favorite series The Long Stretch Series.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Oh boy.

Dare I say you may face the same plight of overworking with the arms and upper body in the Front Splits? Remember what's attached to the carriage: the lower body.

The Front Splits – all the splits to be precise – are lower body exercises.

I love the standing moment in the Front Splits as it is Going Up Front on the Chairs all over again.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

What good news!

Work to keep this much lower body action especially when you've got your hands on the footbar.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Stay tuned for our next installment, Russian Splits.

And here's where to find me in 2017.

Pilates Inspiration Delivered Every Week

Like what you read here? Get new posts, workshop updates + good vibes in your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  1. Thanks so much for this, watching it…again as it is so very helpful to see the “lift” esp. on that first 1 incher. Would you say in the second part, you are pushing more with your back foot vs the foot on the Footbar or are they pretty even in pressure? I struggle with Front Splits (as you know) as I never know where to “feel it”…they can either be easy peezy or super hard, depending on the focus…know what i mean?!! Oh, and those LEGGINGS!!! Nerd out!

    • Thank you 🙂 Looking forward to making the next Splits videos on the Russian Splits and Big Splits…scary! Fancy leggings make everything better LOL

  2. Alessandra says

    Hello!! Finally had a chance to read and watch this fun filled post???????????? #holyhipstretch???? Andrea! Now I know how tight my hips are????
    Looove that little stretch at the start❤️ – tiny but oh so effective for me!! I’ve not seen that before! Also being given permission NOT to try and straighten that front leg gives me a much better chance of trying to open that front hip…???????? have to admit the ‘stand yourself up and put your hands on the back of your head’ Super challenging!! Not quite there for me but (another ) work in progress!!!
    Just one question – are these splits done parallel or turned out….I think I might have been taught the second Part turned out….????
    Thanks again for a brilliant post! And thanks to my #pilatesgeek ???? buddy Cor for an excellent ask….

    • Hi there –

      I too love the first part of this one especially – feels so good to stretch open the front of the hips and thighs. And this is the main event for this split exercise – open hips and stretched thighs in preparation for the 2 subsequent ‘actual split’ exercises Russian Splits and Big Splits.

      For the standing up part in lieu of Hands behind the head – if it feels more secure you can reach the arms forward and slightly up – think Stomach Massage #3 or Going Up Front.

      With regard to the foot position, I keep the front foot (the one on the Footbar) parallel. The one in back can be slightly turned out but not too much turnout or it’s hard to get your hips in the right place. Think of it as 1/2 of a tiny Pilates V.

      Thanks for your kind words on my post and keep up the good work. I just watched your Overhead video and WooHoo!!! Good job, Milady 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

      • Alessandra says

        Hey there!
        Thanks for your reply! I’ll try arms up and forward à la stomach massage No.3 as a safer variation ???? ????????????
        And I’ll keep working on that overhead!!! See you soon! #cantwait #pilatesgeeksontour????????

  3. Hi, thank you for sharing Pilates focuses on four key components:
    • Alignment
    • Breathing
    • Improving balance and coordination
    • Developing a robust core

    • Hey there –
      Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts and comments here. I am a big fan of another big component of Pilates: Move! If there is an exercise or topic you’d like to see dissected in a post just let me know 🙂 Cheers to you!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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.